News, Trump Administration

Trump praises ‘very special guy’ Rep. Meadows in acquittal victory speech

Congressman Mark Meadows

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump took a victory lap on Thursday, the day after the U.S. Senate voted to acquit him on articles of impeachment.

After slamming Democrats for engaging in an unfair partisan “witch hunt” against him, Trump welcomed what he called “total acquittal” and singled out his friends in Congress who had his back along the way.

Among them: North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, who was one of Trump’s most ardent defenders throughout the process.

“This is a guy, he’s just a very special guy,” Trump said of Meadows.

He ribbed Meadows, saying he backed another candidate before his wife convinced him to support Trump.

The president also lamented Meadows’ upcoming retirement, suggesting that the North Carolina Republican would easily win his race. “He’s a tremendously talented man,” and an “extraordinary guy,” Trump said.

The way Meadows and his GOP colleagues acted during impeachment, Trump said, “it was like their life was at stake.”

Trump’s lengthy and at times rambling speech praising his allies and assailing his rivals by name contrasted starkly with the speech given by President Bill Clinton in 1999 after he was acquitted by the Senate.

After that vote, Clinton read a four-sentence statement from the Rose Garden apologizing for his behavior. He said he was “profoundly sorry” for his actions and the “great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people,” The Washington Post reported at the time.

“This can be and this must be a time of reconciliation and renewal for America,” Clinton said.

Robin Bravender is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for States Newsroom, a network of state-based news outlets that includes NC Policy Watch.

News, Trump Administration

Impeachment update: Trump acquitted, despite one GOP defector

President Donald Trump (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has survived impeachment, but he didn’t emerge unscathed.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday acquitted Trump on charges that he abused his power by pressuring a foreign government to interfere in a U.S. presidential election and then obstructed a congressional investigation into his actions.

The vote was almost entirely partisan, but Democrats scored a major political coup by winning the support of Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who was the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee. And Democrats will continue to use Trump’s behavior and his status as an impeached president against him heading into the 2020 election. North Carolina senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis voted to acquit.

Both of the impeachment articles fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors and remove him from office.

Article I, charging Trump with abuse of power, failed by a vote of 48-52. Romney was the only Republican to vote “guilty.”

Article II alleging obstruction of Congress was defeated 47-53, with Romney siding with Republicans.

“It is, therefore, ordered and adjudged that the said Donald John Trump be, and he is hereby, acquitted of the charges in said articles,” declared U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.

Trump was the third U.S. president impeached by the House; on Wednesday he also became the third president acquitted by the Senate.

The vote comes after several months of partisan sniping over impeachment has dominated politics in Washington, but the end of the trial isn’t likely to alter the tenor on Capitol Hill. On the eve of the acquittal vote, Trump delivered a divisive State of the Union address. Following his remarks, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) publicly shredded her copy of the speech.

Pelosi has stressed that impeachment will remain a stain on Trump’s tenure. “It is a fact when someone is impeached, they are always impeached. It cannot be erased.”

Democrats and Republicans alike warned of the long-term damage the process has caused, although they each pointed fingers at the other side.

“This partisan impeachment will end today, but I fear the threat to our institutions may not, because this episode is one of a symptom of something much deeper,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), accusing House Democrats of using impeachment power as a political weapon.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), complained that the Senate trial “wasn’t a trial by any stretch of the definition.” He and other Democrats were enraged when GOP senators voted against introducing witness testimony and additional documents into the Senate trial.

“You cannot be on the side of this president and be on the side of truth,” Schumer said on the Senate floor ahead of the acquittal vote.

House Democrats appear certain to continue investigations into the president.

House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) told reporters that he’s likely to subpoena John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. Bolton reportedly wrote in a book manuscript that Trump told him he was withholding aid to Ukraine to force an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, NPR reported.

Lawmakers have also been discussing efforts to censure Trump for his actions toward Ukraine, although it’s unlikely that effort would advance in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“Censure would allow this body to unite across party lines,” Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said this week on the Senate floor. “His behavior cannot go unchecked by the Senate.”

Robin Bravender is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for States Newsroom, a network of state-based news outlets that includes NC Policy Watch.

News

Virginia approved the ERA. Now what’s the holdup?

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment stand outside of the entrance to the Virginia Capitol on the opening day of the 2020 legislative session. (Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

WASHINGTON — Virginia’s sprint to green-light the Equal Rights Amendment this month was heralded by proponents across the country.

Buoyed by new Democratic majorities in both chambers of its General Assembly, Virginia became the 38th state to approve the amendment that would guarantee equal legal rights regardless of sex. It marked a watershed moment for advocates of the ERA, who have been scrambling to check off the needed 38 state ratifications after Congress endorsed the amendment in the 1970s.

But even the ERA’s most ardent supporters recognize that the victory was largely symbolic — at least for now. The amendment faces a spate of legal and political hurdles that must be cleared before equal rights can be enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Hurdle No. 1: the expiration date

The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923 and was passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate in the 1970s. But Congress set a deadline for state ratification: March 1979. Lawmakers extended the deadline to 1982, but that expired, too.

Enter Congress. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are now hoping to retroactively extend the deadline with new legislation.

In advance of Virginia’s expected ratification, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted last November to advance a resolution from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) that would remove the deadline initially laid out in 1972.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he expects to hold a House floor vote on the matter.

