Anyone expecting senators to behave like jurors in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is bound to be disappointed. In ordinary criminal trials, we disqualify jurors if they know the defendant, the witnesses, or even the latest news. If we applied those standards to senators, we’d have to disqualify the entire Senate.
Fortunately, it is possible for senators to be both political and fair. Today’s senators would do well to study the example set by their predecessors in trying Clinton.
Clinton’s trial began on Jan. 7, 1999, before a politically divided Senate of 45 Democrats and 55 Republicans. Nevertheless, by a vote of 100 to 0, the Senate followed procedures outlined in its 1986 resolution entitled “Procedures and Guidelines for Impeachment Trials.” Trent Lott, the majority leader at the time and a fierce Republican partisan, did not stand in the way of this unanimous agreement. In the end, 10 Republicans voted to acquit President Clinton on one article, five on the other.
Politics could displace law
Among other matters, the 1986 rules provided that “the Senate shall have power to compel the attendance of witnesses.” When disagreement broke out about whether to call witnesses, the senators deliberated in private, and then publicly voted to depose witnesses. The senators heard videotaped deposition testimony for three days from witnesses. The trial lasted more than a month.
The 1986 rules are still in force. Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared his intent to ignore them and to run the trial according to whatever procedures the White House wants. Apparently, McConnell sees no conflict between swearing an oath to do justice according to law and then confessing that “Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position.”
Trial of Donald J. Trump: As the impeachment process moves to the Senate, here’s how it will all work
McConnell flatly says there will be no witnesses, unless the president wants them. Sen. Lindsey Graham has been equally blunt. “I don’t need any witnesses,” he said, since “I’m not trying to hide the fact that I have disdain” for the whole process.
Unless something changes, politics will displace law in any Trump impeachment trial. To her credit but also at her peril, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has departed from the example the House set in 1998, when members immediately walked over the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Instead, the speaker has announced that transmission of these articles will be delayed until the chambers can agree on fair trial procedures.
Some accuse the speaker of her own political maneuvering to deny, or at least to delay, the president’s right to answer his accusers. Others defend her as having no choice but to use whatever leverage she possesses to ensure that the Senate conducts a trial, and not a farce.
Precipice of a constitutional crisis
So far, Pelosi has said only that she will delay transmitting the impeachment articles, as opposed to saying she might never send them. However, the prospect of a brief delay may not be enough to bring the Senate leadership into bipartisan negotiations. Without such negotiation, we would face stalemate and a constitutional crisis.
If the speaker persists and refuses to deliver the impeachment articles to the Senate, some will say she is the one violating the Constitution. While the Constitution contains no explicit provisions concerning the time frame for transmitting articles of impeachment to the Senate, or even compelling delivery, you could argue that it implicitly assumes a Senate trial will follow impeachment in a timely manner.
In ordinary circumstances, this argument might be persuasive. However, these are not ordinary times. Left unstopped, McConnell by his own words stands ready to violate the Constitution’s core commitment to fair trials under the rule of law. The Constitution does not require the speaker to sit back and watch the Senate disobey the Constitution. And McConnell cannot invoke the importance of holding a Senate trial while refusing to hold anything resembling an open trial.
Trump impeachment twist: Pelosi reclaims the Constitution for liberals and today’s America
We can walk back from this constitutional precipice. If senators in the Clinton impeachment trial could put aside their partisan divides and unanimously agree on fair trial procedures, then today’s senators should be able to do the same. All that has to happen is for the majority leader to let each senator vote on the rules, free from threats of reprisal. Although it takes a two-thirds vote to convict the president, it takes only a simple majority to adopt rules of procedure. This means a moderate coalition could emerge, a prospect that McConnell will bend every rule to thwart.
An early draft of the Constitution proposed holding impeachment trials before the Supreme Court. But Alexander Hamilton thought it would be a mistake to take all politics out of the impeachment trial. Instead, he counted on the Senate’s ability to distinguish between the petty politics of self-interest and the permanent political interests of the people in living under the rule of law. The very gravity of impeachment, Hamilton thought, would turn politicians, sometimes drunk on power, stone sober.
Before it is too late, we should all raise a glass to constitutional sobriety.
Jeffrey Abramson is the author of “We, the Jury: The Jury System and the Ideal of Democracy.” He teaches constitutional law at the University of Texas at Austin.
LETTER: On politics and medicine – SaltWire Network
The irrational hysteria and conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 vaccines are an integral part of what historian Richard Hofstader called “The paranoid style in American politics.” This phenomenon has now permeated Canadian politics as well and suggests that “My ignorance is as good as your knowledge.”
Vaccines against disease and pestilence have been viewed as major advances for humanity. But few vaccines have been subjected to the scrutiny and public vilification that COVID-19 vaccines have. Why? The statistically minute number (percentage) of negative reactions to vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, is rarely mentioned by their detractors; similarly, every surgical procedure has a small probability of a complication.
