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View Diary: The anti-Clinton editorial board maelstrom (94 comments)

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  •  Misdemeanor (none)
    Perjury is a misdemeanor under Federal law and is punishable by a fine and up to 5 years in prison.

    TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 79 > § 1621. Perjury generally


    1. having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true; or

    2. in any declaration, certificate, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury as permitted under section 1746 of title 28, United States Code, willfully subscribes as true any material matter which he does not believe to be true;

    is guilty of perjury and shall, except as otherwise expressly provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. This section is applicable whether the statement or subscription is made within or without the United States.

    Saying that lying about sex is not an impeachable offense is a partisan statement, not a legal one.  The Constitution says the president can be impeached and removed from office for high crimes and misdemeanors.  Perjury under federal law is a misdemeanor.

    •  Whenever I read that statement... (none)
      ...I see the 'high' in 'high crimes and misdemeanors' as being an adjective to both crimes and misdemeanors. If we take 'high' to be a synonym of serious in this case, I do not think that lying about sex is a high misdemeanor.
      •  Interesting point (none)
        I've never read it that way, and I suppose it could be, but I don't believe that's how it was intended.

        Its worth pointing out that the framers purposely put the responsibility of impeachment into the hands of the Legislative branch instead of the Judicial branch, which on first glance might seem more reasonable.  They did that to ensure that impeachment took political judgement into consideration and not just the letter of the law.  Had they desired it to be purely legal, they would have included a much clearer definition of what constituted grounds for impeachment and would have placed the responsibility with the Judiciary.

        "High crimes and misdemeanors" entered the text of the Constitution due to George Mason and James Madison. Mason had argued that the reasons given for impeachment -- treason and bribery -- were not enough. He worried that other "great and dangerous offenses" might not be covered, and suggested adding the word "maladministration." Madison argued that term was too vague, so Mason then proposed "high crimes and misdemeanors," a phrase well-known in English common law. In 18th century language, a "misdemeanor" meant "mis-demeanor,"or bad behavior (neglect of duty and corruption were given as examples), while "high crimes" was roughly equivalent to "great offenses."

        Lawyers and historians are still arguing about the exact meaning of "high crimes and misdemeanors," dividing into three schools of thought about the appropriate definition:

        1. serious criminality evidenced by breaking existing law;

        2. an abuse of office, and

        3. the Alexander Hamilton standard (Federalist 65) of "violation of public trust."

        Full run-down by C-SPAN expert.
        •  But there is another key point. (none)
          There is an additional detail to the meaning of "high crimes and misdemeanors" historically in English common law. The original draft of the Constitution added the traditional phrase "against the state." This had a specific meaning. However, the committe on style that produced the final draft of the Constitution decided that the phrase was redundant because it was implicit in the phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors."

          This is why Gerald Ford's comment during the impeachment of a Supreme Court Justice (was it Douglas or Black?) was so bogus--he said "high crimes and misdemeanors" means whatever we (the House) says it means. Well, that may be true politically, but not historically. There is a paper trail as to the intent of the framers.

        •  But none of those definitions (none)
          necessarily covers perjury, particularly when the context is a trial that has minimal relevance to the President's conduct in office.

          It's pretty clear that the framers did not intend the President to be impeached for petty crimes. That category includes those crimes that fall under the modern definition of "misdemeanor".

          Whether perjury is a petty crime is debatable. But surely, if the President usurps powers not granted to him by the Constitution, those acts fall under "high crimes and misdemeanors" no matter how one defines it.

          "Stay the course" isn't a plan. It isn't a principle. It's a tantrum.

          by Nowhere Man on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 04:46:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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