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Who Presides Over The Impeachment Of A Vice President?

ProudProgressive 2013/06/13 19:37:29

Like many around here, I relish a good Constitutional argument. Nothing mundane like the Affordable Care Act or Citizens United, but an academic investigation of what the Constitution says and how it works.

Right now I'm reading "America's Unwritten Constitution" by Akhil Amar, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, visiting Professor of Law at Harvard, Columbia and Pepperdine Universities and a Senior Scholar at the National Constitution Center. He raises some fascinating questions, and I'd like to share one with you folks now:

Article I, Section 3, Clause 4 of the Constitution says: "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate"

However, Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 of the Constitution says: "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."

So here's the question: Who presides at trial if the Vice President of the United States is Impeached? It can't be the Chief Justice, who only presides when a President is tried. And if the Vice President is the President of the Senate, then he is the presiding officer for all matters other than the impeachment of a President. So does the Constitution mandate that the Vice President shall preside over his own trial? And if he does not, then who does? The President Pro Tempore? The Majority Leader? Fortunately, no Vice President has ever been impeached. But that doesn't mean that it will never happen.

It's questions like this which form the basis of Amar's book (which I recommend that ANYONE who is interested in the Constitution read). There are some situations in which the language of the Constitution is insufficient and we MUST look beyond them for resolution. Something that we should all keep in mind.

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  • EyeLuvHillary 2013/06/14 07:17:55
    EyeLuvHillary
    The vice president would preside over his own trial .(A smart vice president would then dismiss all charges.))))
  • Masaca 2013/06/14 05:52:13 (edited)
    Masaca
    +1
    I don't know. I didn't even know that a vice persident could be impeahed.
  • ProudPr... Masaca 2013/06/14 14:34:33
    ProudProgressive
    Article II, Section 4 says:

    "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."

    Since the Constitution was enacted there have been two Presidents impeached (both were acquitted by the Senate), fifteen Federal Judges, one Cabinet Officer (William Belknap, Secretary of War under Grant, who was acquitted but resigned) and one Senator (although it is questionable whether a Senator can be impeached, since the Constitution explicitly grants to each House the right to discipline its own members and its unclear whether the House has the power to rule on a member of the other House). No Vice President has ever been impeached.
  • Masaca ProudPr... 2013/06/14 14:41:04
    Masaca
    +1
    Yes, but as I understand it the VP has no actual function or power. He/she is just on the sidelines. What could a VP possibly be impeached for? Well, I guess there was the case of cheney though
  • ProudPr... Masaca 2013/06/14 14:49:47
    ProudProgressive
    +1
    That's the thing - impeachment doesn't have to be based on job-related offenses. If a Vice President committed murder, for instance, that has nothing to do with his job but would surely be grounds to remove him from office.

    Cheney clearly committed numerous impeachable offenses - conspiring to expose a covert CIA agent, conspiring to torture detainees, conspiring to lie to Congress about Iraq's nonexistent WMD program, not to mention his earlier participation in Iran-Contra and in Reagan's treason in getting Khomeni to hold American Citizens hostage in exchange for arms and support.
  • Masaca ProudPr... 2013/06/14 14:59:22 (edited)
    Masaca
    But wouldn't he have to be prosecuted first? Which, if he/she was successfully prosecuted, he would automatically be expelled from the position? If that is the case there would be no need for the impeachment process, so it would seem to me any way.

    I do confess though, I don't know these about these things, I am just operating under assumption
  • ProudPr... Masaca 2013/06/14 15:08:00
    ProudProgressive
    +1
    Impeachment and criminal proceedings are separate functions. The only thing an impeachment can accomplish is to remove someone from office and ban them from future Federal office. You can't be thrown in jail for being impeached. Not to mention that the Constitution guarantees anyone accused of a crime of a trial by jury, representation by counsel, etc., guarantees that don't apply to an impeachment.

    And the ironic thing is that both of the Presidential impeachments in American history had nothing whatsoever to do with criminal activity. Both were entirely partisan attempts to usurp a lawful President for political motives - Johnson was impeached for firing cabinet members, and Clinton was impeached for having an affair with a consenting adult. In both cases there were allegations of criminal activity but they were bullsh*t excuses to cover a political agenda.
  • Gracie - Proud Conservative 2013/06/14 03:23:39
    Gracie - Proud Conservative
    Is this the real Constitution or the one Obama supposedly taught? I would suppose if the VP was being tried, the Senate would preside without the VP. I think it would be hard for a VP to be tried for impeachment since they really have no real responsibilities. It's a nothing job with nothing to do.
  • ProudPr... Gracie ... 2013/06/14 14:37:29
    ProudProgressive
    President Obama taught the real Constitution, Gracie. You know, the one you and the Teabaggers are working so hard to destroy? The one George Bush reportedly called "just a Goddamned piece of paper"?

