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For example, could Bill Clinton have been charged with perjury in the standard judicial system, even while sitting President? Or is impeachment and removal a prerequisite for judicial proceedings?

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Bill Clinton was charged with Perjury to an in-house sworn hearing - that is why it went through the in-house judicial system of impeachment. Had he perjured himself in a normal courthouse then the normal criminal process would have been in effect. A normal criminal court charge MAY be the result following an impeachment process, depending on the cause (bribery, influence peddling, etc) but not necessarily. Similarly, a President may pardon a resulting criminal conviction, but not an impeachment. It is two separate judicial processes. – Michael Broughton Mar 9 at 16:59
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Perhaps it would help to clarify what you mean when you say "US official". – Nate Eldredge Mar 9 at 22:06
    
@MichaelBroughton Do I understand you to mean that a President can pardon himself (if criminally convicted)? – WS2 Mar 9 at 23:13
    
@WS2 - frankly, given how Nixon was preemptively pardoned, it may be technically possible (Not sure on that one), but for crimes in office criminal charges cannot proceed until the President has either resigned or been impeached and tossed. I don't see anything in the rules specifically against it, but I'd like to see the person with the cojones to try! – Michael Broughton Mar 10 at 14:29

Governor Rod Blagojevich was charged and released on bail prior to being impeached and things going to trial. Holding office does not grant immunity, nor does impeachment automatically imply removal from office, and neither are a prerequisite for criminal proceedings to be undertaken.

Governor Evan Meecham of Arizona, for example, was not even impeached until after his conviction.

Here's a short set of details on several gubernatorial impeachments

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There's one exception to this - Congresspeople while they're doing things related to their job. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place. Other than that, you're entirely right that being arrested is unrelated to holding office or being impeached. – Bobson Mar 9 at 15:30
    
Yes, internal matters are separate, and criminal charges may follow impeachment if appropriate. – Michael Broughton Mar 9 at 15:36
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Neither Governors Blagojevich nor Meechamwas were a US official. – emory Mar 9 at 17:55
    
They were not Federal officials, no. And the impeachment rules differe from state to state according to their constitutions. The general rules, however, still apply. Impeachment is for breach of internal rules, and they may also result in criminal charges. Criminal charges for actions outside of official capacity, however, is not shielded at any level of government. – Michael Broughton Mar 9 at 18:05
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"Impeachment is for breach of internal rules." Impeachment is specifically not for breach of internal rules at the federal level, but for criminal offenses. The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High crimes and Misdemeanors. - U.S. Constitution Article 2, Section 4 – reirab Mar 9 at 21:35

Article I, Section 6, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution says

"The Senators and Representatives [...] shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

This prevents them from most cases of criminal liability for things they do during debate and prevents them from being arrested during debate or while traveling there, but doesn't offer them any protection outside.

No such rights apply to the president. In fact, Article II section 4 of the US constitution explicitly states that: "The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.". If an impeachment would be a prerequisite for conviction, this section would be redundant. If "perjury" is a "high crime or misdemeanor" warranting an automatic impeachment would be for a court to decide. There is no precedent for this, because no president or vice-president was ever impeached for criminal activity (Nixon resigned voluntarily).

This is different from many other democracies where it is common that parliament members have immunity from criminal prosecution unless the parliament revokes that immunity with a majority vote (which they usually do when there is reasonable ground for suspicion). The reason for parliamentary immunity is that the executives in some "less democratic democracies" like to abuse their authority over the law enforcement system to arrest parliament members who make uncomfortable voting decisions.

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Clinton was impeached for criminal activity; he was just not convicted afterwards. (Impeachment is the process of bringing formal charges against an official, not of removing the official from office.) – Mason Wheeler Mar 9 at 19:13
    
"If an impeachment would be a prerequisite for conviction, this section would be redundant." You mean if it were already a prerequisite. It's certainly reasonable to read that section as making impeachment a prerequisite for conviction by making a conviction without an impeachment ineffective. – David Schwartz Mar 9 at 20:41
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The conviction referred to by Article II, Section 4 is conviction by the Senate on articles of impeachment (see Article I, Section 3,) not conviction in a criminal court. They are two completely separate processes. – reirab Mar 9 at 21:40
    
Since there is no restriction on who a President may pardon, a President who was charged with a crime while in office could simply pardon himself, thus shielding himself from criminal prosecution as long as he was in office. Impeachment serves as a check against that, since a pardon doesn't shield against impeachment. – supercat Mar 10 at 5:51

A US official can be charged and tried in court without going through the impeachment process at all.

  1. Consider Scooter Libby. He was a US official. He was indicted on multiple counts. He resigned. He was convicted. His prison sentence was commuted but his conviction remains and he still has to pay several hundred thousand dollars in fines.
  2. Consider Richard Nixon. He was a US official. He was pre-emptively pardoned. He likely would have been charged and convicted for multiple felonies without going through the impeachment process.
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Scooter Libby, as neither an elected official or judge, would never have been impeached as that process is not applicable to him. Articles of Impeachment against Nixon WERE drawn up but became moot when he resigned before they could be voted on, thus ending that process, and which is irrelevant to the preemptive pardon he received to shield him from criminal prosecution. – Michael Broughton Mar 9 at 18:13
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@MichaelBroughton "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Doesn't "civil officer" cover virtually all federal employees (except for military). – emory Mar 9 at 18:24
    
It's a murky area, but only members of the executive branch or judiciary may be included - not all civil servants: law.justia.com/constitution/us/article-2/… – Michael Broughton Mar 9 at 18:28
    
But as it is a murky area, I conceed that, had Bush tried to shelter Libby, the Congress may have looked to impeachment to get to him - at which point the Supreme Court may have had to decide if he was impeachable. Gotta love institutions set up by lawyers to police themselves - they're ALWAYS an open mess of opportunities for interpretation! Why? Keeps more lawyers employed I assume.... – Michael Broughton Mar 9 at 18:32
    
For Nixon, are you claiming that he could have been charged and convicted, even while he was President, without first being impeached? Is there evidence to support that? It is my understanding that he would likely have been impeached had he remained President, and presumably this is because Congress thought impeachment was constitutionally necessary. After he resigned, if he had not been pardoned, he certainly could have been tried and convicted under ordinary judicial processes, but at that point he was no longer a US official. – Nate Eldredge Mar 9 at 22:03

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