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By: Yaron Steinbuch of New York Post

The first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry that aired on TV screens across the US on Wednesday marked only the fourth time in history that Congress has considered removing a president from office.

The last time was in 1998, when Republicans brought charges against then-Democratic President Bill Clinton.

They also were also launched against Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 before the House issued its indictment, and Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House in 1868 but acquitted by the Senate by a single vote.

Clinton lied under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, triggering the impeachment inquiry in the lower chamber.

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” Clinton said on Jan. 26, 1998.

Like now, the parties were split at the time over whether the president’s actions represented what the Constitution deems to be “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

And just like today, the minority party argued that the opposition had been looking for a way to take down the president for years.

“He lied about sex, not an admirable thing, but really not an activity that shook the foundations of the Constitution and the democracy,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said, according to CBS News.

“The president of the United States should be held to the highest standard of anybody in the country,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

Both lawmakers were — and still are — members of the House Judiciary Committee, which handles impeachment.

“It was a heck of a lot of work. The Judiciary Committee got all of Starr’s evidence dumped on us with a few days’ notice,” Sensenbrenner said, referring to special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

“This is not a joyful experience for anyone engaged in it, but it’s an obligation that we have given the facts that have been discovered so far,” Lofgren said.

Clinton famously said the process was beyond his control.

“It’s not in my hands; it’s in the hands of Congress and the people of this country — ultimately, in the hands of God. There is nothing I can do,” Clinton said in 1998.

President Trump has called the current process a “witch hunt” by the “Do Nothing Democrats.”

The House ultimately voted to bring impeachment charges against Clinton on two charges, but he was later acquitted by the Senate with some Republicans crossing party lines.

Sensenbrenner predicts the same outcome for Trump.

“The president is not going to be removed from office, I think everybody realizes that,” he said.

By: Emily Cochrane of the New York Times

Representative Peter J. Visclosky, a moderate Democrat from Indiana, said on Wednesday that he would retire after nearly four decades in the House, adding his name to a fast-growing list of veteran lawmakers who plan to leave Congress next year.

The departure of Mr. Visclosky, a senior member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, which allocates federal spending, is the latest evidence of an exodus from Congress of experienced lawmakers who have made their careers in the political center, and are leaving elected office as polarization intensifies.

The longest-serving member of Indiana’s congressional delegation, Mr. Visclosky made the announcement exactly 35 years after he was elected to the seat in 1984. He thanked his constituents in a statement announcing his retirement for “their trust and for providing me the incredible life privilege” of serving in Congress.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Visclosky, 70, developed a low-key reputation as a moderate Democrat of the old school, focusing on issues important to his blue-collar district, and forging relationships with Republicans as a member of the appropriations panel, where partisanship often takes a back seat to practical questions of dollars and cents.

“For my entire career, I have worked to build support for our domestic steel industry and organized labor, secure investments in transformational projects and improve our quality of place to benefit the only place I have ever called home,” he said on Wednesday.

Mr. Visclosky is the eighth member of the Democratic caucus to announce his intent to leave his seat after 2020, either because of retirement or to seek another elected office, compared with 19 Republicans. It comes as several Democrats are facing primary challengers from their left flank and Republicans are weighing the effect of sharing the ballot with President Trump in the 2020 election.

Republicans have also been losing some of their few remaining moderate members as the tides have shifted, with Representative Will Hurd of Texas and Francis Rooney of Florida both planning to retire.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a nod to Mr. Visclosky’s tenure, called him “a pillar of the House of Representatives and an icon for Indiana’s working families” and said “his guidance and friendship will be greatly missed by his colleagues.”

His exit will also fuel the growing trend of some of the most senior lawmakers departing Capitol Hill, leaving the next Congress with less experience and expertise to rely on, and fewer lawmakers who can recall a time when they cut legislative deals with members of the other party. (The Republican conference imposes term limits for committee leadership positions.)

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, who announced his retirement in September, notched a series of bipartisan achievements and multiple chairmanships during his decades of tenure.

Four committees will lose their top Republican after 2020 with the retirements of Representatives Mac Thornberry of Texas, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee; Rob Bishop of Utah on the Natural Resources Committee; K. Michael Conaway of Texas on the Agriculture Committee; and Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon on the Energy and Commerce committee.

