The breadth of discretion inherent in impeachment has been evident since the Founding. The Constitution defines impeachment broadly in terms of “treason, bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The Founders knew that this standard is not susceptible to easy legal definition. As Alexander Hamilton explained in The Federalist, impeachment “can never be tied down by such strict rules, either in the delineation of the offense by” the House that prosecutes it, “or in the construction of it by” the Senators who stand in judgment of it.
Rather, he wrote, impeachable offenses “are of a nature” best described as “political”—not political in the low sense of partisanship, but in the highest senses of statesmanship and the “public trust.”
And while the president’s lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, contends that “abuse of power” is not grounds for impeachment, Hamilton saw otherwise: impeachment would be the ultimate protection against “abuse of the executive authority.” (“What more,” Hamilton added, “could be desired by an enlightened and reasonable people?”)