Bench Memos

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A Footnote


Over on the Corner, Andy McCarthy and Peter Kirsanow have both weighed in on the Logan Act issue I discussed this morning.  Peter asks in passing “whether the House has the authority under Article II to impeach a senator.”  The answer is no–but strangely enough, that wasn’t immediately obvious to everyone in the founding generation.  The first impeachment case under the Constitution was in fact that of a senator, William Blount of Tennessee, in 1797.  Blount was impeached by the House for, ahem, behavior not too dissimilar from what is alleged of Obama.  The very next day, in a proceeding formally unrelated to that House action but on the same grounds, Blount was expelled by an almost unanimous vote of the Senate.  More than a year later, the Senate undertook to try the House’s impeachment charges, but dropped the matter.  Ever since then, it has been (correctly) understood that the impeachment power mentioned in Articles I and II applies only to the executive and judicial branches, and that members of the House and Senate are not among the “officers” subject to the power.


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