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By: Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WAUWATOSA - Jim Sensenbrenner represents a very Republican seat in Congress.  

But when he held a town hall meeting in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa earlier this month, he was visiting the most “anti-Trump” community in his district.  

The result was a snapshot of our polarized times amid an exploding uproar over the presidency. The senior lawmaker in his final term met with a mix of pats on the back for his decades of service, respectful pushback on his politics, and exasperated epithets for his support of Donald Trump.  

One Democrat in the audience complained that Trump “sees himself as above the law.”

“When will you be ready to say you’ve seen enough, and he has to go?” asked Chris Rockwood, who made an unsuccessful bid to unseat Sensenbrenner in 2014.  

“I’m not ready to say that. I support him in the 2020 election,” said the 76-year-old Republican, adding moments later:

“I like to spend my time on things that can … accomplish something. … Now Donald Trump has a 94% approval rating among Republicans. What you’re suggesting I do is waste my time (opposing Trump) so you can quote me in a general election campaign,” Sensenbrenner said. “I am not going to do that, Chris.”

That exchange in Wauwatosa took place a few days before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry, records of a phone call confirmed that Trump asked the leader of Ukraine to investigate his political opponent Joe Biden, and the government released the whistleblower complaint that triggered the Ukraine controversy that has consumed Washington.

Sensenbrenner has defended the president since then, as he did at his Sept. 21 Wauwatosa town hall, where he argued that Trump didn’t offer a “quid pro quo” to Ukraine for the information he wanted and therefore “did nothing wrong.”

Two listeners disliked his answers on Ukraine so much they walked out. One muttered “bulls***t” as she left. A man who hadn’t been called on interrupted Sensenbrenner — a huge no-no for the procedurally strict congressman — and yelled, “You’re not answering (the) question!”    

Sensenbrenner, who precedes every town hall by reciting lengthy rules of decorum, said: “You heard what the rules are. Now either sit down or please leave the room.”

When the man said, “I’ll do neither,” he was rebuked by another member of the audience for speaking out of turn. Sensenbrenner threatened to gavel the meeting to a close.

“Fine. I’ll leave, Jim, but answer (the) question (that was) asked, not the one you hear in your head!” he said, muttering “a**hole” as he left. Sensenbrenner suggested he pick up a copy of “Miss Manners” on his way out.  

Though it teetered a bit, the Wauwatosa town hall didn't degenerate into a full-blown partisan shouting match.  

In fact, some of Sensenbrenner’s Democratic constituents made a point of prefacing their policy disagreements with respectful nods to his long tenure and the regular listening sessions he holds.  Sensenbrenner typically invites local state legislators to these events. In this case, it was Democrat Robyn Vining, which lent a bipartisan aura to the meeting.     

Was the town hall in Tosa more remarkable for its outbreaks of tension or its fragile civility?

Or just the fact that it happened at all?

Fewer and fewer members of Congress conduct town halls. And the trend toward increasingly one-sided districts makes it that much more unlikely that lawmakers will ever field questions from a room full of people who disagree with them.           

But Wauwatosa voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton by 22 points in 2016, while Sensenbrenner’s district overall voted for Trump by 20 points.   

Asked in an interview about his most contentious town halls, Sensenbrenner said, “I’ve gaveled things closed because of a near riot breaking out a couple of times — two in this room.” He was referring to the Wauwatosa Public Library. (One of those stormy meetings occurred during the recall fight over former GOP Gov. Scott Walker).

A town hall meeting just a few days before Wauwatosa’s had ended prematurely, even though it was on friendly Republican turf in the town of Delafield.

“Thank you for all of your service. Thank you also for so many town hall meetings,” said Phyllis Warden of Delafield. “I’m sorry that with your retirement, the legislative consciousness you have, that historical perspective, is going to be lost to all of us.”

One constituent asked Sensenbrenner how people can fight the “resistance (Democrats) are giving our president.”

Sensenbrenner echoed his complaint and said of Trump: “I agree with probably 90% of what he has done. I probably agree with about 30% of the way he said it. (But) everybody knew what his personality was in 2016, and they voted for him anyhow.”

Then the congressman called on a man named Jerry Lee, who was not a Republican and who complained that the United States wasn’t a republic because its representatives didn’t listen to the people.

Sensenbrenner interjected, “You elect us!” and asked him, “If you don’t like this (system), what’s better?”

Lee replied that gerrymandering made Congress undemocratic.

“So, don’t give me that crap!” said Lee, and “Don’t interrupt me. I didn’t finish.”

Sensenbrenner said: “I won’t give you any more. I am going to adjourn this portion of the meeting. I don’t like to be cussed at, at these meetings.”

Down came the gavel in Delafield.

Sensenbrenner told a reporter he wished more of his colleagues held in-person listening sessions in their districts as opposed to telephone town halls where, “like talk radio, a call screener decides who gets to talk to the congressman.”

He plans to keep holding them until he retires in January 2021 after 42 years in the House.  

“I don’t think I should be running away from my constituents during the last 15 months,” he said.

His town hall in Wauwatosa drew Republicans as well as Democrats. Two constituents thanked him for supporting gun rights, while others urged him to support restrictions like an assault weapons ban.

