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Copyright (c) 2000 Saint Louis University School of Law
Saint Louis University Law Journal

ARTICLES AND ESSAYS: CAN THE VICE PRESIDENT PRESIDE AT HIS OWN IMPEACHMENT TRIAL?: A CRITIQUE OF BARE TEXTUALISM

Summer, 2000

44 St. Louis L.J. 849

Author

JOEL K. GOLDSTEIN*

Excerpt



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. 1

But suppose Agnew had decided not to go quietly. 2 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. 3 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.

As the Senate began its deliberations, with Senate president pro tempore James Eastland presiding, let us suppose Agnew entered the Senate chamber and strolled to the front. "I'm here to preside," Agnew told a startled Eastland. "Give me the gavel. Get out of my chair." Agnew's presence in and of itself, was something of ...
 
 
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