For Democrats, Mr. Visclosky is also the second member of the appropriations panel to announce his retirement in the last month, following Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York and the committee chairwoman. Representative José E. Serrano, another Democrat of New York on the committee and the nation’s longest-tenured Hispanic congressman, said in March that he would also step down.

Ms. Lowey, in a statement, applauded Mr. Visclosky as “a supporter of a robust mix of defense, diplomacy and development to keep our nation safe and strong.” Mr. Visclosky oversees the subcommittee that allocates military spending.

The son of an iron worker, he also serves as vice chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus. His district, a Democratic stronghold in Indiana, borders Chicago and Lake Michigan.

Mr. Visclosky offered a parting note of guidance to his successor, encouraging those who wish to follow in his steps to “be for something and not against someone.”

“Strive to overcome the intolerance that grips our nation,” Mr. Visclosky said, “and recognize that only through mutual respect, rational discourse, cooperation and fair play can we build a good and strong community and country.”

By: Jim Sensenbrenner & Steve Chabot in the Wall Street Journal

Tensions ran high 20 years ago as we stood in the well of the Senate before Chief Justice William Rehnquist, all 100 senators and the nation. As House impeachment managers, we presented our case against President Clinton. We were somber but confident, knowing that we had afforded Mr. Clinton every due-process right to defend himself.

Now we find ourselves on the verge of another presidential impeachment. But this time the process is so fundamentally unfair that justice cannot be served. For the past two months, House Democrats, led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, have conducted a sham investigation with predetermined conclusions. It will do unthinkable damage to the credibility of the House and to the nation.

Since President Trump took the oath of office, Mr. Schiff has led a quest to overturn the 2016 election. We have both worked with Mr. Schiff on the Judiciary Committee, and one of us (Mr. Sensenbrenner) has managed two judicial impeachments (of Samuel B. Kent and G. Thomas Porteous Jr. ) alongside him. While in those cases he was fair and reasonable, here he has let his blind hatred of the president poison his conduct and destroy his credibility.

For more than two years, Mr. Schiff misled the public about having clear evidence that Mr. Trump colluded with the Russians to steal the election. Special counsel Robert Mueller found no such evidence. Mr. Schiff then set his eyes on the next “scandal.” A seemingly too-good-to-be-true report appeared, accusing the president of improper action. Mr. Schiff took to cable news to propagate the new narrative, but it soon began to crumble. We learned that the biased “whistleblower” had contacted Mr. Schiff’s committee before filing his report, and Mr. Schiff lied about it.

Nevertheless, Speaker Nancy Pelosi decreed the House to have begun an impeachment inquiry and Mr. Schiff launched three weeks of closed-door hearings. He played judge and jury, selectively leaking private testimony to fuel a smear campaign. In blatant disregard of congressional practice, he has prevented elected members from asking certain questions of his “star witnesses.”

The American people saw through this charade, and Mrs. Pelosi brought the rules for this process up for a vote last week. But it’s too little and too late.

The rules resolution falls woefully short of the Constitution’s due-process standard. Every American has the right to hear all evidence presented against him, face his accuser directly, and mount a defense. We made sure to afford Mr. Clinton these rights in 1998-99.

The president’s counsel must have the right to participate in all impeachment proceedings. The congressional minority must have an equal right to call witnesses, subpoena documents and cross-examine witnesses.

Last week’s resolution is an absolute failure to protect those rights. It permits Mr. Schiff to continue with his closed-door depositions, and it grants him sole authority to decide which information is relevant, which witnesses can testify and which evidence will be transferred to the Judiciary Committee.

When the Intelligence Committee turns over the proceedings to the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Jerry Nadler will then have the authority to deny the president’s counsel access to evidence, the ability to cross-examine witnesses and the full ability to participate in other ways. It’s laughable to claim that’s fair or impartial.

Americans should be concerned about the denial of fundamental constitutional rights to the president of the United States. If it can happen to him, whom can’t it happen to?

From day one, the Democrats have had their sights set on impeachment and have charted a process that could only lead to that end. By denying due process to this president, Democrats have delegitimized the House and its constitutional powers, and have done irreparable damage to the country.

Messrs. Sensenbrenner and Chabot, both Republicans, represent Wisconsin’s Fifth and Ohio’s First congressional districts, respectively.