While guns and climate change sparked debate, Trump was easily the most divisive topic. A woman thanked Sensenbrenner for supporting Trump. A man told him that Trump was shredding values that Sensenbrenner extols such as civility and rule of law.

“When are you going to publicly stand up to a very unfit person?” said the constituent, Bob Kinosian.

Sensenbrenner said he opposed Trump on tariffs and his use of an emergency declaration to fund the border wall, but accused Democrats of blanket intransigence, calling it “disgusting.”  

“You’ve had a very long and distinguished career … we all appreciate you continue to hold these town hall meetings,” said Rockwood, the Wauwatosa man who ran against Sensenbrenner five years ago.  

But during a long back-and-forth, Rockwood told Sensenbrenner, “You and your fellow Republicans have traded your party’s conscience for two Supreme Court justices and a tax cut,” and urged him and other party elders to recruit a GOP challenger against Trump.   

The two clashed in a fairly civil fashion over the Ukraine controversy and Democratic oversight of the president, which was when two audience members fuming over Sensenbrenner’s answers walked out.

Rockwood, a lifelong Democrat who was wearing a button supporting Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president, expressed mixed feelings about his Republican representative in an interview afterward.   

“I make a point of disagreeing without being disagreeable (with Sensenbrenner) … but we just can’t get a good answer out of him,” said Rockwood.  

“My fear is that his successor will be even worse. … He’s not all bad on the issues. And he’s come from an era when bipartisanship existed. Now I wish he’d be more upset about the demise of that era rather than just following in line with Republican leadership,” he said.  

There was one thing the Democrats and Republicans interviewed at the town hall meetings in Delafield and Wauwatosa agreed on — that they would like to see whoever succeeds Sensenbrenner maintain the tradition of taking live questions, in person, from constituents at open meetings in communities across the district.

If it's not too much to ask.

By: Chad Pergram of FOX News

The House of Representatives is currently on a two-week recess for the Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, but that doesn't mean the wheels of its impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump won’t churn on Capitol Hill and in Congressional districts.

The House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees will continue to toil behind the scenes investigating and, eventually, crafting actual articles of impeachment. More on that in a moment.

On Friday afternoon, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., issued a subpoena demanding a slew of Ukraine-related documents from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by Oct. 4. They also scheduled depositions with five State Department officials between Oct. 2 and Oct. 10.

In a letter to colleagues, Schiff also confirmed that the intelligence committee will hold a closed briefing with intelligence community Inspector General Mike Atkinson on Oct. 4. Lawmakers also want to hear from President Trump’s attorney Rudolph Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr. Sources tell Fox the intelligence community whistleblower is putting together a legal team and may not be heard from for a few weeks.

“I do think the Attorney General has gone rogue,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, said Friday. “He has for a long time now. And since he was mentioned in all of this, it’s curious that he would be making decisions about how a complaint would be handled."

There has long been tension between the administration and the Democratic House over providing witnesses and documents on a host of subjects, ranging from testimony by former White House Counsel Don McGahn during the Mueller probe to information regarding the census.

The subpoenas are part of a two-pronged strategy by Democrats. Get the information to help tailor the articles of impeachment, or convert a refusal to comply into an impeachment article itself.

House Democrats say the recess period is important to educate the public about the impeachment process and to gin up support for it

“Congress ought to be talking to their constituents and gaining their perspective on that and why they think this is such an important facet of this ongoing investigation,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “I think consideration of the public's viewpoint is critically important.”

“We are not going to be able to engage the American people here [in Washington],” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. “This is what impacts them the most..we have to go home and educate them.”

Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., flipped his district from red to blue in 2018. Phillips says he’s seen “a distinct change from my constituents over the last number of months and a growing call for action” against the president. Phillips says he’ll use the break “to educate those in our districts about how this process works.”

Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., is a former high school government teacher.

“One of the things I did this week was I put a civics one on one lesson on my social media. This is the impeachment process. So I kind of went right back into teacher mode. And I want people to understand that this is the process,” said Hayes. “I plan to do a lot of civics this week.”

Keep an eye on the 31 House districts currently held by Democrats which President Trump won in 2016. A lot of these members have town hall meetings planned over the recess. Pay particular attention to some of the forums conducted by Reps. Kendra Horn, D-Okla., Haley Stevens D-Mich., Max Rose, D-N.Y., Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., and Ben McAdams D-Utah.

So, what might the articles of impeachment against Trump actually look like?

It is unlikely the House will actually just craft a solitary article of impeachment. Various Democrats would like to impeach President Trump for different reasons. There’s the Ukraine matter. Some may prefer to tackle emoluments. Cummings may cite obstruction of Congress as his panel struggles to get documents and testimony from the administration. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, has wanted to impeach Mr. Trump over “moral fitness,” citing the President’s conduct when it comes to the treatment of minorities and his 2017 remarks about Charlottesville. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., may target the President’s stonewalling of Congress for his tax returns.

The House Judiciary Committee crafted five articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon in 1974. The panel approved three of the five: obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. The committee did not adopt articles of impeachment related to Nixon’s campaign to bomb Cambodia and his failure to pay taxes. Nixon resigned before the full House could consider the articles.

