Politics

WHAT ACTUALLY IS THE PROCESS OF IMPEACHMENT?

Before we get started: the only truly funny part about this impeachment is every reputable news outlet having to write a headline like, “The peach emoji isn’t just for butts anymore!” Like I didn’t know that I needed WaPo to write about the “sexy” peach emoji until it did. Just goes to show you.


If you’re anything like me, you’re sick of hearing about impeachment at every hour of every day, but you also can’t get enough of the d-r-a-m-a. And if you’re also like me, you haven’t bothered to research the actual process of impeachment until you decided to write about it for your blog. And if this paragraph applies to you, you need to back off. This is my thing.

As with a lot of things revolving around politics or science or culture or news, you can be an avid news-watcher and get a lot of the “latest” without really ever understanding the background or context.

So what is it?

Impeachment involves the lower house (in this case, the House of Representatives) of a bicameral government bringing forth charges against an elected official for alleged committed “high crimes or misdemeanors.” After that goes through, the impeachment then moves into the upper house (in this case, the U.S. Senate) as a trial, the result of which either finds the aforementioned government official convicted or not, and thus removed from office or not.

Before Trump, there were three instances of impeachment proceedings: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998.

Presidents (as well as other government officials) can be impeached for things that are technically legal. A president does not have to break the law to trigger an impeachment process.

In fact, Alexander Hamilton, in the 65th Federalist paper, identified impeachable offenses as public misconduct, or the abuse/violation of public trust. Essentially, the creators of the impeachment process recognized that even non-criminal activities by the person occupying the highest and most powerful seat in the country could have damaging or negative ramifications.

It’s the same logic as to why if I complained about a Postmates driver stealing my food, no one would care, but when Lizzo complains, that driver gets death threats. People in power have impact that I don’t.

Impeachment does not necessarily mean ‘the removal from office.’ That’s why Trump could possibly be our third impeached president, though none have ever been removed from office. That’s because while the impeachment was approved and moved through the House, the Senate acquitted both President Bill Clinton and President Andrew Johnson via their respective trials.

This happened before?

In 1868, Andrew Johnson was impeached (primarily) for violating the Tenure of Office Act when he removed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and replaced him with Brevet Major General Lorenzo Thomas. The larger context was the tension between Johnson and Congress over how to incorporate the Confederacy back into the Union, but I’m not your history teacher. Read a book.

Johnson was aquitted in the Senate trial, and set the precedent that Congress cannot remove a president from office because they disagree with his policy, style or administration of office.

The impeachment process began in February 1868 and concluded in May of the same year.

Despite the fact that Richard Nixon’s is the only impeachment process to not result in a Senate trial, his was also the only one to result in a president leaving office. Nixon was not actually impeached.

The process to impeach Nixon started after an investigation into the Watergate scandal (when burglars broke into the Democratic office at Watergate), and the Nixon administration’s attempt to cover up their involvement. The money paid out to the burglars was connected to a fund for Nixon’s re-election; in addition, Nixon and his aides discussed how to delay the FBI’s investigation in the Smoking Gun Tape.

However, impeachment seemed costly, publicly erosive and unpopular until the Saturday Night Massacre on Oct. 20, 1973, when Nixon fired both the attorney general and deputy A.G. for refusing to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. After all three were fired, the desire for impeachment swelled rapidly.

In late July, 1974, the Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment (obstruction of justice, contempt of Congress and abuse of power). By early August, one of the subpoenaed phone call transcripts – the Smoking Gun Tape – had completely destroyed the rest of Nixon’s political goodwill. On the tape, Nixon was heard agreeing that the FBI should be approached to halt the investigation. On August 9, 1974, he resigned from office before the House of Representatives could officially vote on impeachment.

Nixon’s impeachment process started in late October, 1973 and ended with his resignation in August, 1974.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached on two articles (obstruction of justice and lying under oath) after Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, sued the president for sexual harassment. During the Jones suit, Clinton was asked about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and lied under oath.

The Jones suit came when independent counsel Ken Starr, investigating the Clintons for financial dealings with the Whitewater Land Company, learned about Ms. Jones during the investigation. During the investigation, Linda Tripp provided taped conversations between her and then-intern Monica Lewinsky where Lewinsky discussed her relationship with Clinton.