“I congratulate Virginia state lawmakers on passage of the Equal Rights Amendment last week,” Hoyer said in a statement. “I strongly support legislation introduced in the House, and I am working with the House Judiciary Committee to bring a bill to the Floor for a vote soon.”

Speier’s resolution to remove the ERA ratification deadline has the backing of 224 House co-sponsors, including three Republicans. All three North Carolina Democrats (Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield and David Price) are listed as co-sponsors while none of the state’s 10 Republicans have signed on.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced a Senate version of the resolution to remove the ERA deadline. His bill has 41 co-sponsors, including Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, but not Richard Burr of Thom Tillis.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration weighed in on the issue this month with a legal opinion that the ERA couldn’t be ratified due to the expired deadline.

The opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel said, “Congress may not revive a proposed amendment after the deadline has expired.”

Supporters of adopting the ERA said that won’t deter them. “I do not believe that the OLC has the final word to dictate how Congress or the states proceed in amending the Constitution,” House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) told The Washington Post.

Hurdle No. 2: the Senate Read more

News

Pelosi picks impeachment squad; House votes to send articles to Senate

WASHINGTON — An Army veteran, a former cop and a congressional aide during the Nixon impeachment proceedings are among the U.S. House Democrats who will soon make the case for ousting President Donald Trump from office.

The U.S. House on Wednesday approved a resolution that named seven impeachment managers to serve as prosecutors in the upcoming Senate trial against Trump. The resolution also triggers the transmission of the impeachment articles to the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the roster of impeachment managers on Wednesday ahead of the floor vote.

“Today, I have the privilege of naming the managers of the impeachment trial of the president,” Pelosi said. “It is their responsibility to present the very strong case for the president’s impeachment and removal. The impeachment managers represent the patriotism, pluralism and vibrancy of America.”

The roster includes House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who have led the House impeachment investigations. Another manager, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), was on the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and she was a committee aide during the Nixon impeachment proceedings in the 1970s.

The other managers: Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a former litigator; Val Demings of Florida, a former Orlando police chief; House freshman and former U.S. Army ranger, Jason Crow of Colorado; and Sylvia Garcia of Texas, another freshman and former presiding judge of the Houston Municipal System.

Pelosi selected fewer House managers than there were during the Clinton impeachment proceedings; there were 13 Republican managers during Clinton’s Senate trial.

The Senate trial against Trump is expected to get underway as early as next Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed House Democrats Wednesday as the chamber prepared to send the impeachment articles to the upper chamber.

“Speaker Pelosi and the House have taken our nation down a dangerous road,” McConnell said. “If the Senate blesses this unprecedented and dangerous House process by agreeing that an incomplete case and subjective basis are enough to impeach a president, we will almost guarantee the impeachment of every future president.”

Robin Bravender is the Washington bureau chief for the States Newsroom network, of which Policy Watch is a member.

News, Trump Administration

U.S. House votes to check Trump on military action against Iran — What you need to know

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

North Carolina delegation splits along party lines

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted Thursday on a resolution to curtail President Donald Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran without first securing congressional approval.

The chamber voted 224-194, largely along party lines, to approve the resolution from Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), which would direct Trump to halt the use of U.S. armed forces for hostilities against Iran unless it’s authorized by Congress or it’s “necessary and appropriate to defend against an imminent armed attack” against the United States.

The vote on the resolution came days after Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, who was in Iraq at the time. Military officials said Suleimani had active plans to kill Americans, but Trump’s critics in Congress have said the evidence of such a threat hasn’t been sufficient to risk a U.S. war against Iran.

“Last week in our view, the president, the administration conducted a provocative, disproportionate air strike against Iran, which endangered Americans and did so without consulting Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday ahead of the vote. “The administration must de-escalate and must prevent further violence. America and the world cannot afford war.”

With one exception (GOP Rep. Mark Walker, who did not vote, but who later issued a statement attacking the resolution), North Carolina’s delegation split along party lines in the vote, with the state’s Republican House members opposing the resolution and Democrats supporting the resolution to limit the president’s military power.

Three Republicans and Michigan independent Rep. Justin Amash joined Democrats to vote for the resolution. Eight Democrats voted against the measure.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a staunch Trump ally, was among the Republicans who supported the Democratic-led effort.

“If the members of our armed services have the courage to go and fight and die in these wars, as Congress, we ought to have the courage to vote for them or against them,” Gaetz said. “I support the president. Killing Suleimani was the right decision but engaging in another forever war in the Middle East would be the wrong decision.”

Another Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, said ahead of the vote that his decision to vote for the resolution wasn’t “about supporting or opposing President Trump.”

Massie voted for Trump in 2016 and he plans to vote for him again, he said. “This vote is about exercising our constitutional authority, but more importantly, our moral obligation to decide when and where our troops are going to be asked to give their lives.”

‘Constitutional responsibility’ 

Slotkin, a freshman Democrat and a former CIA analyst, said the resolution was more than a theoretical exercise for her. Slotkin’s husband is a U.S. Army veteran, her step-daughter is an Army officer and her son-in-law’s unit is stationed at Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq, which was targeted by Iranian missiles this week, she said.

“If our loved ones are going to be sent to fight in any protracted war, the president owes the American public a conversation,” Slotkin said. She stressed that her resolution doesn’t tie the president’s hands when it comes to defending the United States. But when it comes to longer-term war, “We have a constitutional responsibility to authorize the use of military force.” Read more