    And even though the Vice President has limited actual responsibilities, they could still be impeached if they committed criminal acts, you know, like conspiring to expose the identity of a covert CIA agent, conspiring to commit illegal torture of detainees, creating falsified intelligence reports to con Congress into authorizing military action actual CRIMES like that.

    impeach cheney
  • Gracie ... ProudPr... 2013/06/14 20:38:21
    Gracie - Proud Conservative
    Obama only knows what he considers the fundamental flaws of the Constitution. What he considers flawed is actually the genius in it. To try and contain the power that he is usurping. Your hatred clouds your ability to actually reason.
  • ProudPr... Gracie ... 2013/06/14 20:40:36
    ProudProgressive
    Reason's all I've got, Gracie. The President has not usurped any power. If he had, do you really think that hateful people like you who spend all of their time trying to undermine their own nation would still be walking around free?
  • Gracie ... ProudPr... 2013/06/14 22:34:20
    Gracie - Proud Conservative
    That's a ridiculous statement. He's usurping within the system. Who knows when I won't be out here walking around because of not only him, but the government mafia he's building. Let me remind you of the 4th Amendment, Mr. Constitutional student!

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  • jubil8 BN-0 PON 2013/06/13 21:34:24
    jubil8 BN-0 PON
    +1
    Presumably the President pro tem., although I don't see why the CJ couldn't be asked to preside then as well. Just because the Const. doesn't specify it doesn't mean it couldn't happen.

    Why is this an argument? A VP couldn't logically preside over his own trial, and the FF's wouldn't have considered it necessary to spell that out. Do you mean if a VP who's been impeached refuses to recuse himself? My guess would be if it ever got that far the President would persuade the VP to resign. They're not fools -- resignation in exchange for no prosecution/prison would be better than hubris, n'est-ce pas?
  • ProudPr... jubil8 ... 2013/06/14 14:42:00
    ProudProgressive
    +1
    It's not really an "argument", just a discussion on the quirks of the Constitution. I think this issue is a perfect illustration to shut up the "strict constructionists" who insist that you can't look beyond the text of the Constitution to interpret its meaning. The Constitution was never intended to be read in isolation, and it assumed that people would have the common sense to know that. (Interestingly, Amar discusses the debate during the Convention over whether to include the ex post facto clause - a number of delegates argued that it was so obvious that an ex post facto law was absurd and invalid that spelling it out in the Constitution would make them look like fools for wasting their time on something so obvious. Ultimately a majority decided to include the clause anyway.)
  • jubil8 ... ProudPr... 2013/06/14 21:17:38
    jubil8 BN-0 PON
    Oh, ok, I get it.
  • Allbiz - PWCM - JLA 2013/06/13 20:55:37
    Allbiz - PWCM - JLA
    Amar bases his conclusion on his own unwritten theory.

    If a V.P. is impeached, It is very clear in the Constitution that he would preside over his own trial.

    The Founders screwed up on that one.

    'Nuff said.
  • ProudPr... Allbiz ... 2013/06/13 21:48:43 (edited)
    ProudProgressive
    +3
    Amar's point is that limiting one's interpretation of the Constitution to the text alone can lead to an impossible result. A Vice President cannot preside over his own trial; to do so would render the very concept of justice moot and thus invalidate one of the fundamental reasons the Constitution exists - "to establish justice". Thus this situation would REQUIRE the government to look beyond the text of the Constitution for a viable solution. This is why strict constructionism ultimately fails.

