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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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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Opinion, Politics

THE PRICE OF POPULARITY IN POLITICS

The members of Congress who have not disavowed Trump are actively cosigning on everything he does.


On Friday, the New York Times news podcast The Daily – posted an episode that centered on Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and his criticism of President Donald Trump, as well as Trump’s open rooting for Flake’s defeat from public office in a 2018 race.

In Trump’s Phoenix rally, he ranted against the state’s two Republican senators – John McCain and Jeff Flake – of course, refusing to mention them by name as an attempt at…coyness? Trump’s anger towards Flake stems from the Arizona senator’s new book, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle. The book takes aim at the Republican Party with a plea to return to its bedrock politics, which are directly at odds with a Trump presidency.

Because of this, Trump has attacked Flake both in speeches and on Twitter, for being “weak” on immigration and crime, and openly encouraging his defeat at the hands of opponent, Dr. Kelli Ward. Ward is self-identified as standing with Trump and seeking to “make Arizona great again.” Trump also railed against the “one vote” that stopped the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a thinly-veiled attack at John McCain whose vote, alongside Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), prevented the Senate Republicans from passing the repeal.

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Politics

A TAKE ON THE NORTH KOREA-TRUMP SITCH THAT STARTED LIGHT BUT GOT REAL DARK, REAL FAST

Header photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense 

I can’t decide if Twitter jokes about nuclear war makes me want to laugh or cry, and really that’s the best description I can think of for Twitter – and the internet world in general.

So I’m coming off working my first freelance job, and it was very exciting but a little draining for someone who, until now, has considered wearing pants with zippers to be the greatest triumph of any given day. So I almost considered skipping this, because I knew it would have to be about the whole Trump-North Korea thing and I just wasn’t ready to put on my journalist hat. But then I realized, infusing humor and drama into politics is what I do best. So I’m going to give you a Casual Cool Hip Take on the Trump-North Korea dramz.


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Humor, Politics, pop culture

JARED KUSHNER’S CLOSED-SESSION MEETING WITH SENATE INTELLIGENCE

Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president, has stated, after his closed-session meeting with Senate intelligence staffers, “I did not collude with Russia.”


Photo source: Bravo via Jezebel


Do you remember when you were a little kid, and you did something wrong (broke a fancy glass; accidentally deleted a work file off your parents’ computer; failed a math test) and you had the rest of the afternoon to figure out a good-enough lie to tell to your parents when they got home?

And when they got home, you totally blew the secret because you told the lie in its shiny, well-packaged entirety before your parents even had a chance to discover what you had accidentally done. “And that’s why I failed that test,” you said, vibrating with your lie.

Your parents gave you a long, measured look before calling you on your shit. And even as you were telling it, you knew that they wouldn’t buy it. The truth is weird and messy and doesn’t make sense. Lies, especially lies that you’ve had enough time to concoct, are too clean.

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Politics

TRUMP’S LATEST TWEETS: RHETORIC TOWARDS WOMEN AND THE CONNOTATIONS OF “CRAZY”

Beyond simply ignoring or sidestepping questions about Trump’s Twitter actions, his communications staff, like Sarah Huckabee Sanders and First Lady Melania Trump, are endorsing it.


On Thursday morning, President Trump sent out a series of tweets directed at two of the co-anchors of Morning Joe, the MSNBC morning show, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. In the tweets, he accused the “poorly rated” show of talking badly about him and coming to Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach golf club. In the last tweet, he made a particularly low attack towards Brzezinski, saying that she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”

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Politics

TRUMP’S 2005 TAX FORMS ON THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW AND WHY THEY’RE IMPORTANT

 

I didn’t watch The Rachel Maddow Show live when it was revealing Trump’s 2005 tax returns—because I don’t have a TV and also I probably wouldn’t have anyway—but I was scrolling through Twitter in the hours before, during and after, and from what I gathered, it was a bit of a letdown. After months of intense wondering about what Trump’s tax returns would reveal, the paltry two-page report from 2005 did not live up to the hype.

