- 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)
GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert Accused of Leading Capitol Tour Before Insurrection
- Rep. Steve Cohen told CNN Monday that he and another lawmaker personally saw GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert guiding a “large” group of people around the Capitol days before the insurrection.
- Numerous representatives have said they saw GOP members leading an unusual amount of tours before the riots. They also said some of the visitors were involved with the rally that preceded the attack.
- Boebert preemptively denied giving tours to insurrectionists last week before any official accused her by name.
- She reiterated that denial in a statement responding to Cohen’s accusations and claimed that she had only ever given a tour to members of her family.
Rep. Cohen’s Claims
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tn.) said Monday that he and a fellow Democratic member of Congress personally witnessed Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) leading a “large” group of people around the Capitol complex in the days before the violent attacks on Jan. 6.
While speaking on CNN, Cohen said that he and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) “saw Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th.”
“I don’t remember the day we were walking in a tunnel and we saw her and commented who she was and she had a large group with her,” he continued. “Now whether these people were people that were involved in the insurrection or not, I do not know.”
Notably, Cohen said he did not know who was in the group or if they were part of the attack. That fact was also echoed by Yarmuth, who confirmed in a statement that he did see Boebert with a group of people around her but added that he “has no knowledge of who they were or if they were with her.”
Over the last few weeks, dozens of Democrats have been demanding that officials investigate whether or not Republican lawmakers aided in the riots. Last Tuesday, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) told reporters she saw some of her GOP colleagues leading “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol with people who she later saw during the riots.
The following day, 31 House Democrats signed a letter claiming they and some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol on Jan. 5.
“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” they wrote. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”
Boebert’s Checkered Record
Until Monday, no lawmakers had named any of the members involved in the alleged tours, but many outlets and political analysts both implicitly and explicitly tied Boebert to the accusations.
In her roughly two-week-long tenure as a member of Congress, the young Republican has received significant heat for her role in the insurrection among other recent, controversial moves.
Last week, Boebert was temporarily banned from Twitter and faced numerous calls to resign for tweeting out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s location during the insurrection.
She has also been widely criticized for publicly announcing she would bring her gun to the Capitol complex, refusing to have her bag searched after she set off a metal detector, and voting to invalidate millions of votes by objecting to the certification of the electoral college.
In fact, Boebert has faced so much scrutiny that she preemptively denied giving tours to insurrectionists last week, even before anyone directly named her. At the time, she issued a statement saying she has only ever given a tour to her children, husband, mother, aunt, and uncle.
Boebert reiterated those claims in a letter to Cohen Monday, where she called his remarks “categorically false.”
“I have never given a tour of the U.S. Capitol to any outside group,” she wrote. “As I previously stated, I brought my family to the Capitol on January 2nd for a tour and on the 3rd for pictures to commemorate the day I was sworn in as a Member of the U.S. Congress.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (CPR News)
Washington, D.C. Ramps Up Security Before Inauguration
- Officials in Washington are ramping up security measures and imposing heavy restrictions ahead of the inauguration Wednesday.
- The National Mall has been closed down since Friday, barricades have been put up all over the city, car traffic has been limited, and many public transit routes have also been shut down.
- Around 25,000 National Guard troops have been deployed from across the country, and the FBI is vetting all of them due to concerns of an insider attack.
- Security has also been significantly increased in many state capitals nationwide following calls for armed protests in all 50 states, but so far, most of the protests at statehouses have been peaceful and exceptionally small.
Capitol Increases Security Measures
With two days to go until the inauguration, security has been massively ramped up in the nation’s Capitol.
While the inauguration is usually a high-security event, Washington has now instituted security measures not seen since the Civil War following a Jan. 6 insurrection attempt on the U.S. Capitol. Intelligence agencies have since warned about more threats of violence.
In an unprecedented move, the National Park Service announced Friday that the National Mall — which usually hosts massive crowds during the inauguration — will be closed until at least Thursday. The inaugural ceremony itself will also be scaled down due to both security threats and the pandemic.
