Is Fraud an Impeachable Offense?
The fraud litigation currently pending against Donald Trump poses this question: Is a civil judgment of fraud for private conduct a high crime and misdemeanor under the Constitution? My tentative answer is yes, if the fraud were especially egregious.
One thought is that the answer is no because only official misconduct should lead to impeachment. But this cannot be correct. Consider the example of Dennis Hastert. Suppose he had become President. (He was third-in-line to the succession after all.) If after that the news of his sexual abuse of students came out, then I would think that he could have been impeached for that alone.
Perhaps the only private conduct that can lead to impeachment is a crime. But I think not. Civil liability for something like wrongful death could be impeachable–consider something like what Ted Kennedy did at Chappaquiddick (if that were unknown to the voters). Fraud is an intentional tort that requires proof by clear and convincing evidence. If the damages from that fraud were substantial (including punitive damages), then I don’t see why that couldn’t rise to such a level that would warrant impeachment. What do you think?