Washington, D.C.Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement regarding the Democrats partisan-fueled impeachment resolution:

“An unfair process can only lead to an unfair result, and this entire process has been fundamentally unfair to the President. Just as no American — including the President — is above the law, no one is below it either. Yet, Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff continue to rob the President of his due process rights. The rules outlined in today’s resolution fall embarrassingly short of any objective fairness and will further damage the credibility of our institution.”

By Emma Dumain of McClatchy

A House task force is within “30 to 45 days” of releasing a report laying out which states with histories of voter suppression should be required to get permission from the federal government before changing local election laws.

The report, nearly a year in the making, is expected to propose that more states with histories of voter suppression should have to submit to “preclearance” beyond the original list of 14 jurisdictions subject to that mandate prior to the Supreme Court striking it down in 2013.

“Not only do the original 14 jurisdictions ... need to stay there, they need to be expanded,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who is spearheading the effort as chairwoman of a House elections subcommittee. “I live in Ohio. Ohio should be a part of preclearance. Parts of Pennsylvania should be a part of preclearance. And I could go on and on,” she said.

“We have enough data,” Fudge told McClatchy. “We have tens of thousands of pages of data. We’ve had nine hearings. We have a pretty good understanding of what the formula should be.”

When the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, it required certain states with histories of voter discrimination and disenfranchisement to be “precleared” before changing voting laws. A formula was established to determine which states would be subject to this requirement.

In 2013, the Supreme Court determined the formula was out-of-date for determining which states ought to be penalized and threw it out, challenging Congress to come up with a new one.

Fudge has been leading efforts over the past 10 months to create a new formula, traveling to different states to receive testimony and compile data. But she is likely to face obstacles in the weeks ahead — from Republicans and even members of her own party.

In their eagerness to fulfill a 2018 legislative campaign promise by year-end, House Democratic leaders are moving ahead with a separate bill, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which establishes its own preclearance formula that would only apply to 11 states: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

This bill, which was passed along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, is expected to be considered on the House floor in November.

A senior Democratic aide and a spokesman for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., both said separately they expected Fudge’s bill would be integrated into the Voting Rights Advancement Act prior to a floor vote.

But it’s unclear how the different formulas would be reconciled in a short amount of time, especially if Democratic party leaders want to pass their bill before the end of the legislative session — and at a time when their ongoing impeachment inquiry is rapidly overshadowing everything else.

Fudge — who asked for this assignment late last year in exchange for backing Nancy Pelosi of California for House Speaker — said she was unsure why House Democratic leadership is rushing to advance a bill that might need to be updated later.

“It’s most unusual,” she said.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., a close ally of Fudge and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, supported the Voting Rights Advancement Act on Wednesday but said he would have preferred to wait for Fudge to complete her report.

“I thought it was a mistake. I thought they should have waited,” he said of the move by Democratic leaders to push the legislation forward.

Some lawmakers are concerned that if Fudge’s findings get integrated into the broader bill, her efforts to respond to the Supreme Court’s challenge could get tainted by partisanship.

GOP lawmakers say they oppose the bill because it prohibits voter ID laws and requires states to get permission before putting in place very specific election procedures that have a history of being used for discriminatory practices.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a longtime supporter of preclearance who tried to pressure House Republican leadership to restore the formula in previous congresses and helped negotiate the last bipartisan Voting Rights Act reauthorization in 2006, accused Democrats on Wednesday of advancing a “poison pill.”

“This is a messaging bill,” Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio, another GOP proponent of the Voting RIghts Act, agreed.

Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the senior Republican on the elections subcommittee, said he felt very good about the process Fudge was undertaking and wouldn’t rule out being able to support her recommendations. But he said Democrats rushing to move the legislation through the Judiciary Committee was “tragic” and showed “they didn’t give a damn what we’ve heard in our subcommittee hearings.”

There’s no guarantee, however, that Republicans would ever support a rewrite of the preclearance formula in the Democratic-controlled House or the Republican-controlled Senate.

Some Republicans, like Sensenbrenner, wanted to address this issue when Republicans were in control of the House. But even those party leaders who claimed to be sympathetic to voting rights were hamstrung by rank-and-file lawmakers who were glad the mandate had been struck down, arguing that election laws should be left to the local governments and the old rules unfairly stigmatized their states.