Various barricades ranging from small metal barriers to tall fencing reinforced with heavy concrete blocks have been set up around the Mall and in other parts of the city, such as at federal buildings and businesses.
The Capitol complex itself, which will be entirely shut off to the public on Wednesday, is currently surrounded by a 7-foot fence topped with razor wire.
Over a dozen metro lines will be shut down and more than two dozen bus routes will be detoured around the security perimeter. Car traffic in most of the city will be either banned entirely or limited exclusively to residents and businesses only. Several bridges that connect DC to Virginia will also be shut down, and all street closures are subject to change or to be extended at the discretion of the Secret Service.
In addition to the wide variety of military and law enforcement personnel who are normally involved in inauguration security, around 25,000 National Guard troops have also been deployed from all across the country.
That is nearly two and a half times the number present for previous inaugurations. Notably, officials have been vetting all 25,000 coming to Washington because they are worried about an insider attack.
States Ramp Up Security
It is not just D.C. that is ramping up security. There have been mass deployments of the National Guard and other law enforcement officers to state Capitols all across the country. According to The New York Times, 19 states have deployed their National Guards following calls for armed protests in all 50 states.
So far, most of the activity that has been seen around statehouses are small, peaceful demonstrations by a few people, some of whom are armed. Even the most attended rallies had two dozen people or less.
Notably, all of the largest demonstrations documented so far have reportedly been held by or included members of the Boogaloo Boys, a far-right group that wants to start a second Civil War. The group showed up in some of the highest numbers in front of the Capitol buildings in Ohio, Michigan, and Utah.
As was the case with all of the other demonstrations so far, the protestors have been far outnumbered by security officials — and in some cases, spectators.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CBS News)
Analysts Say Online Misinformation Has Plummeted 73% Since Trump’s Twitter Ban
- Online misinformation fell 73% in the week following President Donald Trump’s ban on Twitter, according to the San Francisco-based analytics firm Zignal Labs.
- The firm also found that QAnon-related hashtags and phrases saw a decrease in use. Since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Twitter has banned more than 70,000 accounts associated with QAnon.
- Meanwhile, Poland’s government has now introduced legislation to crack down on bans and content removal by social media platforms.
Misinformation Onlines Drops
A recent analysis from a San Francisco-based analytics firm suggests that online misinformation has plunged 73% since Twitter first banned President Donald Trump on Jan. 8.
Twitter — followed by a host of other social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat — enacted the ban following the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump insurrectionists.
According to the firm, Zignal Labs, discussions of election fraud on various sites dropped from 2.5 million mentions to just 688,000 between Jan. 9 and Jan. 15.
Zignal Labs also found that the use of common hashtags and phrases associated with QAnon conspiracy theories dropped off during the same time frame. Part of that is likely because, alongside Trump’s ban, Twitter banned more than 70,000 QAnon accounts.
“Bottom line is that de-platforming, especially at the scale that occurred last week, rapidly curbs momentum and ability to reach new audiences,” Graham Brookie, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told The Washington Post. “That said, it also has the tendency to harden the views of those already engaged in the spread of that type of false information.”
On Sunday, Twitter also temporarily suspended Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) account. According to Twitter, Green’s page was locked for 12 hours because of “multiple violations of our civic integrity policy.”
Green’s account includes a treasure trove of false claims about voter fraud in Georgia. She’s also peddled QAnon conspiracy theories.
Poland Seeks to Regulate Social Media Bans
News of decreased misinformation online also comes as Poland’s hard-right Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has proposed a new bill marketed as a “freedom of speech protection” law.
Notably, if it passes, that law would prevent social media platforms from deleting content or banning users who don’t break Polish law.
If a platform refuses to comply with an order to restore either a banned user or deleted content, it could face fines of anywhere from $13,000 to $13 million dollars.
Despite this, domestic regulations on their own are likely to be ineffective. Because of that, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is also lobbying the European Union to regulate the issue.
Critics of the law have argued that the “over-removal” of content on social media is a “non-existent risk,” especially when compared to hate speech targeting the LGBTQ+ community, Muslims, and refugees.