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 Impeachment

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Impeachment   Thu 08 Jun 2017, 08:02

Apparently a couple of weeks ago in the Times there was an article about impeachment. I did not see it and, when this subject was mentioned at the weekend (in the pub), I was embarrassed by my own ignorance about how and when and where the concept of "impeachment" began. I had a vague idea that Warren Hastings had been impeached, but could remember no details about his trial, or about who else had ever been impeached in England. Is it a procedure only ever used for members of Parliament? I also had it in my head that impeachment was far more an American "thing" than an English one. Not so apparently. The Times article, according to the friend who mentioned it, had referred to the first person ever to be impeached -  some obscure medieval English nobleman who had stolen money - but she could not remember who it was, or how impeachment was used in later years in England or against whom. She did say, however, that the article had noted a difference between English and American use of the procedure - so I was right about that. Or was I?

It would be interesting if some obscure English law dating from Lord knows when could eventually be used to topple Trump. James Comey is to speak this afternoon. Interesting times we live in.

Can anyone give any more details about the history of impeachment? I can't access the Times article online.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Impeachment   Fri 09 Jun 2017, 13:07

Is this The Times' article? The Times - How an English law could topple Trump (20 May 2017)

... but you have to register to view it in full.

Wiki says that the first recorded impeachment is that of William Latimer, 4th Baron Latimer during the so-called Good Parliament of 1376 (under Edward III). The charges against Latimer were that he had been guilty of oppression in Brittany; had sold the castle of Saint-Sauveur to the enemy, and impeded the relief of Bécherel in 1375; that he had taken bribes for the release of captured ships, and retained fines paid to the king, notably by Sir Robert Knolles, and the city of Bristol; and finally, that in association with a London merchant, Robert Lyons, he had obtained money from the crown by the repayment of fictitious loans. Seconded by William of Wykeham, Peter de la Mare (the leader of Parliament) sought to have Latimer immediately convicted, with the Commons acting on behalf of the king, but they were unsuccessful and so the case went to trial. The charges were proven and Latimer was removed from his positions in the royal household and on the council, fined and imprisoned. He was however pardoned in October 1376, and with John of Gaunt's recovered influence he returned to favour.

The last case of impeachment in Britain was that of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville in 1806 who was impeached for misappropriation of public money. Although acquitted, he never held public office again.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Impeachment   Wed 14 Jun 2017, 14:24

"Impeachment", both etymologically and legally, is a nondescript descriptor, conveying whatever meaning and legal importance any particular society allows it to have at any one time. In legal terms it is therefore simply the equivalent of placing an impediment in the way of a public official before they do more potential damage in what up to that point has been a legally unchallenged manner. In older English law, as the examples above illustrate, it was a method whereby people "above the law" could be brought back within it and charged, and it is in this sense that it was resurrected also in the USA. But like in England, it is worth noting that impeachment is conferred by a vote within the political house of representatives and has nothing to do with any other legal arraignment or indictment which may be levelled against the person arising from the same perceived "crime" they may have committed. In other words it has all the legal effect of a censure, which is basically none at all unless followed up with actual legal charges. There is no "archaic English law" therefore that could be used to topple Trump, more's the pity but there you go.

Even previous US impeachments of presidents don't have much bearing on Trump. Bill Clinton, for example, was impeached twice over on the same day - once for perjury and once for obstruction of justice. However no charges were legally levelled against him related to these indictments, so it meant diddlysquat, and Clinton rightly or wrongly chose to interpret his stance as president as one in which to respond with resignation despite lack of indictment would set a very dangerous precedent in which accusation itself was enough to dethrone the sitting chief executive of the state. So he simply carried on. The same for Andrew Johnson who was impeached for vetoing an Act designed to limit his powers and which itself was deemed unconstitutional afterwards (meaning more or less that he had been in the right all along, despite the impeachment). He also simply carried on, and probably would have whether the subsequent narrow "acquittal" also voted by the house hadn't also served to support his decision (Clinton didn't even get that much peer support for his stance).

Trump, if he continues as he's started, will almost certainly be impeached. Probably even several times - if he's not done for something more serious first. However Trump is also the kind of megalomaniac who would never even countenance removing himself from office based on such censure, let alone understand its significance.
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