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The Impeachment Resolution: Politics, The Constitution and Everything in Between

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The impeachment resolution: Politics, the Constitution and everything in between

by Jennifer Selin for The Conversation

For something with such important consequences, the Constitution is surprisingly vague when it comes to impeachment.

Most of the language in the Constitution lays out what happens once Congress decides to impeach. But there is no particular process that the House must follow in the lead-up to an impeachment vote.

The House of Representatives votes Thursday on a resolution that lays out a process for the inquiry into the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

But is the resolution constitutionally necessary? What exactly does it do?

Ample history

How Congress approaches impeachment is largely a political decision determined by House leadership.

The House has initiated impeachment proceedings more than 60 times since the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Many impeachment targets have been federal judges. Each proceeding has been different.

Under modern practice, the House typically introduces a resolution calling for a committee investigation into impeachment.

For example, in the cases of Presidents Andrew JohnsonRichard Nixon and Bill Clinton, the House introduced a resolution authorizing an impeachment inquiry. In each of those cases, the resolution came after congressional committees were already considering the issue.

The same is true today. The House formally began its investigation into the impeachment of Trump on Sept. 12, when the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to investigate “the alleged obstruction of justice, corruption, and other abuses of power by President Trump, his associates, and members of his Administration.”

Currently, six different committees have active investigations related to the impeachment of Trump.

Constitutionally, the Judiciary Committee’s Sept. 12 vote is enough to start the impeachment process. As D.C. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell wrote in an Oct. 25 opinion related to a House request for grand jury materials, “in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry.” Nor does the House need to introduce a resolution detailing procedure.

Then why do it?

If the resolution is not constitutionally required, then why did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats introduce it?

The resolution accomplishes three things.

First, precisely because there are few constitutional requirements in the lead-up to impeachment, the resolution imposes order on the process. With so many committees and legislators involved in the investigation of Trump, questions inevitably arise over who is in charge.

The resolution clarifies this by prioritizing the investigation of the House Intelligence Committee. The Intelligence Committee will continue its investigation and then issue a report prepared in consultation with the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform.

This report will be made publicly available and will advise the House Judiciary Committee in its impeachment proceedings.

Second, the resolution has a political purpose.

Earlier this month, House Republicans crashed a closed-door hearing relating to the impeachment investigation. Republicans claimed the Democrats were obscuring important witness testimony relating to impeachment.

By introducing formalized rules, Pelosi and House Democrats can combat Republican complaints about lack of access and transparency. The resolution explicitly allows House Republicans to submit their own requests for testimony and documents.

President Donald Trump is the focus of the House impeachment investigation.

Finally, the resolution places additional pressure on the Trump administration to comply with congressional subpoenas. President Trump, his legal team and his staff have claimed that the lack of a formal vote on impeachment makes any inquiry illegitimate.

While the legality of that argument is questionable, the alleged lack of legitimacy bolsters executive branch officials’ refusal to produce witnesses and testimony.

The resolution, if passed, would undercut these claims. A House floor vote serves to increase legitimacy by creating a record of the number of legislators who support moving forward with the impeachment inquiry. In addition, it may increase Democrats’ access to information. The Supreme Court has compared the House’s power to acquire information in an official impeachment investigation to that of a court of law.

Put simply, the resolution fills a gap that the Constitution left open and highlights the importance of playing procedural politics.

Jennifer Selin is the Kinder Institute Assistant Professor of Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri-Columbia

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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Celebrity News

Amber Heard Uses American Sign Language at Women’s March

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LOS ANGELES (TMZ) — Amber Heard is about as talented and passionate as they come, which was on full display this weekend during the Women’s March … where she showed off her ASL.

The actress was one of many celebs who showed up in L.A. Saturday for the fourth annual event — which got started back in 2016 when President Trump was elected. Amber got on stage at one point and gave a heartfelt speech about her role in the fight.

Check it out … while she never outright says his name, it sounds like some of what she’s talking about here might be touching on her marriage to Johnny Depp … which ended in a long, nasty legal battle where allegations of lies and abuse were made.

After talking to the crowd, Amber shared a sweet moment with a fan on the ground … who spoke to her in sign language. Turns out, she’s fluent in ASL — and it definitely shows.

BTW, we also got Amber arriving in an SUV and asked about her injured foot — which has been straddled with a brace for a few weeks now after a trip to Hawaii. She joked sharks had gotten a hold of her, and when we asked if she was serious … she shot a knowing look.