In a January 1998 sworn deposition, after Starr had received the tapes from Linda Tripp, Clinton lied under oath and denied any relationship with Lewinsky. Clinton was impeached in December of 1998 but acquitted in the following Senate trial when neither of his charges received the necessary two-thirds majority to convict.

The impeachment process began in October 1998 and concluded in February of 1999.

What’s the rub, currently?

On September 24, 2019, an impeachment inquiry started after a whistleblower flagged a conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.

During the call, Trump also asked for ‘a favor’ from Zelensky, to investigate the debunked conspiracy that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In the call, Trump brought the conversation to include the actions of Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden who had business in Ukraine, and possibly enlist Zelensky and the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens. In the call, Trump alleged that Joe Biden had stopped prosecution of his son in Ukraine for his involvement in Ukrainian business. There is no evidence of this.

A second whistleblower came forward in early October with ‘first-hand’ knowledge of the Trump-Zelensky call. In the weeks before the call, Trump, through acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, had halted Congress-voted military aid to Ukraine. The first whistleblower also included the (proven to be true) moving of the phone transcript from the routinely used database to one that was much more high-security and typically only used for matters of grave consequence.

Essentially, House Democrats are claiming that Trump used the call, and potentially withheld financial aid to Ukraine, to pressure a foreign power to investigate his political rival.

It should be noted that the Trump administration denied that any pressure was being applied to Ukraine, and that the delayed financial aid was unrelated (that aid has since been given to Ukraine).

As the inquiry advances, more things will probably come out, so I don’t really want to get bogged down with too much detail, but the inquiry has brought Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani (who supposedly acted as an agent of the State Department, according to himself), Giuliani’s now-arrested associates and Attorney General William Barr (who was on the Ukraine call).

Literally, things keep happening.

When talking to reporters on October 3rd (he asked me what day it was, it was October 3rd), Trump said that China should also investigate the Bidens. Trump has made several statements asserting that the impeachment inquiry is a political coup, that the whistleblowers are guilty of treason, and that there was nothing wrong with the call. On the 17th of October, Mulvaney told reporters to ‘get over it,’ when he said, and later walked back, that the military funding had been withheld and then given, but only in relation to the Ukraine-Crowdstrike part of the conversation. Hours later, he said that his remarks had been misconstrued.

If I really went into every detail, I’d drive myself insane. Based on past impeachment processes, we could be at the beginning of a weeks- or months-long process. But now, at least, you know a little bit more.

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2018, Politics, television

SAMANTHA BEE AND THE THEORY OF PUNCHING DOWN

Header: TBS via Vulture

Two things can be true at once: that’s the case when I’m eating McDonald’s (happy and sad), the case for Schrodinger’s Cat (both alive and dead), and it’s the case with Samantha Bee, comedian and host of TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, calling Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump, a “feckless c*nt.”

It is completely inappropriate, wildly disastrous to the point Bee was making about the treatment of migrant children, and annoyingly hypocritical of liberals to be more forgiving; it is also, at the same time, categorically different than Roseanne Barr comparing Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to then-President Barack Obama, to an ape. These two things can both be true.

In the outrage news cycle of coverage surrounding Samantha Bee, many conservative pundits are calling for TBS to cancel Bee’s show, citing liberal indignation and demands for cancellation of Roseanne. The ABC reboot was cancelled a few hours later. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders herself called for TBS to cancel the show.

“Her disgusting comments and show are not fit for broadcast,” she said in a statement, “and executives at Time Warner and TBS must demonstrate that such explicit profanity about female members of this administration will not be condoned on its network.”

Re the Roseanne Barr controversy, Trump only commented to say that he was owed an apology by Disney CEO Robert Iger for the “HORRIBLE statements made and said about [him] on ABC.” When asked about Trump’s statement, which focused on himself rather than Barr’s comments, Sanders said, “The president is simply calling out the media bias; no one’s defending what she said.”