In 1998, the Judiciary Committee adopted four articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton However, the full House only approved two of the four: lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. The House rejected an additional article of lying to a grand jury and an article centered on "abuse of power."

If the full House approves any single article of impeachment, Trump is considered “impeached.”

As always, it's about math. The current House breakdown is 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and one independent: Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich. To pass anything in the House, 218 yeas are needed. That means Democrats can only lose 17 votes from their side and still have enough to pass an article of impeachment. Amash has endorsed impeachment, so let’s say the magic number is actually 16. If the president is to be impeached, that means Democrats could have 15 of their own voting for articles of impeachment while representing a district which Trump carried in 2016.

A House floor vote to impeach the President is kind of like an indictment, codified in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. If the House votes to impeach, Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution sends the article(s) to the Senate for a trial presided over by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts. (Note Roberts’ proper title. This is one of the reasons the Chief Justice is “of the United States,” and not just the “Supreme Court.”)

The House then sends over “impeachment managers” to present the House’s case to the Senate. These are actual House members who essentially serve as “prosecutors.” The remaining impeachment managers from President Clinton’s 1999 Senate trial are Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was in the House at the time, along with Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

If the Senate votes to “convict” the impeached figure, they are evicted from office. A two-thirds (67) vote is required for a Senate conviction.

There have only been 19 impeachments in House history. But the Senate has only voted to remove eight persons from office.

By: Aaron Colen of The Blaze

A former police officer told Congress that she would not comply if a law was enacted banning assault weapons, and she implored Congress not to turn millions of legal gun owners into criminals, according to Fox News.

Dianna Muller, who served with the Tulsa Police Department in Oklahoma for 22 years before founding the gun advocacy group the DC Project, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in opposition to legislation infringing on Second Amendment rights.

"Please don't legislate the 150 million people just like me into being criminals. It has happened. You've already done it," Muller said. "I was a bump stock owner, and I had to make a decision: do I become a felon, or do I comply?"

Regarding any potential assault weapons ban, Muller drew the line: "I will not comply."

GOP Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.) highlighted the imprecise nature of the term "assault weapons" and the way the use of such a term bans certain weapons illogically.

Sensenbrenner asked a panel of witnesses whether a hunting rifle should be banned if it was a semiautomatic weapon.

Heritage Foundation senior legal policy analyst Amy Swearer replied by pointing out that there are no mechanical or functional differences between semiautomatic hunting rifles and so-called assault weapons that would be banned.

Swearer also used a personal anecdote to defend the use of AR-15s for home defense, saying her mother struggled to accurately fire a handgun and was able to be more effective at the gun range with an AR-15.

President Donald Trump has, on a somewhat inconsistent basis, signaled a willingness to discuss gun control legislation with Democrats, including red flag laws and expanded background checks.

However, those talks have taken a negative turn starting with Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke declared "hell yes" he wants to take AR-15s and AK-47s off the streets. Any prospect of legislative progress was further damaged by Democrats' most recent push to impeach President Trump for his conversations with Ukraine about investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.

By: Bret Lemoine of the Associated Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Donald Trump repeatedly pushed Ukraine's president to "look into" Democratic rival Joe Biden, according to a rough transcript of a summer phone call that is now at the center of Democrats' impeachment probe into President Trump. President Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to work with Attorney General William Barr and Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer. At one point in the conversation, President Trump said, "I would like for you to do us a favor."

The president's words set the parameters for the debate to come — just the fourth impeachment investigation of an American president in the nation's history. The initial response highlighted the deep divide between the two parties: Democrats said the call amounted to a "shakedown" of a foreign leader, while President Trump — backed by the vast majority of Republicans — dismissed it as a "nothing call."

The call is one part of a whistleblower complaint on the president's activities. After being stymied by the administration, lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees will get their first look at the complaint on Wednesday. Congress is also seeking an in-person interview with the whistleblower, who remains anonymous.

President Trump spent the day meeting with world leaders at the United Nations, a remarkable split screen even for the turbulence of the President Trump era. On his schedule: a meeting with Zelenskiy.

In light-hearted appearance before reporters, Zelenskiy said he didn't want to get involved in American elections, but added, "Nobody pushed me." President Trump chimed in, "In other words, no pressure."

The next steps in the impeachment inquiry were still developing a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the probe. Moderate Democrats, including some from districts where President Trump remains popular, urged the speaker to keep the inquiry to Ukraine and not expand into other issues Congress had already been investigating. Pelosi announced the impeachment probe on Tuesday after months of resistance to a process she has warned would be divisive for the country and risky for her party. But after viewing the transcript on Wednesday, Pelosi declared: Congress must act.

Two Wisconsin men know firsthand how the impeachment process works. Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Barrett were members of Congress when President Bill Clinton was impeached in the House. Both men admitted it's a politically-charged issue.

Impeachment is rare, but both had front-row seats in 1998.

"It is an extended process," said Barrett. "I did serve on the Judiciary Committee when President Clinton was impeached. That literally took months."

Now the mayor of Milwaukee, Barrett said Wednesday, Sept. 25 he was worried about timing.

