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Trump, Mueller And The Ancient History Of Grants Of Immunity

As questions swirl over whether a sitting President can be indicted for a federal crime, the ancient and medieval history of providing political immunity to leaders, ambassadors, clerics and witnesses reveals a troubling past.

A growing debate in Washington and the rest of the country at the moment concerns not only whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller will bring charges against President Trump, but whether a sitting President can even be charged with a crime. The granting of legal immunity either as a privilege of office or as a special grant were also a part of the Greek, Roman and then Medieval Mediterranean. 

In ancient Athens, the concept of immunity from prosecution was often termed ἄδεια. The privilege was frequently accorded to heralds traveling through foreign territories. This is similar to the grants of diplomatic immunity we give ambassadors today, though that practice was not fully codified until 1961. 

Immunity grants could also be given to individuals in exchange for testimony. During the Peloponnesian War of the late 5th century BCE, the oligarchic politician turned informant Andocides was famously given this grant by the Athenian council after the upsetting mystery surrounding the desecration of the religious herms within the city in 415 BCE. Sly politicians who flipped in order to gain immunity were not uncommon and were a frequent object of critique by historians.

Read entire article at Forbes