Here’s the thing: I hate what Bee said. I really like her show, and I enjoy her as a comedian, so I was disappointed and upset by the words she used. I was watching CNN this morning, anchor Poppy Harlow and CNNMoney Senior Media Reporter Oliver Darcey said that Bee’s wording made the story about that, rather than the policy. I agree with that: I think that was probably part of the reason why Bee said it, but I also think that Bee is smart and cutting enough to have made her point without resorting to the c-word.

However, there are several things that separate what Bee said from what Barr said. First, Ivanka Trump works in her father’s White House administration. Several people were calling for Bee to separate the child from the father, but when the child literally works with the father, I don’t think it’s unfair to call her out. Additionally, Ivanka Trump has made the “working mother” her platform, so a policy that brutally separates asylum-seeking migrant mothers from their children would fall under Ms. Trump’s purview.

Secondly, there is the theory in comedy of “punching down” versus “punching up.” When making jokes, “punching down” refers to making fun of people who are more oppressed than you; “punching up” is making fun of people who are more, categorically, powerful than you. Roseanne Barr, a white woman, making fun of Valerie Jarrett, a black woman, using bigoted racial stereotypes is “punching down” because Barr is a racial majority in power and she is using the same logic used to condone slavery to make fun of a racial minority. Samantha Bee, a white woman with a platform, calling Ivanka Trump, another white woman with a platform, a c*nt is not punching down; it’s punching up, or at least punching sideways. Bee, unlike Barr, does not have the continued support of the President of the United States. And if we are to hold people accountable, we need to hold everyone accountable: including the president. Because while liberals can be hypocritical, if you don’t have an issue with the president bragging about grabbing women by the pussy, then why do you have a problem with Samantha Bee?

Thirdly, there is a difference between using a curse word and invoking a racist, bigoted myth used as justification for oppressing an entire race of people.

What Bee did was crass and unfortunate. What Barr did was racist and evocative of horrors that the United States allowed in the not-too-distant past. Lindy West, a contributing columnist for the New York Times, wrote this: “Chattel slavery in America ended 153 years ago. I am only 36 years old, and when my father was born, there were black Americans alive who remembered being the property of white people. Slavery is not our distant past; it is yesterday.” Racism pervades today, arguably as strong as ever. It’s not even hidden anymore; people are openly racist. It’s the reason why, as West points out, Flint, Michigan still does not have clean water; it’s why Trump took such an issue with black players in the NFL peacefully protesting for Black Lives Matter.

Bee made a horrific, rude joke, but it’s not comparable to Roseanne Barr. You can be outraged by what Bee said but still understand that it’s different to Roseanne. Two things can be true at the same time.

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2018, feminism, Politics

FEMALE POLITICIANS AND THE CHRISSY TEIGEN CONUNDRUM

A few days ago, columnist Jonathan Chait from New York Magazine published a piece titled, “Democrats Have Great Female Presidential Candidates. They Need to Avoid the Victim Trap.” In it, he described the ways that powerful female politicians, namely Junior Democratic U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), are reported about in the media.

He describes Senator Harris’ June Senate Intelligence Committee interaction with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in which Harris continually pressed Sessions to answer questions that the latter tried to dodge with the excuse of a particular “policy.” Numerous times, Harris was interrupted by her male colleagues, leading to numerous articles reporting on that, rather than Harris’ strength of interrogation.

“The men-interrupting-women theme fell into a familiar source of social media umbrage,” wrote Chait. “And those reactions, initially registered on social media, formed the basis for much of the coverage that followed.”

Chait highlighted the coverage of Harris as an example of “victimhood” in order to make his point that female politicians lean into that victimhood as a way of appealing to the leftist base.

“On the left, victimhood is a prime source of authority, and discourse revolves around establishing one’s intersectional credentials and detailing stories of mistreatment that reinforce them,” said Chait. “Within the ecosystem of the left, demonstrating that you have suffered harassment or microaggressions is a big win.”

He described a recent GQ profile of Gillibrand, who went into more detail of the sexual harassment that she’s endured. “Much of the story followed this theme, describing not only Gillibrand’s leadership on the issue of sexual harassment, but her status as actual victim of harassment.”