Celebrities tweeted that the reveal was unimpressive, and journalist Joe Scarborough suggested that Trump himself could’ve leaked the returns to distract from his current agenda, as well as to silence those still asking for the full receipts. David Cay Johnston, the journalist who first received the 1040, offered up that same theory as one possibility as well.

But just because the 2005 Form 1040 didn’t have any explosive revelations doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly valuable in understanding Trump’s finances.

Because I care—about our country, and about you—I did some research so you don’t have to. I literally know nothing about tax returns, so I did some digging around to see what the hullabaloo is about.

The 1040 is the basic tax return system, documenting Trump’s annual income, his losses in income, and the amount of money he filed in taxes. Against an income of roughly $153 million, Trump reported $103 million in losses, which according to the Washington Post could include depreciation and sums carried over from previous years, and paid $38 million in taxes.

Here’s where things get interesting. Trump paid that $38 million in taxes because of something called the Alternative Minimum Tax, a parallel tax system that, according to the Wall Street Journal, is “designed to make sure that high-income individuals can’t use legal deductions and credits to avoid all income taxes.”

From what I’m able to understand, the AMT recognizes that, for most people, having roughly 67 percent of your income in loss (the $103 million loss against the $153 million income) would be detrimental. However, the AMT is designed for wealthy individuals, and forces them to pay taxes accordingly. Without the AMT, Trump would, due to his losses, paid a little over $5 million, according to David Cay Johnston—the investigative reporter who first had the tax returns dropped in his mailbox. $5 million is 3.5 percent of Trump’s income, which is less than half of what people who make $33,000 a year pay in taxes.

So the AMT prevented Trump from taking advantage of his losses and paying next-to-nothing (for him) in taxes. And the most interesting part is that Trump proposes to cut the AMT in his upcoming tax plan. Republicans in Congress, like Speaker Paul Ryan, want to get rid of the AMT in their next goal after healthcare. I don’t really understand why they would pursue tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, except that it would be a harkening back to Reaganomics.

In my VERY preliminary research—so if anyone has more information, please let me know—Reagan gave cuts on federal income tax and capital gains tax, along with a decrease in government regulation and government spending, with the idea that—with more capital—companies would invest more money into their spending, their workers and infrastructure. This is also called supply-side economics, which argued that economic growth comes from investing in capital. Reagan was dealing with stagflation, and from what I’m able to understand, his economics brought an end to that recession. And while Reagan saw a decrease in poverty, the level shot up after he left office to higher than before, and Reaganomics—while it did increase GDP—did not benefit the middle class in the way that it promised to. While still impressive, job creation under Reagan was lower than under Clinton and Carter.

But this isn’t an economics class, and even though when I wear a turtleneck and glasses I look like an economics professor who was Seventeen Again-ed, I’m not an economics professor.

 

So let’s focus on why Trump’s tax returns are important, even if they weren’t as flashy as one might’ve hoped. They’re important because they show us his motivation. Trump would’ve saved $33 million if the AMT were eliminated. That’s a pretty impressive amount. And while Trump has already claimed that utilizing tax loopholes makes him very smart, that’s still capital that is being lost in the economy. The GOP says that even with the elimination of the AMT, closing other tax loopholes will make up for that loss. But when we have a president who won’t release his full tax returns, how can we trust anything they say?

Releasing full tax returns would show exactly how much Trump has given to charity (he claims to be very charitable, and giving to charity is a tax write-off), from where he gets his income, and exactly what entities he might be beholden to. Since we don’t know any of this, we don’t know what policies Trump makes that would be beneficial to his benefactors or his businesses. We know nothing. Every presidential candidate since 1976, besides Gerald Ford who only released summary tax data, has released their tax returns. The Clintons have released tax information dating back to the 1970s. It alerts people to possible red flags and conflicts of interest. By withholding his own, Trump is hiding his own possible conflicts.

Johnston, towards the end of his interview with Maddow, said, “I’ve been at this for 50 years…Every time some high-level politician wants to hide something, it always turns out there’s a reason. They’ve got something to hide.”

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