"You have an election coming up in 13 ½ months," said Barrett. "Is there time there?"

Alongside Barrett at the time was Sensenbrenner, who gave the opening statement during the hearing. With partisan politics at a fever pitch, Sensenbrenner said Wednesday he believes the impeachment talks will fizzle out.

"I'm going to use that institutional memory to say they are wasting the taxpayers' time," said Sensenbrenner. "There is absolutely no way the Senate is going to kick Donald Trump out of office."

Sensenbrenner on Sept. 4 announced his retirement after 40 years in office. He told FOX6 he planned to work until January 2021 to make sure history doesn't repeat itself.

"If they are dumb enough to go down the road of impeachment, I will be very active in dealing with that issue," said Sensenbrenner.

The Senate would have to take up impeachment in a trial.

Only two presidents have been impeached -- President Bill Clinton and President Andrew Johnson. Both stayed in office after Senate trials failed.

By: Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WASHINGTON - The release Wednesday of a written account of the phone call between President Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine drew wildly different interpretations by defenders and critics of Trump. 

Consider the reactions of several Wisconsin lawmakers to the substance of the phone call, in which Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to work with U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s potential challenger in the 2020 election. 

“Now we know President Trump solicited interference from Ukraine in our 2020 election,” Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin said on Twitter Wednesday after the release of a written summary record of the call by U.S. government note-takers. 

“This is a threat to our national security and democracy. By law, the Trump (administration) needs to provide the whistleblower complaint & Inspector General report to Congress. That needs to happen now,” said Baldwin, who voiced her support for the first time Tuesday of an impeachment inquiry by the U.S. House.

Meanwhile, veteran GOP lawmaker Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin said the substance of the phone call showed there wasn’t anything damning about Trump’s conversation.

 “This is really nothing,” Sensenbrenner said in an interview Wednesday.

The senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee said that “Democrats put the cart before the horse” when they announced Tuesday they were launching an impeachment inquiry before seeing the written notes of the phone call.

He rejected the idea that the call shows any “quid pro quo,” meaning evidence that Trump was asking Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son in exchange for U.S. aid and support.

“There was nothing related to military aid (in the call) except the fact that the U.S. is doing its share and Germany is not,” Sensenbrenner said.  

Trump had placed U.S. aid to Ukraine on hold in the days prior to the phone call.

Asked if it troubled him that the U.S. president was asking a foreign leader to investigate his own potential opponent in the 2020 election, Sensenbrenner said Trump “is doing his job” by looking into possible corruption on the part of an American citizen, even if it’s his political opponent.

“If I had firsthand evidence my opponent in an election committed a federal crime, (then) by not reporting it to the FBI, I would have committed a crime myself. Here the president wanted to get to bottom of it,” said Sensenbrenner, referring to the unsubstantiated assertion that as vice president, Biden helped secure the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor in order to prevent an investigation affecting Biden’s son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.   

Sensenbrenner said the controversy over Trump’s phone call is “made up by people who have been spending two and half years trying to get Trump. … This transcript to me tells me that this is not a legal issue against Trump. This is a political issue, and Democrats are using their majority in the House of Representatives in order to try to influence an election.”

Interviewed Wednesday, House Democrat Mark Pocan of Wisconsin said Trump’s defenders are “dizzy with spin.”

The written account of the phone call is “confirmation of the president’s confession that he asked the leader of another government to essentially get information on a political opponent’s family,” he said.  

Pocan said the key document in his mind is not the account of the phone call but the report of the intelligence whistleblower whose complaint about the president ultimately pushed the story into the public domain, a report sent to the intelligence committees on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.   

But the Democratic lawmaker said the essential element of a “quid pro quo” was clear in the nature and context of Trump's conversation with Zelensky and the White House decision prior to the call to withhold military aid to Ukraine — even if Trump didn’t explicitly tie his request for an investigation to the threat of withholding aid. 

“No one would actually expect anyone to say (in a conversation) things like ‘it’s a quid pro quo.’ That would be ridiculous. You only read that in a bad novel,” Pocan said. "A few days prior (to the call) he's holding the funding up, and asking for a favor" in the call involving investigations of Democrats.

Pocan said accusations about Biden’s involvement in Ukraine were “ridiculous” and that the president and his supporters were “desperate to try to change the subject.”  

Fellow House Democrat Gwen Moore said in a statement: “The memo confirms that Trump solicited a foreign leader to advance his electoral chances. This is a blatant disregard for the rule of law. But the president is not above the law.”

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday that "it seemed like a pretty appropriate call from my standpoint.”  

While Trump talked about both Biden and the Russia investigation, “to me, that's not an inappropriate thing ... to talk about. And this obviously, he's got a personal connection, because potentially improper activity was directed at him,” Johnson said. “I understand the president’s frustration here." 

Johnson, who was one of the GOP lawmakers invited to the White House on Wednesday to discuss the call before the call summary was released, said he saw nothing wrong with Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, playing a key role in the Ukraine matter because "the president sometimes can appoint different people to work for him, speak on his behalf. That’s up to the president.”  

