Lawyer Monthly - September 2023

Ulysses S Grant To date, only two presidents (current or former) have been arrested. The most recent of them is Trump, but Andrew Johnson successor Ulysses S Grant had the dubious honour of becoming the very first. It is a matter of historical record that Grant faced at least two confrontations with the law, which occurred within months of each other in 1866 while he was a lieutenant general. The National Intelligencer reported that, while “exercising his fast gray nag” on 14th Street in Washington, DC, the general was detained by two MPD officers for speeding. Grant offered to pay the fine, but “expressed his doubts of their authority to arrest him” and drove away – before later acknowledging his warrant and paying in full. Later that year, Grant was arrested again on speeding charges and again paid his fine. According to some historians, a third incident occurred in 1872 during Grant’s tenure as president, during which he was apprehended by African American MPD officer William H West for driving his horse-drawn buggy at speed. Then the 18th President of the United States, it is claimed that Grant not only encouraged West to arrest him, but insisted that he not face punishment for doing his duty. The incident was noteworthy not only for being the first arrest of a president, sitting or otherwise, but also for the arresting officer having been an African American – and occurring during the height of the Reconstruction era. Brady-Handy collection at the Library of Congress - Public Domain Richard Nixon President Nixon is cited by many as the closest analogue to Trump in terms of the seriousness of his flagship scandal. In 1974, Nixon made history as the first president to resign the position, having been widely disgraced for his participation in the cover-up of the 1972 burglaries and wiretapping of a Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in a bid to boost his re-election odds. His resignation came under the imminent promise of impeachment and followed the indictment or jailing of 40 federal officials, including his own chief of staff, chief domestic advisor, White House attorney and attorney general. Of particular note is the detail that Nixon was named an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ by a federal grand jury – a term that will also be familiar to those who have followed the January 6 investigations. The decision to declare Nixon as such stemmed from an opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 1973, which held that a sitting president could not be indicted. Less clear was whether Nixon might be charged after leaving office – a matter that his successor, Gerald Ford, sidestepped by issuing him a presidential pardon. To date, the question has never been tried in a court of law. But with Trump now polling as the most likely candidate to become Republican nominee for president in 2024, there is a non-zero chance that it may be revisited in the near future. SPECIAL FEATURE 33 Executive Office of the President of the United States- Public Domain

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