He ended his article by saying, “Playing to the most popular tropes in progressive circles on social media is a seductive way for Democratic female candidates to capture attention from activists. It may not be their straightest path to the White House.”

When first reading it, the premise could have been extremely interesting and valid. The argument could’ve been directed at the media, and the ways that we often lean into stereotypical representations of women. It might’ve been a lampooning of the articles that, instead of applauding Harris and Gillibrand for their perseverance, focused on the male interruption.

However, the headline and ending paragraph seem contradictory to what some could say is the meat of Chait’s piece. It took the twist of assuming, or at least implying, that Harris and Gillibrand at least partially to blame for the coverage they received. He never acknowledges the obvious – that Gillibrand and Harris did not create the coverage that portrayed them as victims.

Chait plays into the very thing that he is critiquing. Rather than writing about them as he argues they should be written about, Chait imposes his own world view upon these women by assuming what they must be thinking and doing.

It’s a phenomenon that’s come up recently in an entirely different sphere, a situation I’m dubbing the “Chrissy Teigen Conundrum.”

“if I had my choice, not a single story would ever be written about any tweets of mine. they make people (me) seem like…the most annoying people,” Teigen tweeted, about…I guess the thing I’m doing. “the “clapback” wasn’t “epic”, it was just a fuccccccking tweet – just please stop with these stupid words.”

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 3.32.17 PM

It’s a common critique of Chrissy Teigen, that she is annoying or omnipresent on social media. But as she points out, rightfully, that’s not because she’s doing anything. It’s because journalists make the choice to write about everything she does, and use clickbait-y titles to draw readers. But because all we see is “Chrissy Teigen,” that’s all we associate with the deluge of coverage.

We are not annoyed by Chrissy Teigen, we are annoyed by the coverage of Chrissy Teigen, with which she has nothing to do.

Blaming Chrissy Teigen for the coverage she receives is as ludicrous as blaming Harris or Gillibrand for the victim-slanting coverage they garner.

I don’t doubt that people leaning into certain narratives is true in some cases. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening here, or what’s happening at large. Chait views victimhood as a media or political strategy. In his lens, there is no way that Gillibrand could be discussing the harassment she’s received for any other reason than to garner sympathy in a 2020 presidential run. It’s possible that Gillibrand was not ignorant to the fact that she would gain sympathy, but that was in addition to shining light on a malignant and previously hush-hush tenet of politics.

And if that’s his view, it’s bizarre that he does not point out that Trump won on a platform of victimhood, playing up the false victimization of white, middle-class Americans, particularly men. He does not mention this once, preferring to attack female politicians who, as far as we know, did not request such coverage. He does not mention Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), or how she pushed back against Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s meandering with “Reclaiming my time,” which could ostensibly be considered the antithesis of victimhood or rerouting the “man-interrupting-woman” trope. He also fails to point out that, despite instances of harassment, these female politicians rose to the uppermost echelons of American politics.

“Spinning” narratives, particularly ones of hardship or victimhood, is not new, nor is it a particularly female action for politicians to take. However, it is almost always women who are slammed for taking part in that.

“On the left, victimhood is a prime source of authority.”

There is the notion that victims disclosing harassment are doing it with nefarious or shady intentions. The truth is that, often, the intent of disclosure is very clear: to open dialogues about harassment with the aim of minimizing and eliminating those situations. There is power in opening up about being a victim, but that in itself does not constitute a power play.

Pointing out bias (in gender, sexuality, race, class or religion) is often just that, but it also serves to highlight that there are peoples (often of intersecting identities) who are disproportionately affected by biases.

Painting Gillibrand’s discussion of the sexual harassment she’s faced, or critiquing Harris for how she was covered, has a very distinct aim – to discount sexism, racism and other biases as political ploys and grabs at attention. It diverts from any conversation about how these things came about and what might be done about them.

Chait’s argument, under the guise of concern, boils down to this notion: if you have been a victim, then you are weak. If you disclose harassment or abuse, you are seen as weak. And people do not someone weak in the Presidency. Again, it’s telling that he does not bring up Trump, who constantly and consistently affirms his place as a victim – of the media, of the Democrats, of the political system. So perhaps the problem is not the victimhood platform, but the fact that they are not men.