House Republican Mike Gallagher said in a statement: “Most Americans do not support impeachment, yet Speaker Pelosi is taking this serious step without all the facts. That is profoundly irresponsible and the call transcript already contradicts key claims from anonymous sources. In light of all that, I’m glad the Administration supports full transparency.” 

House Republican Glenn Grothman issued a statement Wednesday criticizing the impeachment inquiry, saying "important business before the House has ground to a halt due to these distractions."

Grothman said it was appropriate for Trump to have a "broad discussion" with the Ukraine president about corruption, and said there are legitimate questions about "why Hunter Biden was employed by Ukrainian-based gas company, Burisma Holdings, at the same time his father oversaw Ukrainian relations for the Obama Administration." 

By: Ronn Blitzer of FOX News

A former police officer made a bold proclamation during a congressional hearing Wednesday regarding a proposed assault-weapons ban: she would not comply.

Dianna Muller, who served in the Tulsa Police Department for 22 years and is the founder of gun advocacy group The DC Project, was among the witnesses at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. The session on an otherwise contentious issue flew largely under the radar amid the Trump-Ukraine controversy and Democrats' impeachment push. But reflecting the gun control divide in the country -- amid a spate of deadly mass shootings that prompted renewed calls for strict laws -- Muller said that such a ban would force lawful gun owners to either give up their arms or become criminals.

"Please don't legislate the 150 million people just like me into being criminals. It has happened. You've already done it," Muller said, referring to the Trump administration's ban on bump stocks, the devices that use a semi-automatic weapon's recoil to make it rapidly fire like an automatic. "I was a bump stock owner, and I had to make a decision: do I become a felon, or do I comply?"

Should the government pass an assault-weapons ban, Muller declared, "I will not comply."

Muller and others at the hearing focused on the practicality of a ban, pointing out what they claimed were mainly "cosmetic" differences between weapons such as the AR-15 and standard semi-automatic hunting rifles. This issue was also raised by Heritage Foundation senior legal policy analyst Amy Swearer when Rep.Jim  Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., went down the line of witnesses asking if they believed hunting rifles should be banned if they are semi-automatic.

Swearer said no, stating that there was no difference in the mechanics or function of an "assault weapon" or a semi-automatic hunting rifle. Dayton, Ohio Mayor Nan Whaley, who recalled the recent mass shooting in her city, did not give a definitive answer to Sensenbrenner's question, nor did Dr. Alejandro Rios Tovar, a trauma surgeon who treated victims of the attack in El Paso, Texas. Charlottesville, Va., Chief of Police RaShall Brackney indicated she was in favor of a ban on "any weapon that could be used to hunt individuals."

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., countered the idea of a hunting rifle ban by referring to his assault-weapon ban bill. Cicilline said that more than 200 weapons are exempt from the bill, so there is really no issue of eliminating hunting rifles.

Swearer also testified against the idea that law-abiding citizens have no need for weapons like AR-15s, recalling how her mother, a gun novice, had difficulty accurately firing a handgun at a shooting range, but was much more effective when she used an AR-15.

"As I read the Second Amendment, it doesn't say the right to bear arms shall not be infringed unless the gun has scary features," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said.

Swearer also noted that some features like barrel shrouds enhance the safety of a weapon for its user. But David Chipman, senior policy adviser at the Giffords Law Center, raised a counterpoint noting that a barrel shroud could allow a shooter to get a better grip on a weapon "in a way that would increase your ability to spray fire and kill more people" without burning their hand.

One feature that was a concern for House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is the ability for some weapons to be used with high-capacity magazines that allow users to fire dozens of rounds without reloading.

Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, testified in agreement with Nadler that a ban on such magazines, along with a clear definition of "assault weapon" that would eliminate loopholes under the 1994 crime law, would be effective.

Congress and the Trump administration have been in talks for weeks regarding possible gun legislation, but discussion of taking away guns that are currently legal has led to criticism from both parties. After 2020 Democratic hopeful Beto O'Rourke declared during a debate, "Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15, AK-47," Cicilline said, "That message doesn't help." President Trump said that O'Rourke was making it "much harder" to reach a deal on gun legislation with that sort of rhetoric.

Trump's focus when it comes to gun control has mainly been on background checks. The White House was also circulating a one-page document on Capitol Hill detailing a possible gun background-check proposal that would require private sellers – not just licensed vendors – to conduct background checks for all advertised sales, though Attorney General Bill Barr said Trump has not yet made a “firm decision” on what he ultimately will support.

An August USA Today poll showed that most American voters support increased background checks, with 85 percent of Republican voters supporting background checks for all gun sales. Presently, only federally licensed vendors are required to conduct background checks, allowing private individuals to sell without them under what has been referred to as the "gun show loophole."

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News last week that he expected an announcement on new gun legislation “very soon.” Gidley said Trump wanted to make sure that any new laws would address actual problems and not just be “feel-good legislation.”

But the Democrats' impeachment push could complicate matters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had resisted impeachment, announced Tuesday that an impeachment inquiry would be launched. Reflecting how policy debates could take a back seat, Pelosi said in private meetings with lawmakers that Trump called her to discuss gun legislation, but she soon changed the subject to his phone call with the Ukrainian president in which they discussed investigating Joe Biden, which stoked the latest calls for impeachment.