    You ought to read the book. It's fascinating.
  • TombstoneJim 2013/06/13 20:08:18
    TombstoneJim
    Articles of impeachment are brought by the House, the Senate acts are the deliberating and judgement body......Mr. Clinton had articles of impeachment brought to the house...but he was not impeached by the senate....
  • ProudPr... Tombsto... 2013/06/13 20:19:05
    ProudProgressive
    +1
    Technically both Clinton and Andrew Johnson were impeached - which means that a majority of the House voted to let the case proceed to trial. In impeachments the House functions as sort of a grand jury, deciding whether or not there is enough evidence to send the case to trial. I realize the title is a little inaccurate, but I didn't want to make it so convoluted as to make it hard to figure out what the post was about LOL.
  • Tombsto... ProudPr... 2013/06/13 20:22:28
    TombstoneJim
    your right!, gosh I never thought I'd ever say that about you LOL.......Clinton was convicted one one count and the senate split 50-50 on the other.......takes a 2/3 vote of senate to remove from office.....and goodness knows what one would have to be guilty of to get that kind of majority for ANY president .......
  • ProudPr... Tombsto... 2013/06/13 20:27:13
    ProudProgressive
    +1
    Clinton wasn't convicted, since the Senate didn't get the two-thirds vote.

    I suspect that if Nixon had not resigned the Senate would have come up with the two-thirds. He resigned once the Republicans in Congress started turning against him since he knew the jig was up.
  • Tombsto... ProudPr... 2013/06/13 20:29:50
    TombstoneJim
    I thought the 2/3 was to remove from office, but a simple majority was considered 'convicted'...
  • ProudPr... Tombsto... 2013/06/13 20:36:47 (edited)
    ProudProgressive
    +1
    I interpret "conviction" as the 2/3 in the Senate. Since "conviction" implies a finding of guilt that warrants a penalty, failing to get the 2/3 means that Clinton (or Johnson) suffered no penalty and thus couldn't really be called "convicted". I look at the House proceedings as akin to an indictment, not a conviction.

    Edit: See Article 2, 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."

    In my opinion, this clause suggests that "impeachment" is the House vote and "conviction" is the Senate vote.
  • Tombsto... ProudPr... 2013/06/14 17:19:04
    TombstoneJim
    agreed
  • tommyg - POTL- PWCM-JLA 2013/06/13 20:05:07
    tommyg - POTL- PWCM-JLA
    +1
    I'll check it out. Thanks for the heads up.
  • ProudPr... tommyg ... 2013/06/13 20:19:34
    ProudProgressive
    +1
    Theoretical debates are a lot more fun than the real ones these days LOL.
  • tommyg ... ProudPr... 2013/06/13 23:36:20
    tommyg - POTL- PWCM-JLA
    I hear that. :)
  • ally 2013/06/13 20:04:48
    ally
    He/She would.
  • Kane Fernau 2013/06/13 19:58:18
    Kane Fernau
    +1
    Vice presidents don't get impeached they get fired or resign.
  • ProudPr... Kane Fe... 2013/06/13 20:06:11
    ProudProgressive
    They could resign, but they can't get fired. And even though no Vice President ever has been impeached, there's nothing that prevents it. I just thought this was an interesting academic question - I honestly didn't have any specific VP in mind LOL
  • Kane Fe... ProudPr... 2013/06/13 20:14:42
    Kane Fernau
    Agnew resigned. I think the prez can pretty much force a VP out.
  • ProudPr... Kane Fe... 2013/06/13 20:20:13
    ProudProgressive
    Politically and practically I'd say that's true, but legally the VP can't be forced to leave office other than through the impeachment process.
  • Tombsto... ProudPr... 2013/06/13 20:18:17
    TombstoneJim
    +1
    Great question. I found information, but not answers after reading the entire quesiton more carefully.....Congress regards impeachment as a power to be used only in extreme cases; the House has initiated impeachment proceedings only 64 times since 1789 (most recently against Judge Thomas Porteous of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana) with only the following 19 of these proceedings actually resulting in the House passing Articles of Impeachment:

    Two presidents:

    Andrew Johnson, Democrat/National Union, was impeached in 1868 after violating the then-newly created Tenure of Office Act. President Johnson was acquitted by the Senate, falling one vote short of the necessary 2/3 needed to remove him from office, voting 35-19 to remove him. The Tenure of Office Act would later be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in dicta.

    Bill Clinton, Democrat, was impeached on December 19, 1998, by the House of Representatives on articles charging perjury (specifically, lying to a federal grand jury) by a 228–206 vote, and obstruction of justice by a 221–212 vote. The House rejected other articles: One was a count of perjury in a civil deposition in Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton (by a 205–229 vote). The sec...







