4 min readOct 27, 2019

Untitled, Watercolor, 21.5" x 29", Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Dear Senator Lee:

You recently characterized as “science fiction fantasy” the notion that the United States Senate would convict Mr. Trump were the House to issue Articles of Impeachment. You made the statement in the context of President Trump’s July 25, 2019 telephone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. You had no problem with it. You also mentioned a lack of awareness of any impeachable conduct on the part of Mr. Trump. I don’t know whether you have become aware of any impeachable conduct by Mr. Trump since you made the “science fiction fantasy” statement.

As a United States Senator, you took the following oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

The United States Constitution provides:

Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5

“The House of Representatives shall . . . have the sole Power of Impeachment.”

Article 1, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7

“The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside; And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

“Judgement in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgement and Punishment, according to Law.”

Article II, Section 4

“The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The Constitution further provides in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8:

“[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

And in Article II, Section 1, Clause 7:

“The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

Please indulge me and the rest of your constiuents. Let’s not discuss party affiliation or Mr. Trump for the moment. Let’s not disucss what you would do if a Democratic President had a history identical to that of Mr. Trump and specifically how you would choose to interpret that Democratic President’s conduct under the foregoing Clauses.

Instead, as a lawyer, United States Senator, constitutional originalist and someone who has appeared on lists of possible nominees to the United States Supreme Court, please explain to me and the rest of your constituents what you believe the Founders had in mind in the oath and each of the foregoing Clauses. Specifically, for what purpose did the Founders include each of those provisions, and what does each of them mean to you?

Finally, in your mind is there any conduct a sitting President could engage in that you would recognize as impeachable and for which you would vote to convict? If so, what is that conduct? Please be specific in light of the purposes for which the Founders included the foregoing constitutional provisions.

*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to and

**Richard’s list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in and are hers




Exercising my right not to remain silent. Criminal defense and First Amendment attorney.