By: Cearron Bagenda of CBS 58

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

The move comes after Trump admitted he pushed a foreign government to investigate unfounded claims about a 2020 campaign rival. President Trump dismissed the announcement over Twitter Tuesday, calling it "witch hunt garbage."

Reaction to the impeachment inquiry was swift.

Impeachment is a political process, not a judicial one that's carried out in courtrooms. For each step forward, there have to be votes, and those votes would include our Wisconsin congressional leaders.

The first vote would be impeachment, and that would be in the House of Representatives. 

Jim Sensenbrenner, the Republican rep from Menomonee Falls, said that Democrats have always looked for alleged impeachable offenses with President Trump. Sensenbrenner expects the upcoming investigation to tarnish Congress's credibility and further divide the country.

On the other side of the aisle, Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Madison, says the President admitted to breaking the law, violated his oath of office, and the time for impeachment is long overdue. If it does come to a vote, Democrats have the numbers in the House to impeach.

"From the House of Representatives perspective, to say we're not just going to do whatever the President says -- this impeachment inquiry is a big check, one of the powers that we have in the Constitution to push back on the President," said Marquette University political science professor Paul Nolette.

If impeachment were to pass the house, it would then take two-thirds of the Senate to actually remove the President from office.

Looking at the numbers of Democrats versus Republicans, the conclusion to draw is that it would be unlikely to happen.

CBS 58 took our cameras to the streets to ask voters in Milwaukee what they thought of Speaker Pelosi's announcement.

Some say they're not too surprised after hearing the announcement, and agree with Nancy Pelosi's statement that 'no one is above the law.' They say it's a long time coming, and everybody should be looked into.

"He’s running the show,  and it’s a circus, and the average American needs help. If this is the first step to addressing the average American, then God bless Nancy Pelosi,” said voter Jonathan Strickland.

Others believe president Trump's decision-making has been beneficial for American businesses, and that he doesn't necessarily deserve to be impeached.

"The reason that Trump was elected is strictly for one reason, business -- period. People that are business owners are scared that they’re not going to be represented," said small business owner Aaron Anders.

"I see it from both sides. I see it from the business side, he has done a lot you know, his mouth just gets him in trouble,” said voter Josiah Dawson. “I can see it from the other side too, where all the things that’s happening with Ukraine and stuff I just believe it’s about time.”

Some believe the country should shift their focus off of the impeachment.

"I think we should spend our energy on the next election, not so much the impeachment," said voter Aaron Dolan.

While there are many differing opinions, a majority of voters seem to agree that leaders need to do a better job of unifying the country.

By; Craig Gilbert and Molly Beck of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WASHINGTON - With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing Tuesday that Democrats will launch an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, the partisan divide between Wisconsin’s federal lawmakers remained mostly intact amid a rush of rapidly shifting developments.

On the GOP side, impeachment appears to have no support among current House Republicans from Wisconsin (or any other state). No GOP lawmakers from Wisconsin have publicly criticized the president over the issue that prompted Pelosi's decision — the news that Trump urged the leader of Ukraine in a phone call to investigate a major political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, and his son.    

"Speaker Pelosi’s comments today do not change the state of play," said Jim Sensenbrenner, the veteran Wisconsin Republican who will retire after next year.

"The Democrats have been searching for any alleged 'impeachable' offense since the beginning of the Trump presidency. I expect the Judiciary Committee and others will continue their partisan investigations, tarnishing Congress’ credibility and further dividing the country,” Sensenbrenner said.

But in a sign of the growing Democratic support for impeachment, Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who had not previously endorsed an impeachment inquiry, said: 

"The House is taking appropriate action in response to the Trump administration’s refusal to follow the law and provide this whistleblower complaint and Inspector General report to Congress, which has a constitutional responsibility to get all the facts and provide oversight of the executive branch." 

House Democrat Mark Pocan said in an interview that, "the president in this case not only broke the law by asking a foreign government to manufacture evidence against a political opponent, he’s also openly admitted it, which puts us in a very different territory. ... In this case it’s crystal clear by his own admission.”

Pocan and fellow House Democrat Gwen Moore were already on the record backing an impeachment inquiry long before the Ukraine story surfaced. 

Moore said in a statement Tuesday that Trump's call to the Ukranian president was an act of "lawlessness."

"An impeachment inquiry is proper, timely and necessary," she said.

Wisconsin's third House Democrat, Ron Kind, has criticized the president’s conduct in the past but stopped short of supporting an impeachment inquiry.

In a statement Tuesday night, Kind indicated he supported an investigation of the whistleblower complaint behind the Ukraine developments but nowhere used the word "impeachment." 

Said Kind:

"The reports of a whistleblower complaint alleging that the president actively coerced a foreign government to meddle in our election are extremely concerning. The administration must hand over the whistleblower report, as required by law, so Congress can investigate these claims as part of its constitutional duties. As a former special prosecutor, I know no one is above the law — not even the president.”  

While Pocan and Moore represent heavily Democratic seats, Kind represents a rural, swing western Wisconsin district that voted for the Republican Trump by 4 points for president in 2016 — after backing Democrat Barack Obama by 11 points in 2012.