    Great question. I found information, but not answers after reading the entire quesiton more carefully.....Congress regards impeachment as a power to be used only in extreme cases; the House has initiated impeachment proceedings only 64 times since 1789 (most recently against Judge Thomas Porteous of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana) with only the following 19 of these proceedings actually resulting in the House passing Articles of Impeachment:

    Two presidents:

    Andrew Johnson, Democrat/National Union, was impeached in 1868 after violating the then-newly created Tenure of Office Act. President Johnson was acquitted by the Senate, falling one vote short of the necessary 2/3 needed to remove him from office, voting 35-19 to remove him. The Tenure of Office Act would later be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in dicta.

    Bill Clinton, Democrat, was impeached on December 19, 1998, by the House of Representatives on articles charging perjury (specifically, lying to a federal grand jury) by a 228–206 vote, and obstruction of justice by a 221–212 vote. The House rejected other articles: One was a count of perjury in a civil deposition in Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton (by a 205–229 vote). The second article was one that accused Clinton of abuse of power by a 48–285 vote. President Clinton was acquitted by the Senate on February 12, 1999. The Senate vote fell short of the necessary 2/3 needed to remove him from office, voting 45-55 to remove him on obstruction of justice and 50-50 on perjury.

    In 1876, cabinet officer William W. Belknap (former Secretary of War), resigned before his trial, and was later acquitted. Allegedly most of those who voted to acquit him believed that his resignation had removed their jurisdiction.

    One Senator, William Blount, in 1797. He was expelled by the Senate, which declined to try the impeachment.

    One Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Samuel Chase in 1804. He was acquitted by the Senate.

    Fourteen other federal judges. Seven of these have been convicted by the Senate and removed,[10] including Alcee Hastings, who was impeached and convicted for taking over $150,000 in bribe money in exchange for sentencing leniency. The Senate did not bar Hastings from holding future office, and Hastings won election to the House of Representatives from Florida. Hastings' name was mentioned as a possible Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, but was passed over by House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, presumably because of his previous impeachment and removal. Source U.S. Senate
    (more)
  • ProudPr... Tombsto... 2013/06/13 20:24:19
    ProudProgressive
    +1
    Thanks for the information. I'd say that resignation would not deprive Congress of their jurisdiction since the penalty for a conviction of impeachment is not only removal from office but disqualification for any other Federal office:

    Article I, Section 3, Clause 7:

    "Judgment 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, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law"
  • Tombsto... ProudPr... 2013/06/13 20:28:26
    TombstoneJim
    That would invovle a civil proceeding after removal I suppose.....unless criminal proceedings where required - say a president shot and killed a person while in office.....he'd be impeached for the High Crime and then tried for murder in a court of juristiction?.......
  • ProudPr... Tombsto... 2013/06/13 21:51:25
    ProudProgressive
    +1
    That's how I'd interpret it. Congress doesn't have the authority to throw someone in jail, other than possibly for contempt of Congress. If a President committed murder he would still have the right to a trial by jury.
  • EyeLuvH... Kane Fe... 2013/06/14 07:21:32
    EyeLuvHillary
    The vice president is elected. The president cannot "fire" him/her. He can oppose him as his running mate in a second term, but the party can still choose to include him on the ticket. In such case the president, if the ticket wins, could choose to limit the vice president's participation in his/her administration.
  • Kane Fe... EyeLuvH... 2013/06/14 14:03:41
    Kane Fernau
    The president is elected the VP is appointed by the candidate. As VP you serve the President and if he calls for your resignation you will resign eventually.
  • ProudPr... Kane Fe... 2013/06/14 14:45:55
    ProudProgressive
    +1
    Actually the VP is generally NOMINATED by the candidate (although there have been cases where the candidate did not name anyone and let the convention decide, as Eisenhower did in 1952), but when you step into the voting booth you will find that you are voting for "Electors for President and Vice President". In theory a renegade Electoral College could vote for someone other than the winning Presidential candidate's running mate, but the chances of that happening are virtually nonexistent.

    And I agree entirely that if a President publicly called for his Vice President's resignation the pressure would be incredible and would likely work, but legally the VP could not be forced to resign.
  • sjalan 2013/06/13 19:56:15
    sjalan
    +1
    It would seem to me that an associate member of the Supreme Court would be appointed by the Chief Justice to over see that type of trial. It would be the "logical" thing to be done. BUT WHO SAYS POLITICS IS LOGICAL.!!!???

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