Friday, October 4, 2019

Impeachment’s Role in History: Part Legal Creature, but Mostly Political

Photo: Greg Gibson/Associated Press
The legal definition of the phrase ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ was left flexible by the framers of the Constitution to protect against abuses of power
The impeachment process is a delicate blend of constitutional law and political calculation, with even the definition of the phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” which refers to allegations of misconduct by officials, remaining extraordinarily flexible.
That phrase—part of Article II of the Constitution, which provides for the removal of the president, vice president and other civil officers for treason, bribery or other high offenses—was meant to be malleable from the start.
The framers of the Constitution “were sufficiently practical to know that no charter of government could possibly anticipate every future contingency, and they therefore left considerable room for play in the joints,” former Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in his book “Grand Inquests,” about the impeachments of President Andrew Johnson and Justice Samuel Chase. (Both men were acquitted.)
President Andrew Johnson
The concept of impeachment was taken from English law, where the definition of what constituted a removable offense was developed ad hoc, on a case-by-case basis. But the power was viewed at its core as a legislative check to protect the republic from executive abuses, said University of Missouri law professor Frank Bowman, author of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump. ”
“Certainly among the key ideas was that abuses of executive power would be impeachable,” he said.
Read the rest from the WSJ HERE.

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