Abuse of power

Abuse of power or abuse of authority, in the form of "malfeasance in office" or "official abuse of power", is the commission of an unlawful act, done in an official capacity, which affects the performance of official duties. Malfeasance in office is often a just cause for removal of an elected official by statute or recall election. Officials who abuse their power are often corrupt.[1][2][3]

In the United States, abuse of power has been cited in the impeachment of at least five federal officials. Two of these (Judge George English and President Richard Nixon) resigned before their trial in the Senate could take place, and two others were acquitted by the Senate. The first impeachment trial of President Donald Trump concluded with the president being found not guilty on both articles of impeachment with one of them being the charge of abuse of power. At the state level, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois was impeached and unanimously removed from office by the Illinois Senate in 2009 for offenses including abuse of power.

Institutional abuse

Institutional abuse is the maltreatment of someone (often children or older adults) by a system of power.[4] This can range from acts similar to home-based child abuse, such as neglect, physical and sexual abuse, to the effects of assistance programs working below acceptable service standards, or relying on harsh or unfair ways to modify behavior.[4]

Impeachment of U.S. officials

James Peck

Federal Judge James H. Peck was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1830 on a charge of abuse of power.[5] Peck had jailed a man for contempt of court after the man had publicly criticized him.[5] The U.S. Senate acquitted him in 1831, with 21 voting guilty and 22 voting not guilty.[5][6][7]

Charles Swayne

Federal Judge Charles Swayne was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1904. He was accused of filing false travel vouchers, improper use of private railroad cars, unlawfully imprisoning two attorneys for contempt, and living outside of his district. He was acquitted by the U.S. Senate in 1905. There was little doubt that Swayne was guilty of some of the offenses charged against him. Indeed, his counsel admitted as much, though calling the lapses "inadvertent." The Senate, however, refused to convict Swayne because its members did not believe his actions amounted to "high crimes and misdemeanors".[8]

George English

Federal Judge George W. English was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1926, but resigned before his trial in the U.S. Senate could take place. One of the five articles of impeachment alleged "tyranny and oppression, and abuse of the powers of his office."[9] The House voted to impeach by a vote of 306 to 60, but the charges were dismissed following English's resignation.[10] He had been accused of abusive treatment of attorneys and litigants appearing before him.[10][11][12]

Richard Nixon

President Richard Nixon resigned from office after the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve articles of impeachment, but before the full House had a chance to vote on impeachment. Of the three articles of impeachment, Article II charged Nixon with abuse of power, alleging in part that:

Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies.[13][14]

The article also cited five specific examples of alleged misconduct to substantiate this charge against the president.[15]

The vote on Article II was bipartisan, with 7 of the 17 Republicans joining all 21 Democrats on the committee in approving impeachment of a U.S. president for abuse of power.[15]

Rod Blagojevich

Rod Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office as Governor of Illinois in 2009, on charges of abuse of power and corruption. Blagojevich was accused of several "pay to play" schemes, including attempting "to obtain personal gain ... through the corrupt use" of his authority to fill a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. The Illinois House of Representatives voted 114–1 (with three abstentions) to impeach Blagojevich for abuse of power,[16][17] and the Illinois Senate voted 59–0 to remove him from office.[18]

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 18, 2019. The votes for the charge of abuse of power in the House were 230 in favor, 197 against, and 1 present. Voting in favor were all but three House Democrats and one Independent, and voting against were all House Republicans and two Democrats; representative Tulsi Gabbard voted present.[19][20] During his trial in the Senate on February 5, 2020, he was found not guilty. The votes for acquittal on the charge of abuse of power in the Senate were 48 against (45 Democratic senators, 2 Independent senators, one Republican senator), and 52 in favor (All Republicans). Of the two articles of impeachment, Article I alleges abuse of power.

