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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Booze, Lies, Bribes: Rare US Impeachment Convictions

No matter what awaits Donald Trump following his historic second impeachment trial — the mathematical odds are very much in favor of his acquittal.

WASHINGTON (AFP) — No matter what awaits Donald Trump following his historic second impeachment trial — the mathematical odds are very much in favor of his acquittal.

Since America's founding, House of Representatives lawmakers have impeached 20 people — including Trump and two other presidents — but eight judges are the only officials to have been convicted at trial in the Senate and removed.

Here are some notable instances:

No sympathy for Trump

Alcee Hastings has had what must be the singular experience of having both been impeached and voted in US Congress to impeach another official.

He was a Miami judge until 1989 when he was found guilty by the Senate of conspiring to get a $150,000 bribe from two reputedly mob-tied defendants seeking a lighter sentence.  

But Hastings' conviction, which he fiercely contested, did not disqualify him from running for Congress in Florida. He was elected in 1992 and the 84-year-old Democrat is now reportedly the most senior member of the state's congressional delegation.

His experience doesn't appear to have made him any more sympathetic toward Trump: Hastings has twice voted to impeach the ex-reality TV star.

A list of whom the House has impeached and the outcomes of those impeachments. (AP Graphic)

Getting salary in prison

Despite being found guilty of tax evasion in 1984 and sentenced to two years behind bars, judge Harry Claiborne refused to resign from his post and was still getting his $78,700 per year government salary when he reported to prison.

"This placed the U.S. Congress in a difficult position," according to the Senate's website, adding he was impeached, convicted and removed from office in 1986.

It was by no means the end of Claiborne's decades-long legal career though, which reportedly included work for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and even mobster Bugsy Siegel.

The supreme court in Nevada, where he had long practiced law, ruled in 1987 that he could work as an attorney in the state.  

Marijuana, oil wells, Supreme Court

The son of a wealthy businessman got arrested over a 2,200-pound marijuana load in Mississippi and judge Walter Nixon subsequently wound up with some valuable oil and gas well leases. 

Prosecutors alleged the connection was Nixon intervening in an attempt to make the case go away on behalf of his friend, the businessman. 

Jurors ultimately acquitted Nixon of receiving an illegal gift but found him guilty of perjury, which led to his impeachment and being kicked off the bench by the Senate in 1989.

But Nixon, who argued his innocence, later ended up before the Supreme Court on his claim that he was improperly tried by the Senate. The justices were unmoved, saying the Constitution doesn't allow them to review impeachments.  

'State of total intoxication'

Corruption and lying are frowned upon among officers of the court, but profanity and boozing have drawn fire too.

Judge John Pickering was removed from office in 1804 for drinking on the job and resulting behavior that was "disgraceful... and degrading to the honor of the United States."

His vividly written impeachment accusation stated it thusly:

"In a state of total intoxication, produced by the free and intemperate use of intoxicating liquors; and did then and there frequently, in a most profane and indecent manner, invoke the name of the Supreme Being, to the evil example of all the good citizens of the United States."

by Joshua MELVIN
© Agence France-Presse

Categories / Government, National, Politics, Trials

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