Rep. Chris Stewart’s claim that the ongoing impeachment hearings constitute a coup d’état by the Democrats reflects a poor understanding and hyperbolic use of the term.

A coup d’état is an unlawful seizure of power by a dictator, the military or other faction. Congress is conducting lawful hearings envisioned by the Constitution. Impeachment would require a vote by the full House of Representatives. Removal of President Trump from office would require a trial before the Republican-led Senate, presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts (who was nominated by a Republican president but serves in a nonpartisan capacity).

None of that is an unlawful process. Even if the process succeeded, President Trump would be replaced by Republican Vice President Mike Pence — hardly a seizure of power by the Democrats.

To the contrary, the term “d’état” means “the state.” It is only in a totalitarian dictatorship, or in an absolute monarchy, that the state is a single leader of government. (“L’état cest moi” or “the state is me,” as attributed to French King Louis XIV, who believed in the divine right of kings.)

In our constitutional system of government, “the state” is comprised of all three co-equal branches of government, not the president alone. The Trump administration is refusing to comply with legitimate requests for documents and witnesses to inform the inquiry, thereby attempting to disempower a co-equal branch of government and to make the president above the law. (Just as President Trump through past actions has tried to delegitimize both the legislative and judicial branches of government, flaunting the essential separation of powers envisioned by the founders.)

Perhaps it is President Trump who is conducting a coup d’état against “the state,” as the balanced, three-branch system defined in our Constitution.

Robert W. Adler, Salt Lake City