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The 4 words that will decide impeachment

Ezra Klein and Gene Healy discuss the meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors” on a new podcast, Impeachment, Explained.

An illustration of the White House and black and yellow jagged shapes. Amanda Northrop/Vox

This was the week of confessions. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted to a Trump administration quid quo pro with Ukraine, with cameras rolling. EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland confirmed that President Trump made Rudy Giuliani the hinge of America’s Ukraine policy. And then the administration announced that the location for the upcoming G7 summit: Trump’s own resort in Doral, Florida.

On my new podcast, Impeachment, Explained, we break down the three stories that mattered most in impeachment this week.

And then we dig into the four words that will shape the entire impeachment fight: “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” What did they mean when they were added to the Constitution? How have they been interpreted through American history? And do Trump’s acts qualify?

Impeachment, I learned, was richer, stranger, and more essential than I’d understood. For one thing, “high crimes and misdemeanors” didn’t mean literal crimes. As my guest, Cato Institute’s Gene Healy, notes in his excellent study, “Indispensable Remedy: The Broad Scope of the Constitution’s Impeachment Power,” the 1828 edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language defined “misdemeanor” as “ill behavior; evil conduct; fault; mismanagement.” The dominance of the legal definition — a small crime carrying up to a year in jail — came later.

Welcome to Impeachment, Explained. You can subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get podcasts.