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Nancy Pelosi Announces Trump Impeachment Inquiry. Here’s How the Impeachment Process Works

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  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is directing the House of Representatives to start a formal impeachment inquiry into allegations that President Trump pressured the Ukranian President to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden.
  • In a formal announcement, Pelosi said that “the actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution.”
  • She added that Trump’s actions revealed “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”
  • Launching an inquiry is just the first of many steps that will be required to bring impeachment charges forward.

Pelosi Announces Impeachment

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the House is formally launching an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s alleged efforts to pressure the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

Those allegations stem from a whistleblower complaint that claimed Trump had an inappropriate phone call with the Ukranian leader in July, and possibly on other occasions. 

The complaint reportedly includes other instances of Trump displaying improper behavior with a foreign leader. However, those examples are currently unknown to the public, as the complaint was exclusively given to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees Wednesday afternoon.

“The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution. Especially when the President says ‘Article II says I can do whatever I want,’” Pelosi said in her official announcement. “And this week the president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically.” 

“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” she continued. “Therefore, today I am announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”

“I am directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry. The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”

There are still a lot of moving parts and a lot more that needs to happen before there are any meaningful moves towards impeachment. The key point here is that this is just an “impeachment inquiry” — meaning it is basically an investigation into whether or not the House will even begin impeachment proceedings.

What Is Impeachment?

At the very top level, the Constitution gives Congress the power to remove presidents for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

That’s pretty vague, and there is no specific definition of what exactly that means. It basically refers to an abuse of power by the president— which does not necessarily have to be a specific violation of a normal criminal law or statute.

Historically that has included abusing the powers of office or using the office for an improper purpose or for personal gain.

Under the Constitution, the House has “the sole power of impeachment” and the Senate has “the sole power to try all impeachments.”

One way to think about this is that the House plays the role of a prosecutor deciding whether to indict the president, and the Senate plays the role of the jury and decides whether to convict the president.

So when someone says that a president was impeached, that just means the House voted to impeach the president, but it does not necessarily mean the Senate voted to remove the president from office.

In fact, there have only ever been two presidents who were impeached, and neither of them were removed. Those presidents were Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. The House also started proceedings to impeach Richard Nixon, but he resigned in 1974 to avoid impeachment.

House Impeachment Process

There are a couple of ways impeachment proceedings can start.

However, many experts say what will most likely happen next is that the six House committees Pelosi said were involved in investigations will send their cases to the House Judiciary Committee, the same Committee that oversaw both the Nixon and Clinton proceedings.

From there, the Judiciary Committee decides if there is enough evidence of wrongdoing to impeach the President or not.

If the committee decides that there is substantial evidence of wrongdoing, they vote to approve the articles of impeachment, which then go to the full House for a vote.

The House can either vote on each article individually or as a single resolution.

In order to impeach the president, the House only needs a simple majority to vote in favor of just one of the articles, meaning if all 435 House members vote, then 218 votes would be needed. 

Right now, Democrats have a 235-seat majority in the House, which would hypothetically give them enough votes to impeach Trump, but that that does not mean all of them will do that. 

According to a count by The New York Times, as of this afternoon, 210 members have said they favored an impeachment inquiry, 70 have said they opposed it or were undecided, and 154 did not respond to the question.

Source: The New York Times

However, that is just those who favor an inquiry, not necessarily impeachment.

Impeachment Process in The Senate

If the House were to get enough votes to impeach the President, which is the equivalent of indicting him, it would then move on to the Senate for the “trial” portion. 

During those proceedings, which are overseen by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a team of lawmakers from the House argue their case in favor of removing the president. The president, for his part, would have defense lawyers who argue against it.

After that, the Senate votes on whether or not to remove the president based on the evidence presented. But unlike the House, the Senate requires a two-thirds majority— which is 67 Senators— to vote in favor of removing the president.

Those numbers seem pretty unlikely, given the Republican-majority in the Senate.