Other examples

Lois Lerner/IRS

In October 2017, the Trump Administration agreed to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than four hundred conservative nonprofit groups. These nonprofit groups claimed that they had been discriminated against by the Internal Revenue Service for an undisclosed amount. This amount was described by the plaintiffs' counsel as "very substantial." The Trump Administration also agreed to settle a second lawsuit brought by forty-one conservative organizations with an apology and an admission that subjecting them to "heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays" was wrongful.[21]

These acts by Lois Lerner were performed between 2010 and 2012 as a way to try and deal with the massive number of applications from organizations that were wanting a tax-exemption status.[22] Many of these organizations that were seeking the tax-exemption status did not agree with how the government was being run and had 'tea party' or 'patriots' in their name.[23]

Joe Arpaio

In February 2010, Judge John Leonardo found that Arpaio "misused the power of his office to target members of the Board of Supervisors for criminal investigation".[24]

In 2008, a federal grand jury began an inquiry of Arpaio for abuse of power, in connection with a Federal Bureau of Investigation investigation.[25][26] On August 31, 2012, the US Attorney's office of Arizona announced that it was "closing its investigation into allegations of criminal conduct" by Arpaio, without filing charges.[27]

Arpaio was investigated for politically motivated and "bogus" prosecutions, which a former US Attorney called "utterly unacceptable".[25][26] Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has called Arpaio's "long list" of questionable prosecutions "a reign of terror".[26]

Fa Zheng

In 215 CE in Eastern Han China, Fa Zheng was appointed as the Administrator (太守) of Shu commandery (蜀郡) and "General Who Spreads Martial Might" (揚武將軍) by Liu Bei. He oversaw administrative affairs in the vicinity of Yi Province's capital Chengdu and served as Liu Bei's chief adviser.[28]

During this period of time, he abused his power by taking personal revenge against those who offended him before and killing them without reason. Some officials approached Zhuge Liang, another of Liu Bei's key advisers, and urged him to report Fa Zheng's lawless behaviour to their lord and take action against him. However, Zhuge Liang replied, "When our lord was in Gong'an (公安), he was wary of Cao Cao's influence in the north and fearful of Sun Quan's presence in the east. Even in home territory he was afraid that Lady Sun might stir up trouble. He was in such a difficult situation at the time that he could neither advance nor retreat. Fa Xiaozhi supported and helped him so much, such that he is now able to fly high and no longer remain under others' influence. How can we stop Fa Zheng from behaving as he wishes?" Zhuge Liang was aware that Liu Bei favoured and trusted Fa Zheng, which was why he refused to intervene in this matter.[29]

Police officers

In dictatorial, corrupt, or weak states, police officers may carry out many criminal acts for the ruling regime with impunity.

Individual officers, or sometimes whole units, can be corrupt or carry out various forms of police misconduct; this occasionally happens in many forces, but can be more common where police pay is very low unless supplemented by bribes.[30] Police officers sometimes act with unwarranted brutality when they overreact to confrontational situations[31] or to extract a confession from a person that they may or may not genuinely suspect of being guilty.[32] . Furthermore, in recent studies, it has been shown that the CAP police has been abusing power. [33] Research shows from 1980 to 2018 there was an estimated 30,800 deaths due to police violence.

Elliott Broidy

Elliott Broidy was charged for illegally lobbying the US government officials for the government of the United Arab Emirates to influence the US foreign policy and run a disinformation campaign against the State of Qatar as well as Qatari-American businesses. Broidy, the former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time of the Donald Trump administration was charged with the wrongdoing in a lawsuit filed by a Qatari luxury travel company, Abu Issa Holding. Broidy, according to the lawsuit was paid by the UAE government, for hiring internet-based influencers and trolls to spread misinformation against Qatar, stating that Qatari businesses sponsored terrorist groups.[34]