While Davis insisted that Fudge was facilitating a process that could bring in Republican support, her more exhaustive list of states could end up alienating more GOP lawmakers who don’t want their states penalized. Davis conceded on Wednesday he had not yet spoken to his leadership about whether they’d support this effort.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., expressed some interest in debating the Voting Rights Act when he was the majority leader in 2015. His press office did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday regarding his current position.

Washington, D.C.Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05), the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and author of the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, delivered the following statement at today’s committee markup of H.R. 4:

Image

(You can watch his remarks here)

Mr. Chairman,

I think that my record in support of extending the Voting Rights Act and strengthening the Voting Rights Act speaks for itself. We’ve heard numerous comments by my colleagues from the other side of the aisle about those efforts—most recently in 2006.

Unfortunately, moving H.R. 4 today is going to set back efforts to fix the mistake that the Supreme Court made in the Shelby County case.

Every civil rights bill since the 1950s that has passed and been signed into law has been done on a bipartisan basis. This bill is not.

Now, following the Shelby County case, I was involved in a number of negotiations with people on the other side of the aisle to figure out what we could do to come up with a compromise bill that would attract bipartisan support. We were able to achieve that, but there are those who are opposed to the entire philosophy of the Voting Rights Act, specifically pre-clearance that ended up obstructing bringing that out.

During those negotiations, people on both sides—Republicans and Democrats—gave things up to try to reach something that would get bipartisan support. We were successful in doing that.

What has happened in this bill is that all of the things that Democrats gave up gets back in the bill. It’s kind of like the phoenix rising from the ashes. But none of the things the Republicans gave up end up going back into the bill. So, again, it is undoing the bipartisan negotiations that occurred in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

As a result, this bill will pass the House, it won’t go anywhere in the Senate, and is another partisan move that has made something, previously bipartisan in nature, partisan. It is a poison pill. It will be viewed that way. It will never become law.

So I’m not going to vote for this bill, despite my record and support of voting rights protections. I do believe that of all of the civil rights laws that were passed in the 50s and 60s, the Voting Rights Act was the most important and provided the most society and political change that this country has seen.

But this is not going to fix the problem of the Supreme Court. And that’s why I would ask my friends on the majority side to step back and decide whether you want an issue or do you want a law?

I vote for a law and I yield back.

Background:

First codified in 1965, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) protected citizens by requiring states with historical patterns of discriminatory voting practices accountable. States that failed to meet requirements covered under Section 4 of the VRA had to preclear any changes to an election with the Department of Justice. A state could seek relief from the preclearance requirement after demonstrating to the D.C. Circuit Court that it had not committed any voter discrimination infractions within a ten-year period.

Congressman Sensenbrenner led negotiations in the 1982 reauthorization which passed the House 389-24 and the Senate 85-8 and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. A ceremonial signing pen hangs in Congressmen Sensenbrenner’s office.

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Sensenbrenner led another VRA reauthorization in 2006. The Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, And Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act passed the House by 390-33 and the Senate by 98-0. President George w. Bush signed it into law on July 26, 2006.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that the standard for deciding whether a state met the threshold to be covered by preclearance requirements was unconstitutional because it was based on outdated information regarding voter discrimination. The decision effectively rendered Section 5 of the VRA unenforceable.

Less than a month after the Court made its ruling, Congressman Sensenbrenner testified alongside civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis (GA-05) before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of fixing and reinstating the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act. Together, they introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act the following March to restore the formula in a way that addresses the Court’s concerns. Congressman Sensenbrenner has reintroduced similar legislation in every Congress since.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2019 would apply equally to every state and only covers states with five documented violations within the last 15 years. 

Washington, D.C.—The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) honored Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) with its “Taxpayers’ Friend Award” for his strong voting record on supporting lower taxes, limited government, and economic freedom.

“My top priority in Congress will always be ensuring that taxpayers dollars are spent responsibility and effectively,” said Congressman Sensenbrenner“I’m proud to have received this award this year, as well as each year that it has existed, and will continue to fight government waste, fraud, and misuse of taxpayer dollars for the remainder of my career.”

“During his time in Congress, Rep. Sensenbrenner compiled one of the most principled, pro-taxpayer voting records in our nation’s history,” said Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President of the National Taxpayers Union.