There is also another roadblock to even getting the Senate to hold an impeachment trial, which is that is that there is no specific provision in the constitution that could stop Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from just refusing to convene a hearing.

That is the same loophole that McConnell used to prevent a confirmation hearing and vote on former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, back in 2016.

McConnell for his part condemned the impeachment inquiry and Democrats in a statement but has not said much more about what he would do.

Some experts have also noted that the Supreme Court Chief Justice theoretically also has the power to convene the Senate for an impeachment trial. Even if that happens, the Senate’s Republican majority could just vote to dismiss the case without even looking at the evidence.

If Trump were removed, Vice President Mike Pence would take over as president.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal) (Reuters)

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House Votes To Censure Rep. Gosar, Remove Him From Committees Over AOC Video

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Gosar remained defiant in remarks delivered on the floor where he defended the video and refused to apologize.


Republicans Stay Defiant Amid Censure Debate

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Az.) and remove him from his committees after he tweeted an anime video last week that showed him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

The video, which has since been removed by Gosar, was a parody of the popular anime show “Attack on Titan.”

At one point in the clip, Gosar, along with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Co.), are seen battling and then killing a titan version of Ocasio-Cortez.

That post garnered widespread backlash, but Gosar continued to defend it and refused to apologize.

During the heated debate leading up to Wednesday’s vote, the lawmaker again expressed no regret and remained defiant.

“I rise today to address and reject the mischaracterization and accusations from many in this body that the cartoon from my office is dangerous or threatening. It was not,” he said. “I reject the false narrative categorically.”

“I do not espouse violence toward anyone. I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset,” he continued. He then went on to insist the video was just a rebuke of President Joe Biden’s immigration policy and compared himself to Alexander Hamilton.

Many Republican leaders — who have largely refused to condemn the video — also defended Gosar and dismissed the post as a joke.

While some said they do not condone violence, few members of the party criticized the lawmaker. Rather, most focused their attacks on Democrats, arguing that they were abusing their power and silencing conservatives.

Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez Condemn Incitement of Violence

Democrats slammed Republicans’ continued refusal to reprimand Gosar. They said there must be consequences and that they were forced to act because his party would not.

Many also argued that they must speak out against actions that could incite the kind of violence that unfolded during the Jan. 6 insurrection. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), for instance, described the situation as “an emergency” that amounted to “violence against women” and “workplace harassment.”

“When a member uses his or her national platform to encourage violence, tragically, people listen,” she said, adding that “depictions of violence can foment actual violence, as witnessed by this chamber on Jan. 6, 2021.”

The Speaker additionally noted that there are legal implications for Gosar’s video because it amounted to a threat against a member of Congress, which is a criminal offense.

Ocasio-Cortez echoed the sentiments expressed by Pelosi during her speech on the floor.

“What I believe is unprecedented is for a member of House leadership of either party to be unable to condemn incitement of violence against a member of this body,” she said. “It is sad. It is a sad day in which a member who leads a political party in the United States of America cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong.” 

“What is so hard about saying this is wrong?” she continued. “It’s pretty cut and dry. Does anyone in this chamber find this behavior acceptable?” 

“Our work here matters. Our example matters. There is meaning in our service. And as leaders in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down into violence in this country.” 

Ultimately, the vast majority of House Republicans voted against the resolution to censure Gosar. Only Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Il.) supported the measure, which passed 223 to 207.

While removing Gosar from his committees effectively takes away a major platform for him to effect legislation, the censure is basically just a public condemnation. Still, the move is significant because it represents the first time in more than a decade that a member of the House has been censured and only the 24th instance in American history.

Gosar, for his part, appeared to be unmoved by the decision. Just an hour after the vote, the lawmaker retweeted a post praising him that also included the same video of him killing Ocasio-Cortez.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)

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Former Trump Aide Steve Bannon Surrenders to FBI After Contempt of Congress Charges

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The charges stem from Bannon’s failure to comply with a subpoena from the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.