The article ignores that people who have been harassed, assaulted or victimized are survivors; have thrived despite such obstacles; and that those people might actually make better, more empathetic and more driven presidents than, say, someone who has no experience with such hardships.

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celebrity, Politics, pop culture, social media

BE OUTRAGED ABOUT SEAN SPICER AT THE EMMYS AND ALSO THE GRAHAM-CASSIDY MEASURE, THE NEW ACA REPEAL

If there’s one thing I hate about the media, it’s the voracious rapidity with which one thing becomes a story across every, single outlet and eclipses everything else. So last night, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer made an appearance at the 2017 Emmys, everyone was (rightfully) pissed-off and weirded-out and annoyed at Hollywood. And while it’s important for everyone to express their outrage and disgust, it’s also super-important to keep an eye on everything else going on, like the new ACA repeal – the Graham-Cassidy Measure.

First, the Graham-Cassidy measure. Put together by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the measure would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. It would be a “last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare before the GOP’s power to pass heath care legislation through a party-line vote in the Senate expires on Sept. 30,” according to Politico.

Apparently Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is seriously considering putting the bill to a vote, if he can be assured of the support of 50 Republicans in the Senate (the GOP has a majority of 52). Currently they do not have the support of 50 votes, but Graham has publicly begged Trump to support the cause and private rallying has gone on. If passed by the Senate, it would require being approved by the House with no changes – a steep ask.

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Opinion, Politics

FLIP-FLOPS AREN’T JUST FOR YOUR FEET—Trump’s Ever-Changing Positions on DACA and What That Means

Header Source: Wikimedia Commons


In a move that probably caused the simultaneous bursting of a thousand-thousand Republican aneurysms, President Donald Trump took to Twitter more than a week after his administration announced the end of DACA, the Obama-era program that gave temporary two-year work visas to immigrants who came to the country illegally as minors.

“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!…..” said Trump in two Tweets. “…They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own – brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security.”

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Millennials, Politics, Things Happening RN

ARTICLES AND VIDEOS FOR THIS WEEK

With everything happening from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and today being the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it seems bizarre to write something trite or funny, so I thought I would just include some articles that I felt were impactful and interesting.

1). Refinery29 – 9/11 Survivor Essay:

I grew up in the greater New York City area in the aftermath of 9/11, (I was six in 2001), and a lot of what I know is from friends and family talking about it. We grew up hearing a lot of personal accounts of what everyone was doing that day (friends, peers, adults) so I haven’t read many accounts of what people went through. And it wasn’t until I was much older that I watched a video of the actual day.

I really enjoyed this piece by Margaret Lazaros in Refinery29 because, while it was brief, it was totally beautiful and heartbreaking to hear from someone who worked in the World Trade Center. She writes about walking away from the buildings as they fell (that’s a common thread amongst the retellings – the walking, the sneaker stores opening their doors for women in heels) and trying to get to her daughter. If you have a few minutes, I highly recommend it.

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Essay, Opinion, Politics

KATHY GRIFFIN’S NOT APOLOGIZING ANYMORE, PRESIDENTIALITY AND HIGHER STANDARDS

Header source: Wikimedia Commons

When Trump’s actions are getting increasingly damaging to vulnerable minorities, it’s getting harder and harder to imagine why we should expect people like Kathy Griffin to keep apologizing.


Kathy Griffin, the comedian who faced massive backlash from a May 30th photo she posted of her holding up a mask of President Donald Trump covered in fake blood, styled to look like his decapitated head, is refusing to apologize anymore.

She was the subject of a recent article from The Cut, months after the fallout that cost her 15 live performances, her gig hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve broadcast and an endorsement deal – not to mention the thousands of death threats.

The story, which takes place in late June, opens with a description of Trump’s Twitter rant that day: denouncing Robert Mueller’s investigation, mocking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and calling Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “Cryin’ Chuck.” The nickname came from Schumer getting emotional when discussing the Trump immigration ban.

“Why are people still expecting me to apologize and grovel to a man that tweets like this?” Griffin “vented” to the piece’s author Bashar Ali. “I’m a comedian; he’s our fucking president.”

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