It also appears she’s moved on to a new significant other in the new year … cinematographer Bianca Butti, who had Amber by the hand as they made their way into the festivities.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)


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Human Rights

Border Patrol Officials Dodged Congress’ Questions About Migrant Children’s Deaths

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Border Patrol Officials Dodged Congress’ Questions About Migrant Children’s Deaths

by Robert Moore for ProPublica

WASHINGTON D.C. — The Trump administration sought to “conceal information” about the death of a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy in Border Patrol custody, a House subcommittee chairwoman said at a hearing Tuesday.

Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., said the Department of Homeland Security has “consistently failed to maintain transparency by stymieing congressional inquiries. This raises concerns that they are hiding serious issues with management, in addition to the leadership vacancies at the top of the department. One example of this is the department’s decision to conceal information on the death of Carlos Hernandez Vasquez.”

Rice chairs the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations, which had a Tuesday hearing to examine DHS efforts to prevent child deaths in custody. Six migrant children died in government custody between September 2018 and May 2019, the first such deaths in a decade.

Much of the hearing focused on Carlos, who died on May 20 in a Border Patrol cell in Weslaco, Texas. A ProPublica investigation in December, which included video of Carlos’ last hours and death, raised questions about his treatment by Border Patrol agents and contracted medical workers as his condition deteriorated.

“Despite information requests by this committee, it was not until a ProPublica report was released seven months later that Congress and the public learned more about what happened to Carlos, that his death may have been caused by the failure to provide urgently needed medical care and the failure to follow the most basic procedures to simply check on a sick child,” Rice said in her opening statement.

Two high-ranking Homeland Security officials testified at the hearing, but neither responded to Rice’s criticism. The two officials — Border Patrol Chief of Law Enforcement Operations Brian Hastings and DHS Senior Medical Officer Dr. Alex Eastman — used their opening statements to stress the unprecedented nature of the surge of families and unaccompanied children at the border last year.

They said DHS quickly scaled up medical care for migrants at the border following the deaths of two children in December 2018, using medical professionals from the Coast Guard, Public Health Service and private contractors. Eastman said the surge of migrant families and children was “an unconventional problem that required an unconventional solution.”

Under questioning from Rice, Hastings said the video of Carlos’ death revealed by ProPublica was “troubling” but sidestepped questions about his death because of an ongoing investigation by the DHS Office of Inspector General.

Hastings described one change in “welfare checks” made in the wake of Carlos’ death. Records obtained by ProPublica showed that a Border Patrol agent logged three welfare checks on Carlos in the four hours he was lying on the floor of his cell, dying or dead. The medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Carlos told ProPublica that the agent looked through a window but didn’t enter the cell.

In July, then-Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders ordered that “any subject in our custody” receive welfare checks every 15 minutes and be documented in the system, Hastings said.

Hastings’ word choice drew a sharp rebuke from Rice.

“You mean person, not subject, in your custody. Because that’s what they are. They’re people, not subjects,” Rice said.

“Person, yes ma’am,” Hastings said.

Inside the Cell Where a Sick 16-Year-Old Boy Died in Border Patrol Care

Rice and other Democrats criticized reports released last month by the DHS inspector general into the deaths of two Guatemalan children in Border Patrol custody in December 2018. The reports found no wrongdoing by agents in the deaths of Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8.

“Publicly available summaries of these investigations are extraordinarily narrow in scope. They focus only on whether DHS personnel committed malfeasance and not whether the department’s policies and resources could properly protect the children in its care,” Rice said. She criticized the inspector general for declining an invitation to testify before the subcommittee.

Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., also criticized the inspector general for taking a year to complete investigations of the two deaths. Jakelin and Felipe were both held by Border Patrol agents in her district.

“Even more concerning, the OIG limited its investigation scope to only determine whether there was malfeasance by personnel and did not consider whether CBP’s policies and procedures are adequate to prevent migrant child deaths,” Torres Small said. “As I’ve said from the beginning, the reason for these investigations is not to punish people, it’s to keep this from happening again. It’s to make sure that we have the protocols in place in case we’re faced with this challenge again.”

The DHS Office of Inspector General did not immediately respond to requests from ProPublica a hearing about the scope of the investigation or the reason for not testifying at Tuesday’s hearing.


ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. We dig deep into important issues, shining a light on abuses of power and betrayals of public trust. Follow on Twitter at @ProPublica 



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Politics

Michael Avenatti Taken Into Custody by IRS Agents

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Michael Avenatti taken into custody by IRS agents on allegations of violating terms of pre-trial release

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Michael Avenatti, the former attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, was taken into custody by IRS agents on allegations of violating the terms of his pre-trial release.

Avenatti has been facing criminal investigations in New York and California on a variety of issues , including alleged extortion of Nike in New York, wire fraud of a client and tax fraud in California.

The State Bar of California last year began the process to disbar him from […]

Continue reading at abc7.com

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