Over the course of the past two centuries at least 15 life-saving vaccines have been developed without a similar public outcry. Those vaccines include (selectively): smallpox (1796), typhoid fever (1896), diphtheria (1923), whooping cough (1923), polio (1952), measles (1963), mumps (1967), chicken pox (1974), meningitis (1978), and malaria (2021). Defoe’s classic, A Journal of the Plague Year (1772) gives us an idea of what the world was like without vaccines.
Why COVID-19 vaccines have created such vitriol warrants serious sociological and political study. One suspects that there is a close correlation between right-wing populism, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion politics, and anti-vax sentiment. They are all part of the same political culture that promotes this paranoia. It would be easy to dismiss anti-vaxers as “know nothings,” but they are more than that. They mirror the social divisions within our society. And their ignorance is dangerous.
Canadian constitutional law is premised on promoting “peace, order and good government.” A corollary is that the courts attempt to follow John Stuart Mill’s dictum of creating, “The greatest good for the greatest number of people,” rather than the highly individualistic American approach of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Within this context, collective rights will supersede individual rights, which may be “reasonably limited” by circumstance such as a national emergency. The Canadian Charter of Rights was never intended to promote a wild west show like our neighbours to the south.
In the interest of public health policy, it is time to defend the history of science and its many advances.
Stanley Bridge, P.E.I.
‘Heartbroken’: Politicians express shock at killing of British MP – Al Jazeera English
British Member of Parliament David Amess has died after being stabbed several times during a meeting with his constituents at a church in eastern England. He was 69.
Reports said a man walked into Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, south Essex, on Friday while Amess was holding a surgery with locals and attacked the politician.
Police arrested a man and recovered a knife.
Politicians from across the political spectrum expressed shock and sadness over the horrific incident.
Here are some of the reactions:
Boris Johnson, UK prime minister
In a tribute to Amess, Johnson said the late MP was killed after “almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom”.
He added: “The reason people are so shocked and sad is above all he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics.
“He also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable, whether the people who are suffering from endometriosis, passing laws to end cruelty to animals, or doing a huge amount to reduce the fuel poverty suffered by people up and down the country.”
Johnson continued: “David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future. And we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague.
“Our thoughts are very much today with his wife, his children and his family.”
Dominic Raab, UK deputy prime minister
“Heartbroken that we have lost Sir David Amess MP. A great common sense politician and a formidable campaigner with a big heart, and tremendous generosity of spirit – including towards those he disagreed with. RIP my friend.”
Heartbroken that we have lost Sir David Amess MP. A great common sense politician and a formidable campaigner with a big heart, and tremendous generosity of spirit – including towards those he disagreed with. RIP my friend.
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) October 15, 2021
Priti Patel, UK interior minister
“I am devastated we have lost Sir David Amess … David served the people of Southend with endless passion, energy and integrity. That he was killed while going about his constituency duties is heartbreaking beyond words. It represents a senseless attack on democracy itself.
“Questions are rightly being asked about the safety of our country’s elected representatives and I will provide updates in due course.”
Rishi Sunak, UK finance minister
“The worst aspect of violence is its inhumanity. It steals joy from the world and can take from us that which we love the most. Today it took a father, a husband, and a respected colleague. All my thoughts and prayers are with Sir David’s loved ones.”
Liz Truss, UK foreign minister
“Devastated to hear the terrible news about Sir David Amess MP. He was a lovely, lovely man and a superb parliamentarian. My thoughts are with all his family and friends.”
Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland
“This is awful beyond words. My thoughts and deepest condolences are with David’s family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in peace.
“Elected representatives from across the political spectrum will be united in sadness and shock today.
“In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no-one deserves to have their life taken while working for and representing their constituents.”
Nadhim Zahawi, UK education minister
“Rest In Peace Sir David. You were a champion for animal welfare, the less fortunate, and the people of Southend West. You will be missed by many.”
Sajid Javid, UK health minister
“Devastated to learn of Sir David Amess’ murder. A great man, a great friend, and a great MP killed while fulfilling his democratic role. My heart goes out to Julia, his family, and all who loved him. Let us remember him and what he did with his life.”
Kwasi Kwarteng, UK business minister
“Sir David was a thoroughly decent, kind and thoughtful man. An exemplary Member of Parliament who fought for his constituents with devotion. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this deeply tragic time.”
Simon Coveney, Irish foreign minister
“What a shocking and tragic incident. Our thoughts and sincere sympathies are with family, friends and political colleagues of Sir David Amess MP.”
Michael Gove, UK levelling up minister
“David Amess’s passing is heartbreakingly sad. Just terrible, terrible news. He was a good and gentle man, he showed charity and compassion to all, his every word and act were marked by kindness. My heart goes out to his family.”
Joao Vale de Almeida, EU ambassador to the UK
“Very shocked by the news of the death of MP Sir David Amess following a horrific attack. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”
Philip T. Reeker, US charge d’affair to the UK
“I’m deeply saddened to hear about the death of Sir David Amess MP. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and all those who worked with him during his distinguished parliamentary career.”