There are four Republicans representing Wisconsin in the House, since a fifth Republican, Sean Duffy, retired effective Monday.

GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher, who represents northeast Wisconsin, said it's premature to talk about impeachment because Congress hasn't seen the transcript of the call with the Ukrainian president or heard from intelligence officials. He did not dismiss the Democrats' concerns as some of his colleagues have.

"Media speculation is an insufficient cause to begin impeachment," he said in a statement. "I’m glad the President is making the transcript public, I'm looking forward to hearing Acting Director (Joseph) Maguire's testimony this week, and I hope the full whistleblower report is also released to the appropriate Congressional committees.”

Sensenbrenner, the state’s senior Republican, defended Trump when asked about the Ukraine developments at a town hall meeting Saturday in Wauwatosa. While many Democrats contend the fact that Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Biden was by itself damning, Sensenbrenner said that it would have to be clear that Trump offered Ukraine a “quid pro quo” to cause him consternation.    

“From what we know now, Trump did nothing wrong. And he did nothing wrong because he did not offer a quid pro quo to the president of Ukraine for any of this information.”

In a separate interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before the town hall meeting, Sensenbrenner said of Trump’s conversation with the leader of Ukraine:

“I would feel differently if there was a quid pro quo involved on that, but merely to find out if Hunter Biden (Joe Biden's son) was violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Asking the new president of Ukraine, who ran on an anti-corruption platform, to look into that, I do not think was out of bounds.”

Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have been pushing Ukraine to investigate Burisma Group, a Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board of directors.

U.S. Rep Bryan Steil of Janesville said Pelosi was engaging in "political theater" but did not directly comment on the allegations or whether impeachment was needed.

"If Speaker Pelosi wanted to officially begin an impeachment inquiry, she would have brought a resolution to the House floor for a vote," he said in a statement. "We must focus on the issues impacting Americans — our $22 trillion national debt, the rising costs of health care, and job creation for families and workers. Let’s end this circus and get to work.”

Republican congressional candidates in Wisconsin sided with Trump.

 “This is yet another Democrat distraction from the left’s failure to get anything done in Washington,” state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who is seeking to replace Sensenbrenner in the 5th Congressional District, said in a statement.

“While President Trump is working to deliver on his promises to the American people, D.C. Democrats continue to spend all their time focused on finding excuses for these drawn-out impeachment threats, instead of the issues that average Americans in places like WI care about,” Fitzgerald said.

State Sen. Tom Tiffany, who is running in the Trump-friendly 7th Congressional District for the seat vacated by Duffy, called on Democrats to stop their “endless witch hunts.”

“The radical Democrats controlling Congress are more intent on undermining our president than they are about enacting a trade deal that our country desperately needs,” he said.

Aides to Jason Church, a Republican who is also running in the 7th Congressional District, did not immediately answer questions.

Tom Palzewicz, a Democrat seeking a seat in the 5th Congressional District held by Sensenbrenner, said he would support impeachment if indeed a transcript of the call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows the U.S. president pressured a foreign government to investigate his political rival.

“The purpose of the impeachment process is designed as a check and balance on the president's potential abuse of power. There are certainly grounds for an investigation and the American people and their elected leaders deserve to know all the facts,” Palzewicz said.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who defeated Trump ally Scott Walker in 2018, sidestepped the question of whether House members should pursue impeachment.

“I don't make any decisions on that. I'm focused on Wisconsin. Clearly, I follow it in the news, but that's for the people that are in Washington D.C., and their constituents here in Wisconsin to figure out,” he said Tuesday. “Clearly, it's something that gives me concern because things, when (they) kind of take us off the rail as far as moving forward, we have to find a way to move forward as a nation and so hopefully there will be some resolution soon."

Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday but has said he thought it would be a bad idea for the president to release a transcript of his call with the leader of Ukraine, calling it a bad precedent.

The GOP-controlled U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday that the whistleblower complaint be sent to the Intelligence Committee, a step the White House has balked at.  

The president, meanwhile, said Tuesday he would authorize the release Wednesday of the full transcript of his phone call with the leader of Ukraine. 

By: Henry Redman of the Daily Jefferson County Union

WHITEWATER — From the get-go, attendees at U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s town hall in meeting in Whitewater Sunday night were challenging him on issues that have dominated news cycles in recent months.

The meeting with the 5th District Republican congressman began with questions from multiple members of Moms Demand Action — an organization that fights for stricter regulation of guns. A large majority of people in attendance were members of the group.

The discussion then moved to potential proposals to fight climate change and finally ended with a very heated back-and-forth over a whistleblower complaint from the Intelligence Community Inspector General reportedly about President Donald Trump.

“Well, you’ve let the partisan cat out of the bag,” Sensenbrenner said early on in the night.

On gun control, members of Moms Demand Action asked the congressman about closing loopholes, red flag laws and strengthening background checks. Some said they were gun owners themselves and just wanted something done about the gun violence impacting lives — not just from mass shootings — every day.

