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What’s Next As House Committees Launch Impeachment Probes

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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats are planning a rapid start to their push for impeachment of President Donald Trump, with hearings and depositions starting this week.

Democratic leaders have instructed committees to move quickly — and not to lose momentum — after revelations that Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his potential 2020 Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and his family. The action is beginning even though lawmakers left town Friday for a two-week recess.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says his committee is moving “expeditiously” on hearings and subpoenas. That committee, as well as the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have scheduled depositions starting this week for State Department officials linked to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

A look at next steps as Democrats march toward an impeachment vote:

A BUSY RECESS

Members of the House Intelligence Committee have been told to be prepared to return to Washington during the break. California Rep. Jackie Speier said she has already canceled some of her previous commitments.

“We’re expected to be here,” Speier said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told the Democrats they need to “strike while the iron is hot” on impeachment, sending the committees into overdrive. Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat, said a plan is “being formed very rapidly.”

“What I know for sure is that momentum will not slow,” Himes said.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said they will have to “work harder” and “sleep less.”

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LONG WITNESS LIST, QUICK TIMELINE

Schiff’s committee has been negotiating to interview the whistleblower who began the firestorm by reporting to the inspector general for the intelligence community that Trump had urged the investigations on a July phone call with Zelenskiy.

Schiff told ABC’s “This Week” that his panel had reached agreement to hear from the whistleblower, who would testify “very soon.” Schiff said the exact date would depend in part on how quickly acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire completes the security clearance process for the whistleblower’s lawyers. “We’ll keep obviously riding shotgun to make sure the acting director doesn’t delay in that clearance process,” Schiff said.

The complaint from the whistleblower, whose identity is not publicly known, was released last week after Maguire withheld it from Congress for weeks. In the complaint, the whistleblower said White House officials moved to “lock down” the details of Trump’s call by putting all the records of it on a separate computer system.

The inspector general who handled that complaint, Michael Atkinson, is slated to testify to the Intelligence Committee in private on Friday, according to a person familiar with the committee who was spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Lawmakers on the committee say they also want to speak to White House aides who were present for the call and to Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who urged the investigations. Giuliani told ABC on Sunday that he “wouldn’t cooperate” with Schiff, but if Trump “decides that he wants me to testify, of course I’ll testify.” Schiff says he hasn’t decided whether he wants to hear from Giuliani.

Democrats say they hope to finish the investigation in a matter of weeks — perhaps even before Thanksgiving.

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ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT

Once the committees have finished their own investigations, the committees will submit their findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the impeachment process.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said the Intelligence Committee will be the “star of the show” as it investigates Trump’s activities related to Ukraine. Articles of impeachment would be drafted by the Judiciary Committee and, if adopted, sent to the House floor.

The Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has said he wants resolution on impeachment by the end of the year. Jayapal said that deadline “absolutely” stands, and that the plan is to be done before January, or “perhaps sooner.”

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REPUBLICAN RESISTANCE

Republicans have focused their ire about impeachment on the Democrats, criticizing the probes as a rerun of a two-year investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 election.

California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said Democrats “don’t want answers, they want a public spectacle.”

“They have been trying to reverse the results of the 2016 election since President Trump took office,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

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SLOWER SENATE

If the House votes to approve charges against Trump, the Republican-led Senate would then hold a trial.

Some Senate Republicans have expressed concerns about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, but there are few signs that there would be enough discontent to convict the president, who still has strong support in the GOP ranks. If Trump were impeached, it would take a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict him and remove him from office. A memorandum from Senate Republicans circulated over the weekend acknowledged it would be hard for McConnell to block an impeachment trial, but he could deflect any House-approved impeachment articles to a committee.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has said his committee will investigate the Ukraine matter but “don’t expect us to move at light speed — that will probably happen in the House.”

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A NOD TO HISTORY

Trump would join a rare group if the House moves forward toward impeachment. Only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both won acquittal in the Senate.

President Richard Nixon, who faced impeachment proceedings, resigned from office in 1974.

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US Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Clinic Protest Zone Limits In Chicago, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday left in place policies in Chicago and Pennsylvania’s capital Harrisburg that place limits on anti-abortion activists gathered outside abortion clinics.

The justices declined to hear two appeals by anti-abortion groups and individual activists of lower court rulings upholding the cities’ ordinances.