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
“Sir David Amess dedicated his life to championing causes he believed in, serving constituents and his country for almost forty years as a Member of Parliament. He was a devout Roman Catholic whose deep faith fuelled his sense of justice. We are richer for his life, and we are all the poorer for his untimely death.”
Carrie Johnson, wife of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
“Absolutely devastating news about Sir David Amess. He was hugely kind and good. An enormous animal lover and a true gent. This is so completely unjust. Thoughts are with his wife and their children.”
Keir Starmer, opposition Labour Party
“This is a dark and shocking day. The whole country will feel it acutely, perhaps the more so because we have, heartbreakingly, been here before.
“Above all else, today I am thinking of David, of the dedicated public servant that he was and of the depth of positive impact he had for the people he represented.”
Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the House of Commons
“This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country. In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, friends and colleagues.”
Brendan Cox, husband of Labour lawmaker Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016
“My thoughts and love are with David’s family. They are all that matter now. This brings everything back. The pain, the loss, but also how much love the public gave us following the loss of Jo. I hope we can do the same for David now.”
Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.
— Brendan Cox (@MrBrendanCox) October 15, 2021
Theresa May, former Conservative UK prime minister
“Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Sir David Amess. A decent man and respected parliamentarian, killed in his own community while carrying out his public duties. A tragic day for our democracy.”
Gordon Brown, former Labour UK prime minister
“Saddened and shocked to hear about the death of Sir David Amess. My condolences to his family and friends.”
David Cameron, former Conservative UK prime minister
“This is the most devastating, horrific & tragic news. David Amess was a kind & thoroughly decent man – & he was the most committed MP you could ever hope to meet. Words cannot adequately express the horror of what has happened today. Right now, my heart goes out to David’s family.”
Tony Blair, former Labour UK prime minister
“David and I came into Parliament together in 1983. Though on opposite political sides I always found him a courteous, decent and thoroughly likeable colleague who was respected across the House. This is a terrible and sad day for our democracy.”
Jonathan Soloman walking away from politics – TimminsToday
Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon is retiring from politics with mixed emotions and feeling good about his tenure.
Solomon is resigning effective today, Oct. 15.
With over a year still left in his term, Solomon, 59, said he is leaving the office to focus on his health and spend more time with his family in his home community of Kashechewan.
After reflecting on his career and speaking with his family, Solomon said he decided to walk away from politics.
“My diabetes really spiked up. So, I thought about my well-being first and foremost. My family wants me to be well and I want to be well,” he said. “I’ve been in politics for many, many years and it’s taking a toll on me.”
He will now be working as a health director in Kashechewan. Solomon said the job is non-political, more private and allows him to stay in his home community.
Solomon said the Council of Chiefs will likely hold a by-election to elect a new leader for the remaining term until the next Mushkegowuk Council election in 2023.
To a new grand chief, Solomon advised to have a good vision, work with communities and staff, have good communication and continue supporting the ongoing work at the Mushkegowuk.
“You got to love what you do. Don’t do it for the sake of getting that title,” he said. “Lead from the heart.”
Solomon has been leading the organization, which represents seven First Nation communities in the James Bay and Hudson Bay, for the past six years. Before that, he was chief of Kashechewan for six years.
He got into politics at the age of 19 when he was elected to council. He first became Kashechewan chief when he was 27.
He also worked as director of education and served as Mushkegowuk deputy chief.
“Although I was a politician, I’m more of a human. I had a heart, I had compassion. I loved what I did,” he said.
During his tenure, Mushkegowuk Council signed a revenue sharing agreement with the Ontario government.
Most recently, the organization signed a memorandum of understanding with Parks Canada regarding a proposed National Marine Conservation Area in western James Bay and southwestern Hudson Bay.
As a chief, Solomon said he championed and lobbied to launch the inquiry into the suicide crisis in the First Nation communities.
Mushkegowuk Council established a People’s Inquiry in 2013. The communities raised their own funding to conduct the inquiry, hold public hearings and choose commissioners. The final report with recommendations was released in 2016.
Re-establishing the Mushkegowuk youth department was also one of his priorities as the grand chief.
“I lobbied so hard to get the funding,” Solomon recalled.
When the funding was approved, it was an emotional moment.
“I still remember that day like it was yesterday,” he said.
He said he also lobbied to establish the Mushkegowuk health department.
When he was first elected as the grand chief, his first priority was to get the organization “back on feet.” Solomon said he was surrounded by dedicated hardworking people who had the same vision for Mushkegowuk as he did.
“They’re the ones doing most of the work, the technical work. You got to have the right people surround you and to support you, and vice versa,” he said.
Solomon questioned why a sitting grand chief can’t have a satellite office and work from their home community.
He is from Kashechewan, while Mushkegowuk Council’s head office is in Moose Factory.
Spending six years between two communities, away from his family was quite challenging for him, Solomon said adding if he had an office in Kashechewan, he’d finish his term.
“I missed the part where my children were growing up. I was too busy. I missed a lot of parts. The next thing I knew they were starting their own families,” he said. “I want to be there for my grandchildren, I want to see their birthdays, special days. I want to be part of their lives, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
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