Sensenbrenner said his record shows he’s willing to support legislation that effectively curbs gun violence and isn’t just a show for the cameras. He repeatedly brought up his support of the creation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which prevents people with criminal backgrounds from buying firearms.

“As far as any background-check legislation, I want to see if any of the proposed changes would’ve stopped any of the mass shootings,” Sensenbrenner said. “If that is not the case, then we’ve passed a piece of paper that is ineffective. Which have been a lot of the gun-control measures that have been considered during my time in Congress.”

Sensenbrenner was a co-sponsor of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that established the NICS system.

“In 1993, I was the father of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The gun-control lobby has never given me credit for that,” Sensenbrenner said. “Because I have an A rating from the NRA, they think I’m a bad guy.”

Moms Demand Action members asked Sensenbrenner about expanding the already existing background check laws. He responded by saying he wants to make sure a person’s right to due process of law isn’t infringed by taking away their guns.

“I’m not opposed in principle to red flag laws, but I’m insistent upon the red flag law recognizing due process,” Sensenbrenner said. “It seems to me that if we’re taking people’s constitutional rights away — for cause — they ought to be able to tell their story to a judge and let a judge make a determination based upon the evidence in front of them.”

Jenny Rule, a Whitewater resident and member of Moms Demand Action, pressured Sensenbrenner for answers on his voting record and possible next steps for curbing gun violence.

“40,000 lives lost to gun violence in 2017,” Rule said. “I don’t think you’re a bad guy, but I think we can do better.”

Sensenbrenner, who said he lives much closer to Milwaukee’s gun violence than any of the Whitewater residents in attendance, also said repeat gun offenders need to be given stricter treatment.

“One of the problems is the DA’s office is not prosecuting repeat gun violence offenders; they decided it’s not worth their time,” Sensenbrenner said. “Those are the people we have to get off the street, particularly the repeat offenders. Unless we have judges and prosecutors — both of whom are elected in this state — actually giving sentences to people who ought to be taken off the street, we’re not going to solve this problem.”

From the discussion on gun control reforms, the topic at the town hall moved to addressing climate change. Sensenbrenner was asked if there are any solutions to climate change that have an actual chance of being passed through congress.

The congressman said he currently is not on any committees that directly address the changing climate, but that when he was on the Science Committee, he tried to pass laws that would help research into the issue and, in turn, help create jobs while fighting climate change.

“I supported adequate basic research funding for scientific agencies such as the National Science Foundation, NASA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology,” Sensenbrenner said. “I was basically opposed to putting government money into applied research, because that was the government picking winners and losers. What the private sector ought to do is put their own money at risk on successful basic research and commercialize and create a lot of American jobs and make a lot of money as a result.”

Sensenbrenner backed away from any steps further than funding research because he said he didn’t want the government to overreach.

“Government overregulation is a job killer,” Sensenbrenner said.

The discussion on gun control reforms and climate change remained mostly civil. But tempers flared when a constituent asked about a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump from a member of the national intelligence community.

Trump has sought, without evidence, to implicate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Although the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

The matter is under new scrutiny following the whistleblower’s mid-August complaint, which followed Trump’s July 25th call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The person who filed the complaint did not have firsthand knowledge of the call, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Lawmakers are demanding details of the complaint, but the acting director of national intelligence has refused to share that information, citing presidential privilege.

While Washington was consumed with the complaint during the weekend, back in Whitewater, Sensenbrenner attempted to downplay the issue. He said Trump has the full right to cite executive privilege and not turn over any information about the call or the complaint.

“We should not have presidents or executive agencies such as the FBI rummaging around congressional files and I think the opposite is the case, too, that we should not have Congress rummaging around presidential files that are covered by executive privilege,” Sensenbrenner said.

After saying that the complaint and call are covered by executive privilege, Sensenbrenner turned the issue to the other side of the aisle and said this debate might bring down Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, even though there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president.

“Get your foot off the gas pedal on this,” Sensenbrenner said. “I would advise you that you may have buyer’s remorse the way this ends up. Because of the Biden matter being out there, this has got the potential of destroying his candidacy.”

Sensenbrenner’s next town hall meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19, at 10 a.m. at the Waukesha City Hall.

By: Austin Koltonowski of Jurist

Federal lawmakers on Thursday proposed a bill that would require companies to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy in a courtroom close to their principal place of business, rather than where they are incorporated.

The bipartisan bill, called the Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act of 2019, hopes to spread bankruptcy cases throughout the US to ensure that employees, small businesses and local employees are able to fully and fairly participate in the proceedings.

Current federal law allows companies to file for bankruptcy protection either where they are incorporated or where they operate much smaller affiliates. Most often, bankruptcy cases have been decided in either Delaware or New York. Supporters of the existing law argue that the experienced judges in popular venues like Delaware can better handle complicated issues.

Delaware Governor John Carney reiterated that companies from around the country choose to incorporate in Delaware specifically because of the expertise and experience of Delawares judges, attorneys and business leaders.

Experienced bankruptcy courts and judges are critical to ensuring that restructurings preserve the underlying businesses and save jobs. Altering the venue laws that have been in place for decades and replacing them with restrictions undermines well-settled principles of corporate law, threatens jobs, and hurts our economy.

Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the bill.