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Trump impeachment class offered again at San Diego State

Nearly half the syllabus is about Trump

After a national outcry over its “Trump: Impeachment, Removal or Conviction” course in February, San Diego State University removed “Trump” and “Conviction” from the title.

Today, the public description of the course — offered again this fall — remains the same, and nearly half the syllabus is about the current president.

The College Fix obtained the fall 2018 course syllabus through a California Public Records Act request after SDSU did not return emails and phone messages seeking the document.

The course teaches students how a president can be impeached and even indicted based on “foreign emoluments, climate change, racism, religious bias … nepotism” and “false statements” — all categories that fit common allegations against President Donald Trump.

The taxpayer-funded university told Fox News in February that it would change the name of the course going forward. “In retrospect” it determined that focusing exclusively on President Donald Trump was “inconsistent with the course content described.”

The new title is “Impeachment, Removal, and Special Counsel,” and it’s again taught by lecturer John Joseph Cleary, a former attorney. The two-day course took place earlier this month through SDSU’s College of Extended Studies. The course is meant for the general public but students can take it and earn credit toward graduation, the San Diego Union Tribune has reported.

The syllabus says the course covers “divine right echo,” powers and limits of the president, judicial review, fundamentals of impeachment, presidential impeachment, and indictment of a sitting president.

It puts impeachment into the context of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, “which began a push for politicization of the courts” that has “become more aggravated” in recent years.

The syllabus appears not to have been proofread carefully. Under “Special Counsel Investigation,” it says the FBI “conducted an investigation or [sic] Russian interference with the election and lings [sic] to Trump’s campaign” after the 2016 election.

The course includes Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey on the grounds that Comey announced “an investigation into Hillary Clinton shortly before the election” and “was not doing a good job.”

It covers the appointment of Robert Mueller, former director of the FBI, as special counsel to investigate “any links or coordination between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign.”

Without fully naming the “former British intelligence operative,” the syllabus refers to Michael Steele and his “dossier.” It says he did an “investigation” on Trump’s dealings with Russia that was turned over to the FBI and made public.

The syllabus does not note Steele’s more salacious claims about Trump’s alleged fetishes, or comment on the quality of his investigation.

The rest of the special-counseling heading deals with Republican challenges to the FBI subpoena to track a person who worked on Trump’s campaign, and the cooperation of a “Trump Aide” with the special counsel.

The “Indictment and Pleas” heading returns to the Trump campaign: “A number of those connected with the Trump campaign have been indicted, including Russians.”

Asked for comment, a law professor who has written about presidential immunity and President Trump told The Fix that some of the alleged grounds for impeachment in the course are “patently absurd.”

Professor John Banzhaf, who teaches public interest law at George Washington University, noted the title change but “the content listed in the course description seems to be almost the same.”

“Although the grounds for impeachment are vague and malleable,” he wrote in an email, “it is clear beyond any doubt that climate change, racism, and religious bias are not sufficient grounds for impeachment.”

GWU’s Banzhaf explained why he thinks some of Cleary’s grounds for impeachment — at least beyond obstruction of justice and collusion — are “patently absurd.”

No successful or attempted impeachments in “our nation’s history have been premised on such special grounds,” he told The Fix. The example of “religious bias” used against Trump was his restriction on immigration from some Muslim-majority countries, which was “upheld by the Supreme Court,” Banzhaf said. Trump’s views on climate change are “in the minority” but are still shared by many other people.

“He has been praised if not hailed by many African Americans leaders, especially now that the Black unemployment rate is a record low,” Banzhaf wrote.

Even those who disagree with Trump’s rhetoric and policies “acknowledge that he has been shrewd [and] canny,” which is “the exact opposite of being incompetent as the 25th Amendment contemplates,” the law professor added.

MORE: 25 percent of millennials suffer from PTSD due to Trump’s election

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About the Author
Lexi Lonas -- Penn State Altoona