Interview. Frank O. Bowman III is a law professor at the University of Missouri. He published in July High Crimes and Misdemeanors. A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump, (untranslated, Cambridge University Press, 478 p., 28 euros).
The impeachment of Donald Trump by the House of Representatives with a view to his dismissal is a unique procedure, inscribed in American history. Where is she from ?
This procedure was invented in XIVe century by the British Parliament. Its first function was for the legislature to act as a counterweight to the Crown. Under the monarchical regime, if Parliament disapproved of a policy, it could try to provoke a revolution and deposed the king; or, in a less dramatic way, he could try to get rid of the king's instruments of power, that is, his ministers. In this context, impeachment was a means of sacking ministers, thus depriving the king of his main allies. Once a politician convicted, he could suffer a range of punishments: fines, imprisonment, banishment …
For centuries, impeachment has mainly functioned as a protection against the excesses of royal power; then he served against the abuses of executive power in general. Thus, it was introduced in the American colonies, founded before the revolution and independence. At the time, it could concern any person holding an authority who misbehaved or was guilty of corruption. One example is an Indian tribe interpreter who was charged because he was suspected of betraying white settlers. But overall, it was to guard against the power of officials associated with the Royal Government, such as judges for example.
Why did the Founding Fathers of the United States find it useful to include it in the Constitution?
They seized it simply because they were familiar with this procedure. In their eyes, it was a classic tool of good governance and the fight against corruption. The United States has thus adopted this model, resuming the procedure as we know it today: the investigation of the facts for the indictment is carried out by the lower house (House of Commons in the United Kingdom, the House of Representatives in the United States, where a simple majority suffices to validate the procedure), and the trial is vested in the Upper House (House of Lords in the United Kingdom, the Senate in the United States)where a two-thirds majority is necessary for impeachment and dismissal.