Can the Vice President Preside at His Own Impeachment Trial?: A Critique of Bare Textualism
Saint Louis University Law Journal, Vol. 44, No. 849, 2000. Reprinted with permission of the Saint Louis University Law Journal © 20__ and/or 19__,St. Louis University School of Law, St. Louis, Missouri.
22 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2018
Date Written: December 6, 2018
Turn the clock back for a moment to August 1973. In the midst of the burgeoning Watergate scandal, the nation discovered that Vice President Spiro T. Agnew was being investigated for allegedly accepting bribes from contractors, and for committing tax fraud while Governor of Maryland and Vice President. The investigation, by attorneys in the United States Attorneys Office in Maryland, ultimately gathered sufficient evidence to present to a grand jury. To avoid the spectre of likely indictment and prosecution, Agnew elected to resign his office and plead nolo contendere.
But suppose Agnew had decided not to go quietly. Instead of resigning and pleading, imagine he decided to go to Congress, to challenge the House to impeach him and, if it did, the Senate to convict him. Although this possibility may seem far-fetched now, Agnew did at one point appear headed in that direction. Suppose the House had charged Agnew with committing impeachable crimes that, if proven, justified his removal. As the House considered impeaching President Nixon, the Senate would have faced a trial to determine whether Agnew, the person first in line to succeed Nixon, must be removed.
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