Bannon Faces Contempt Charges

Former White House advisor Steve Bannon surrendered to the FBI Monday morning on two contempt of Congress charges.

Bannon, who previously served as an aide to former President Donald Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday after he defied a subpoena to testify and provide documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“I don’t want anybody to take their eye off the ball…We’re taking down the Biden regime every day,” he said when briefly addressing the media as he turned himself in to the FBI’s Washington, D.C. field office.

Bannon made his first court appearance Monday afternoon, though he did not make a plea and was released from custody. His arraignment is set for Thursday morning.

If convicted, each count of contempt carries a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Contempt of Congress charges are incredibly rare. According to The Washington Post, only three such charges have been brought in the last three decades.

Ongoing Legal Battle

While the proceedings against Bannon will likely be quick, they are only one part of what is shaping up to be a lengthy battle over executive privilege.

Trump has repeatedly attempted to block the Jan. 6 committee from obtaining requested documents, testimonies, and other materials under the argument that they are protected by executive privilege — which he asserts still applies to him and his former aides.

In addition to provoking a fraught legal back-and-forth over key records, the former president’s efforts have additionally prompted multiple previous top officials to refuse to comply with subpoenas.

Some top Democrats have said that Bannon’s indictment will encourage other witnesses to cooperate, but at the same time, it has reinvigorated Trump’s allies in Congress.

While some have threatened payback if Republicans take the House in 2022, others have also weaponized support of Bannon as the latest show of loyalty for Trump, effectively centering the matter as a key issue for the midterm elections.

On Saturday, Trump himself released a statement condemning all Republicans who either voted for the infrastructure bill or the contempt charges against Bannon, listing each by name and promising to back anyone who primaried them in the upcoming elections.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)

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Judge Blocks Trump’s Effort To Keep Records From Jan. 6 Committee

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The former president’s lawyers quickly appealed the decision, and experts have said the legal battle over the records could extend into next year.


Trump’s Attempt To Withhold Documents Rejected

A federal judge issued a ruling Tuesday rejecting former President Donald Trump’s effort to block records from being handed over to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump has launched numerous attempts to prevent the committee from obtaining key documents, testimonies, and other evidence lawmakers have requested, claiming the materials are protected by executive privilege.

Last month, he went as far as to file a lawsuit against the panel and the National Archives to prevent the committee from seeing those documents.

In his suit, Trump claimed that executive privilege still applied to him even though he is no longer president, and despite the fact that President Joe Biden also declined to exercise executive privilege over the records.

The former president argued that the requested information has “no reasonable connection to the events of that day” or “any conceivable legislative purpose.”

In her Tuesday ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan broadly rejected those arguments, writing that “the public interest lies in permitting […] the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on January 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again.”

Chutkan additionally argued that Congress’ ability to obtain information as part of its constitutional oversight authority outweighs Trump’s remaining secrecy powers, especially because Biden agreed that investigators should see the records.

“[Trump] does not acknowledge the deference owed to the incumbent president’s judgment. His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity,'” she added. “But presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”

Ongoing Legal Battle

Immediately after the ruling, Trump’s lawyers appealed and moved to block the release of the records until their appeal can be heard.

According to various reports, the appeals court set an initial written briefing deadline for Dec. 27. Legal experts, however, believe the battle will likely continue into next year and will ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court. 

A drawn-out legal process will only continue to benefit Trump, whose strategy of stonewalling and stalling the investigation has so far proven effective at hindering lawmakers.

Additional delays would further aid the former president if litigation continues past the 2022 midterm elections when Republicans hope to retake the House. 

In a statement on Twitter, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich indicated that the legal fight is just now starting.

“The battle to defend Executive Privilege for Presidents past, present & future—from its outset—was destined to be decided by the Appellate Courts,” he wrote. “Pres. Trump remains committed to defending the Constitution & the Office of the Presidency, & will be seeing this process through.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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