- 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.
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)
Biden Policy Pushes for Electric Cars To Make Up Half of U.S. Auto Sales by 2030
While the country’s largest automakers have signed onto the plan, experts say the goal will be difficult to achieve.
Biden’s Car Emissions Plan
President Joe Biden unveiled a new multi-pronged policy Thursday aimed at reducing vehicle emissions that has been described as one of his administration’s most significant efforts to combat climate change so far.
The first part of the plan directs relevant agencies to restore and strengthen mileage standards that were implemented by former President Barack Obama but rolled back under former President Donald Trump.
The Trump administration estimated that its own standard would lead cars produced during the term of the rule to emit nearly a billion more tons of carbon dioxide and consume around 80 billion more gallons of gas over their lifetime.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the U.S., composing around 29% of the country’s total emissions.
As a result, the second part of Biden’s new plan aims to address a more long-term goal through an executive order that sets a new target to make electric cars half of all new vehicles sold by 2030.
A White House factsheet published Thursday morning outlined a series of proposals for the president to achieve his goal, which included:
- Installing a national network of electric vehicle charging stations.
- Implementing consumer incentives to encourage manufacturing and union jobs.
- Funding changes and expansions to domestic manufacturing supply chains.
- Developing new clean technologies.
The 2030 target is voluntary, but America’s “Big Three” automakers — Ford, GM, and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) — issued a joint statement announcing “their shared aspiration to achieve sales of 40-50% of annual U.S. volumes of electric vehicles by 2030.”
The United Auto Workers union has also backed the plan, though it said it was more focused on ensuring its members maintained jobs than it was on setting specific goals and deadlines.
While the plan has the backing of major auto industry players, there are still many hurdles. Experts say it is impossible for electric vehicles to become half of all cars without making electric charging stations as common as gas stations.
But the bipartisan infrastructure plan that Congress and Biden have painstakingly negotiated for months only includes $7.5 billion for vehicle chargers — just half the price tag the president initially called for to build 500,000 recharging spots.
Given the stalemate in Congress, as well as the significant lobbying power of Big Oil, it is unclear how much can be achieved legislatively.
Even key members of Biden’s own party have expressed hesitancy.
For example, a budget plan recently proposed by Democrats includes provisions that would provide new tax breaks and subsidies for buying electric vehicles. Democratic leaders have said they want to pass the budget through reconciliation, meaning they only need a simple majority and thus will not require any Republican votes.
However, in order to do so, the party needs all 50 senators to agree to the package. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who recently said he has “grave concerns” about Biden’s desired speed to adopt electric vehicles, has already signaled that he will not support increased subsidies for the cars.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Biden Calls on Congress To Extend Eviction Moratorium
The move comes just two days before the federal ban is set to expire.
Eviction Freeze Set To Expire
President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday to extend the federal eviction moratorium for another month just two days before the ban was set to expire.
The request follows a Supreme Court decision last month, where the justices ruled the evictions freeze could stay in place until it expired on July 31. That decision was made after a group of landlords sued, arguing that the moratorium was illegal under the public health law the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had relied on to implement it.
While the court did not provide reasons for its ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a short concurring opinion explaining that although he thought the CDC “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he voted not to end the program because it was already set to expire in a month.
In a statement Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited the Supreme Court decision, as well as the recent surge in COVID cases, as reasons for the decision to call on Congress.
“Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
Delays in Relief Distribution
The move comes as the administration has struggled to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental relief funds approved as part of two coronavirus relief packages passed in December and March, respectively.
Nearly seven months after the first round of funding was approved, the Treasury Department has only allocated $3 billion of the reserves, and just 600,000 tenants have been helped under the program.
A total of 7.4 million households are behind on rent according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. An estimated 3.6 million of those households could face eviction in the next two months if the moratorium expires.
The distribution problems largely stem from the fact that many states and cities tasked with allocating the fund had no infrastructure to do so, causing the aid to be held up by delays, confusion, and red tape.
Some states opened portals that were immediately overwhelmed, prompting them to close off applications, while others have faced technical glitches.
According to The Washington Post, just 36 out of more than 400 states, counties, and cities that reported data to the Treasury Department were able to spend even half of the money allotted them by the end of June. Another 49 — including New York — had not spent any funds at all.
Slim Chances in Congress
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) urged her colleagues to approve an extension for the freeze Thursday night, calling it “a moral imperative” and arguing that “families must not pay the price” for the slow distribution of aid.
However, Biden’s last-minute call for Congress to act before members leave for their August recess is all but ensured to fail.
While the House Rules Committee took up a measure Thursday night that would extend the moratorium until the end of this year, the only way it could pass in the Senate would be through a procedure called unanimous consent, which can be blocked by a single dissenting vote.
Some Senate Republicans have already rejected the idea.
“There’s no way I’m going to support this. It was a bad idea in the first place,” Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters. “Owners have the right to action. They need to have recourse for the nonpayment of rent.”
With the hands of the CDC tied and Congressional action seemingly impossible, the U.S. could be facing an unprecedented evictions crisis Saturday, even though millions of Americans who will now risk losing their homes should have already received rental assistance to avert this exact situation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)
Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.
Mississippi’s Abortion Case
Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.
After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.
Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.
When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.
As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.
When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”
But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
New Filing Takes Aim at Roe
With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.
“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.
“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers.
“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.
“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”
The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.
An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.