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Constitutional lawyer Laurence Tribe: Mitch McConnell has no right to ‘dismiss’ articles of impeachment

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In recent days, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has floated the idea that the Senate might vote to dismiss the articles of impeachment against President Trump without ever holding a trial. Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, who helped House Democrats draft the articles of impeachment in the first place, told Salon this week McConnell has no right to do that.

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This article was originally published at Salon

Senate rules dating to 1886, Tribe said, give the upper chamber of Congress “no jurisdiction to begin its impeachment trial until the articles have been submitted by the House to the Senate.” Until that happens, he continued, the Senate “cannot purport to dismiss the articles that would trigger the trial. The House retains jurisdiction, under the rules it has duly enacted, until it selects impeachment managers and transmits the articles of impeachment to the Senate.”

Tribe noted that a rules change proposed last week by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and endorsed by McConnell “would purport to alter that situation, but such a change would require a two-thirds vote of the Senate, and I know of nobody familiar with the Senate who sees any chance of such supermajority support for the change.” In supporting such a rules change, Tribe said, “McConnell was essentially telling Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, the House and the nation that he intends to do all he can, rules or no rules, to cover up the obviously grave charges against President Trump embodied in the two articles of impeachment voted by the House in December.”

Tribe said he agreed with Pelosi’s characterization of any attempt to dismiss the articles as a “cover-up,” adding:

Given the way McConnell and Trump have moved in lockstep on everything in which [Vladimir] Putin has had a hand or has taken an interest, including our presidential elections, that posture is less surprising than it is lawless — lawless in light of the oath to “do impartial justice” that McConnell will be bound to take under the impeachment rules in place since the late 19th century.

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McConnell’s refusal to negotiate on the rules of a Senate trial, Tribe said, was a major break with precedent and a nakedly “partisan” attempt to protect the president and ensure his rapid acquittal.

McConnell refused to accede to any of the House Democrats’ prerequisites for transmittal of the articles simply because, given the Senate’s sole power to try impeachments, he could do so — and because it served both his and President Trump’s partisan political interests not to budge in response to Speaker Pelosi’s entirely reasonable request that, before naming the impeachment managers that would prosecute the articles of impeachment in the Senate, the House should at least be informed of the ground rules that would set the parameters of the trial in which those managers would serve as prosecutors.

Without knowing “when and how the Senate would decide matters relating to the calling of witnesses and the subpoenaing of relevant testimony and essential documentary evidence,” Tribe said, Pelosi could hardly be expected to select her team of impeachment managers.

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McConnell … simply refused to negotiate or compromise, insisting that some variant of the rules that governed the [Bill] Clinton impeachment trial would be followed — notwithstanding the crucial ambiguities in that position, the obvious differences in the Clinton and Trump situations, and other such factors. The delay in submitting the articles thus resulted in no change in McConnell’s stance, but it did, as Speaker Pelosi explained in her Jan. 10 letter to colleagues, considerably alter the situation in which the trial will proceed.

Tribe was an early advocate of having House Democrats refuse to submit the articles of impeachment to the Senate unless Pelosi could extract a guarantee that the trial would be conducted impartially. In an interview with Salon last month, he compared Pelosi’s predicament to that of a criminal prosecutor who learns that a jury foreman “has threatened to let the accused decide how the trial will be conducted — and has intimated that it will be a ‘trial’ in name only, one orchestrated in close coordination with defense counsel,” while other jurors “also announce that they don’t intend to listen to any evidence but have already made up their minds to acquit.”


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French far-right leader Marine Le Pen announces 2022 presidential bid

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French far-right leader Marine Le Pen isn’t wasting time. She announced her intention to stand in France’s 2022 presidential elections.

“My decision is made,” Le Pen said Thursday as she presented her New Year’s wishes.

Le Pen said she is proposing a “grand alternative to put the country back on its feet” and create “national unity.”

Le Pen reached the runoff in the 2017 election but lost badly to Emmanuel Macron, who is now in the midst of one of the most difficult periods of his presidency. In addition to the grassroots yellow vest movement that’s seeking social and economic justice, Macron is facing a strike over reforms to the country’s pension system that has run for 43 days.

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Dutch art sleuth finds rare stolen copy of ‘Prince of Persian poets’

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A stolen 15th-century book by the famed Persian poet Hafez has been recovered by a Dutch art detective after an international "race against time" that drew the alleged interest of Iran's secret service.

The gold-leafed volume worth around one million euros ($1.1 million) was found to be missing from the collection of an Iranian antiques dealer after his death in Germany in 2007.

It sparked a decade-long search for one of the oldest surviving copies of the "Divan of Hafez" -- the collected works of the poet who remains extremely popular in Iran and has inspired artists worldwide.

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MSNBC’s Morning Joe: Trump doesn’t realize how much trouble he’s in — and GOP unsure how to defend him

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said President Donald Trump is fooling himself on impeachment.

Trump insists he did nothing wrong in his actions toward Ukraine and complains that he's the victim of an impeachment "hoax," but the "Morning Joe" host said that most Americans disagree.

"He's talking to himself when he talks about a perfect phone call, yeah," Scarborough said. "He says it's a hoax, because what he's facing now isn't even what he was facing with (Robert) Mueller. There's more of a split when it came to what the American public believed, but he said it's a hoax and nobody can believe this is happening, and etc., etc., etc., and yet over 70 percent of Americans want a full and fair trial."

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