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Old 08-10-19, 16:42   #1
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European Union Impeachment's Rules Go Back to 14th-Century England

Getting Medieval: Impeachment's Roots Go Back to 14th-Century England..

Before America was born and the power to hold public officials to account was written into the US constitution, it had a long history in English law.

John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III, was the de facto ruler of England in 1376 and an indirect target of the Good Parliament’s use of impeachment.

King Edward III gives Aquitaine to his son Edward, the Black Prince.

The Guardian UK, 3 OCT 2019.

From the Watergate investigation that brought down Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern, presidential impeachment inquiries have marked some of the most scandalous moments in modern US history.

But the roots of the process – the latest iteration of which started last week when the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump – date back not only to the American constitution, where it is enshrined in law, but to 14th-century England.

The first recorded impeachment – a mechanism by which a legislative body can make charges against a public official – was in 1376 in England by the “Good Parliament”. William, 4th Baron Latimer, who served in the household of the then king, Edward III, was accused of bribery and corruption by the Good Parliament, so called because of its prosecution of the king’s corrupt ministers.

Impeachment was used as a way of keeping political figures, particularly royal ministers, in check. A conviction could lead to fines, imprisonment or execution.

“Sometimes it was just for cleaning out mid-level judges or other bad officials,” said Frank Bowman, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Law and author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump.

“But the principal constitutional purpose for Great Britain was as a legislative counterweight to royal overreaching and tendencies towards tyranny, and the like.”

He added: “Of course, Great Britain did not impeach kings or queens, the only way you could do that was bloody revolution.

But on the other hand, if parliament or the interests that were represented in parliament wanted to push back against some royal policy or tendency from the king or queen to get above themselves they would often do so by striking at the royal ministers.”

Although the British member of parliament Liz Saville-Roberts recently requested to table a motion to impeach the prime minister, Boris Johnson, generally the law is considered redundant in the UK, where there has not been an impeachment case since 1806.

But in America, impeachment lives on as an important part of the US constitution, which states:

“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.”

Impeachment was first enforced in America when it was under British colonial rule.

“Sometimes because royal or proprietary charters actually gave the colonial assemblies impeachment powers, sometimes because the colonists in their assemblies wanted to assume the powers of parliament,” said Bowman.

After the ruling British were defeated in the American Revolutionary war, the framers, a group among the patriotic founding fathers, gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to craft the constitution of the young United States republic.

Bowman said all four of the draft plans included impeachment. After some debate over whether it was in fact necessary, in conjunction with a fixed, four-year presidential term and, at the time, a comparatively small federal government, it was decided that impeachment would be included.

Founding father Alexander Hamilton later described its jurisdiction in the Federalist Papers as “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust”.

While it shared some similarities to the British version, following a process that started in the lower legislative house followed by a trial by the upper house, the new American impeachment mechanism had some distinct differences.

In Britain a majority vote in the House of Lords could lead to conviction, but in the US a supermajority of two-thirds of the Senate, the US upper house, was needed, while punishment was limited to removal from office.

The framers used the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors”, first adopted by the British parliament in 1386, which Bowman believes is evidence that the framers “had in mind the long history of British impeachments”.

He said they used the term to refer lawmakers to British impeachments as a source of reference, or “catalogue”, for examples of impeachable offenses and because it was both flexible and implied serious abuses of power.

At the time, there was not huge confidence in the power and unity of America and considerable worry over the potential influence of European powers, especially Britain and France, according to Beverly Gage, professor of history and American studies at Yale University. There were also fears over corruption, which they hoped the threat or process of impeachment would keep a check on.

“The founders were obviously quite worried about concentrated executive power. They were especially worried about the ways in which foreign influence and corruption might drive a new executive and so it’s really the final check of Congress on the presidency that’s built into the system,” said Gage.

While presidents are often threatened with impeachment, to date, only two – Andrew Johnson and Clinton – have had impeachment trials in the Senate. Both were acquitted and remained in office, while Nixon resigned before his impeachment could be voted on.

Gage said the process is useful for holding presidential power to account and as a means of investigation.

“The process itself is going to produce a lot of new revelations … having a formal investigative process seems important … and it seems like the right way to be moving forward for now.”

Echoes of the Nixon tapes? The transcripts that could doom Trump.

Echoes of the Nixon tapes? The transcripts that could doom ..

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