The Chicago policy bars activists from coming within eight feet (2.4 meters) of someone within 50 feet (15 meters) of any healthcare facility without their consent if they intend to protest, offer counseling or hand out leaflets. The Harrisburg measure bars people from congregating or demonstrating within 20 feet (6 meters) of a healthcare facility’s entrance or exit.

Both cases pitted the free speech rights of anti-abortion protesters against public safety concerns raised by women’s healthcare providers regarding demonstrations outside clinics. There is a history of violent acts committed against abortion providers.

At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the ordinances violate free speech rights protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld the Chicago ordinance, which was introduced in 2009. The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Harrisburg in 2019. That measure was enacted in response to disruptions by protesters outside two abortion clinics in the city.

The cases did not directly implicate abortion rights. In a major ruling on Monday, the struck down a Louisiana law placing restrictions on doctors that perform abortions.

Also on Thursday, the court directed a lower court to reconsider the legality of two Indiana abortion restrictions – one that would require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure at least 18 hours before terminating a pregnancy and another that would expand parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion. The lower court had struck down both measures.

Abortion remains a divisive issue in the United States. The Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalized abortion nationwide, finding that women have a constitutional right to the procedure. In recent years, numerous Republican-governed states have sought to impose a series of restrictions on abortion.

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Federal Judge Reverses Trump Asylum Policy Due To Government Failing To Abide By Administrative Procedure Act

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(Law & Crime) — A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening overturned the Trump Administration’s second and most restrictive asylum policy, all because the government failed to abide by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the judge reasoned.

In a 52-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly of Washington, D.C. held that in enacting the rule, which required immigrants to seek asylum in any country they passed through before they could claim asylum in the U.S., the Trump administration “unlawfully dispensed” with mandatory procedural requirements allowing the public to weigh in on proposed rule changes.

Kelly, who was appointed to the court in 2017, rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that the asylum rule fell within exceptions to the APA permitting the government to disregard the notice-and-comment requirement if there’s “good cause” such commentary is unnecessary or if the rule involves a military or foreign affairs function.

“[The court] also holds that Defendants unlawfully promulgated the rule without complying with the APA’s notice-and-comment requirements, because neither the ‘good cause’ nor the ‘foreign affairs function’ exceptions are satisfied on the record here,” Kelly wrote. “Despite their potentially broad sweep, the D.C. Circuit has instructed that these exceptions must be ‘narrowly construed’ and ‘reluctantly countenanced.’ The Circuit has also emphasized that the broader a rule’s reach, ‘the greater the necessity for public comment.’ With these baseline principles in mind, the Court considers whether either the good cause or foreign affairs function exception applies here. Neither does.”

According to Kelly, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) generally allows any person physically in the U.S. seeking refuge to apply for asylum — with some exceptions for immigrants who have committed certain crimes or who had previously been “firmly resettled” prior to arriving in the U.S.

“The Court reiterates that there are many circumstances in which courts appropriately defer to the national security judgments of the Executive. But determining the scope of an APA exception is not one of them,” Kelly wrote. “As noted above, if engaging in notice-and-comment rulemaking before implementing the rule would have harmed ongoing international negotiations, Defendants could have argued that these effects gave them good cause to forgo these procedures. And they could have provided an adequate factual record to support those predictive judgments to which the Court could defer. But they did not do so.”

Claudia Cubas, the Litigation Director at CAIR Coalition, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, praised the decision as removing an “unjust barrier to protection” for those in need.

“By striking down this rule, Judge Kelly reaffirmed two fundamental principles. The protection of asylum seekers fleeing for safety is intertwined with our national values and that the United States is a country where the rule of law cannot be tossed aside for political whims,” Cubas said.

Read the full opinion below:

Asylum Ban Decision by Law&Crime on Scribd

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US Supreme Court Rules Public Funds Allowed For Religious Schools In State Tax Credit Program

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USA Today writes:

The Supreme Court delivered a major victory Tuesday to parents seeking state aid for their children’s religious school education. The court’s conservative majority ruled that states offering scholarships to students in private schools cannot exclude religious schools from such programs.

The decision was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who has joined the liberal justices in three other major rulings this month. It was a decision long sought by proponents of school choice and vehemently opposed by teachers’ unions, who fear it could drain needed tax dollars from struggling public schools.

Read the US Supreme Court ruling here or below.

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