Sensenbrenner is the only member to have received this award every year since NTU began its ranking. He has a straight-A record in ratings by the organization since 1992.


You can view NTU’s full 2018 congressional scorecard here

You can view NTU’s Taxpayer Score methodology here

You can view NTU’s press release regarding Congressman Sensenbrenner’s retirement here

By: Liliana Donato of the Daily Watch Reports

The pioneers of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee said late on Tuesday that they had started getting information from Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, Amazon and Apple as a major aspect of their test into the organizations’ potential ruptures of antitrust law. The test is one of a few at the government, state and congressional level planned for deciding whether the organizations utilize their significant clout in the online market wrongfully to damage opponents or generally overstep rivalry law. “We have gotten starting entries from Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook as a component of our examination. While we don’t yet have the majority of the data we mentioned, we expect that every one of the four organizations will give the data quite promptly,” the board of trustees’ pioneers said in a joint articulation.

“We anticipate their proceeded with consistence with the board of trustees’ examination,” they said in the announcement. The announcement was from Representatives Jerrold Nadler, administrator of the Judiciary Committee; Doug Collins, the top Republican on the board of trustees; David Cicilline, seat of the antitrust subcommittee and Jim Sensenbrenner, the top Republican on the antitrust subcommittee. “We will hold extra hearings, exchanges and roundtables as our examination proceeds,” the announcement said. Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Google (GOOGL.O) declined to state anything, while Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Apple Inc (AAPL.O) didn’t promptly react to a solicitation for input.

By: Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WASHINGTON - Wisconsin’s seven U.S. House members joined a lopsided bipartisan majority Wednesday in decrying President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, condemning that decision as beneficial to America’s adversaries.

The resolution passed the House by 354-60, with the support of every Democrat voting and more than two-thirds of Republicans.

Those voting for the measure included Wisconsin’s four House Republicans: Jim Sensenbrenner, Glenn Grothman, Mike Gallagher and Bryan Steil.  All three House Democrats from Wisconsin also voted yes: Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan.    (One of Wisconsin’s eight House seats is vacant due to the resignation of Sean Duffy of the 7th District). 

The vote was a rare two-party rebuke of the president and was preceded by widespread expressions of dismay within Trump's own party over the decision to withdraw troops, seen by critics as opening the door for Turkey to move militarily against the Kurds — a U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State — and potentially helping the Islamic State to reorganize itself and gain new strength.  

In an interview Wednesday after the vote, Sensenbrenner said the president's troop withdrawal has created in the short term a vacuum in the region that Russia is filling. 

"And the long-term consequence I think is people will wonder what the word of the United States is worth, because we've been backing the Kurds for a very, very long time and all of a sudden that backing was pulled out almost without notice.  And as a result, a group of people that has been essentially fighting on our side in all of the messes in the Middle East ends up getting a stab in the back," said Sensenbrenner, a member of the House foreign affairs committee.  

Republicans Gallagher and Steil have both signed on to a bill to impose sanctions on Turkey in response to Turkey's offensive against the Kurds. 

Some of  Trump's strongest GOP allies in Congress, such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, were pointed in their criticism this week of the president's policy. GOP congressional leaders also registered their disapproval. 

Adding to the backlash on Capitol Hill was the president’s news conference Wednesday where he said the conflict between the Turks and the Kurds has “nothing to do with us,” and said of the Kurds, “they’re not angels.” 

By: Andrew Blake of the Washington Times

Silicon Valley titans at the center of a congressional antitrust probe have begun responding to inquiries from Capitol Hill, lawmakers leading the investigation said.

Google’s parent company Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have each replied to requests for information made by the House Judiciary Committee, its top Democrat and Republican said in a joint statement Tuesday.

“While we do not yet have all of the information we requested, we expect that all four companies will provide the information in short order,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, and ranking member Doug Collins, Georgia Republican.

“The committee will review all of the information received from the companies in order to help inform next steps,” the lawmakers added. “We will hold additional hearings, discussions and roundtables as our investigation continues.”

The statement was cosigned by David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat, and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican, the chair and ranking member of the panel’s subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, respectively.

Each of the tech giants was contacted last month by the House Judiciary Committee and asked to provide a range of material related to antitrust matters, including emails and other internal data.

“We look forward to their continued compliance with the committee’s investigation,” said the statement.

None of the companies immediately returned messages requesting comment.