See also


  1. "Corruption and abuse of power". www.policeconduct.gov.uk/. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  2. "Vanuatu officials accused of abuse of power amid corruption claims". rnz.co.nz. February 19, 2019. Archived from the original on February 14, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  3. Gerson, Michael (September 24, 2019). "Opposing Trump's corrupt abuse of power is today's form of patriotism". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  4. Powers, J. L.; A. Mooney & M. Nunno (1990). "Institutional abuse: A review of the literature". Journal of Child and Youth Care. 4 (6): 81.
  5. "Jonathan Turley, Senate Trials And Factional Disputes: Impeachment As A Madisonian Device, 49 Duke L. J. 1 (1999)". March 18, 2006. Archived from the original on March 18, 2006.
  6. James Hawkins Peck at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  7. "govinfo". govinfo.gov.
  8. "U.S. Senate: Impeachment". senate.gov. Archived from the original on December 2, 2010. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  9. "Impeachment of Judge George W English Dismissed After Resignation". Constitutional Law Reporter. May 17, 2017. Archived from the original on September 23, 2019. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  10. "Impeachment Proceedings Not Resulting In Trial" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on January 6, 2019. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  11. "JusticeLearning : Articles". October 5, 2006. Archived from the original on October 5, 2006.
  12. "Judge English Quits; House Prosecutors Move To Drop Trial" (PDF). September 30, 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 30, 2007.
  13.  This article incorporates public domain material from Stephen W. Stathis and David C. Huckabee. Congressional Resolutions on Presidential Impeachment: A Historical Overview (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  14.  This article incorporates public domain material from A History of the Committee on the Judiciary 1813–2006, Section II—Jurisdictions History of the Judiciary Committee: Impeachment (PDF). United States House of Representatives. Retrieved November 6, 2019. (H. Doc. 109-153).
  15. Naughton, James M. (July 30, 1974). "New Accusation". The New York Times. p. 1. Archived from the original on December 29, 2019. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  16. Saulny, Susan (January 9, 2009). "Illinois House Impeaches Governor". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 17, 2012. Retrieved April 21, 2009.
  17. Vote on House Resolution 1671 Archived June 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine to impeach Gov. Blagojevich.
  18. Chicago Tribune, January 30, 2009, "Impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Has Been Removed From Office" by Ray Long and Rick Pearson Archived January 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. Edmondson, Catie (December 18, 2019). "On Historic Impeachment Votes, Three Democrats Cross Party Lines to Vote 'No'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 12, 2020. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  20. Haberkorn, Jennifer; Wire, Sarah D.; Megerian, Chris; O'Toole, Molly (December 18, 2019). "U.S. House impeaches President Trump". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 18, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  21. Pilcher, James (October 26, 2017). "IRS settles tea party cases for millions and an apology". The Enquirer. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  22. Goldfarb, Zachary (May 10, 2013). "IRS admits targeting conservatives for tax scrutiny in 2012 election". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  23. Newsline, Legal (January 4, 2018). "Victims of IRS's Tea Party Bias--And Taxpayers--Must see Lois Lerner's Testimony, Lawyer Says". Forbes.com. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  24. Wingett, Yvonne (February 25, 2010). "Supervisor cases collapse". Azcentral.com. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
  25. "Sources: FBI Investigating Joe Arpaio". KPHO. October 30, 2009. Archived from the original on October 20, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  26. Conder, Chuck (July 10, 2010). "Arizona sheriff under investigation for alleged abuse of power". CNN. Archived from the original on July 14, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  27. "Feds close criminal investigation into Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio". Fox News. August 31, 2012. Archived from the original on March 15, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  28. (以正為蜀郡太守、揚武將軍,外統都畿,內為謀主。) Sanguozhi vol. 37.
  29. (一飡之德,睚眦之怨,無不報復,擅殺毀傷己者數人。或謂諸葛亮曰:「法正於蜀郡太縱橫,將軍宜啟主公,抑其威福。」亮荅曰:「主公之在公安也,北畏曹公之彊,東憚孫權之逼,近則懼孫夫人生變於肘腋之下;當斯之時,進退狼跋,法孝直為之輔翼,令翻然翱翔,不可復制,如何禁止法正使不得行其意邪!」初,孫權以妹妻先主,妹才捷剛猛,有諸兄之風,侍婢百餘人,皆親執刀侍立,先主每入,衷心常凜凜;亮又知先主雅愛信正,故言如此。) Sanguozhi vol. 37.
  30. "IPS: DRUGS-MEXICO: Police Caught Between Low Wages, Threats and Bribes". Ipsnews.net. June 7, 2007. Archived from the original on June 20, 2010. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  31. Edwards, Richard (April 17, 2009). "Ian Tomlinson G20 protests death: police office faces manslaughter charge". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on April 4, 2010. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  32. Leo, Richard (September 2009). "False Confessions: Causes, Consequences, and Implications". The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 37 (3): 332–343. PMID 19767498. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  33. GBD 2019 Police Violence US Subnational Collaborators (October 2, 2021). "Fatal police violence by race and state in the USA, 1980–2019: a network meta-regression". The Lancet. 398 (10307): 1239–1255. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01609-3. ISSN 0140-6736. PMC 8485022. PMID 34600625. {{cite journal}}: |author1= has generic name (help)
  34. "Trump backer Elliot Broidy accused of orchestrating covert campaign against Qatar". New York Post. August 5, 2021. Retrieved August 5, 2021.

Further reading

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