Speaker of the House Mike Johnson says he expects House Republicans will soon come to a decision on impeaching President Joe Biden, and praised Oversight Chairman Jim Comer’s “methodical” investigation he characterized as “outside the scope of politics,” while attacking both impeachments of then-President Donald Trump as a “sham.”
While claiming he has not “predetermined” if President Biden should be impeached, before becoming Speaker, Johnson had strongly suggested impeachment of the President was required by the Constitution in a House floor speech:
One thing that remains clear: The list of credible allegations that Joe Biden engaged in bribery schemes continues to grow.
The Constitution specifically lists bribery as a cause for impeachment.
We can’t have a President that is bought & paid for by foreign adversaries. pic.twitter.com/Kf9Ajh0yYU
— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) October 6, 2023
Contrary to Speaker Johnson’s remarks on Thursday at his first official weekly press conference, Chairman Comer’s investigation has been seen, even by Fox News, as lacking any actual substance or proof of any criminal or impeachable offense, while Democrats impeached Donald Trump for at least one action which he was later indicted on.
Earlier this year “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy slammed Chairman Comer live on-air.
“I know the Republicans said that the smoking gun were these financial records that you were able to subpoena and got your hands on,” Doocy said May 11, as HuffPost reported. “But that’s just your suggestion ― you actually don’t have any facts to that point. You’ve got some circumstantial evidence.”
“And the other thing is, of all those names, the one person who didn’t profit is ― there is no evidence that Joe Biden did anything illegally.”
HuffPost also reported Geraldo Rivera had written “that the committee’s ‘angry allegations are vague and general and do not point to specific crimes.'”
“And former Donald Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka said he was ‘not impressed’ by Comer’s allegations because he hasn’t found a ‘smoking gun’ example of the money actually influencing an official act by Biden.”
But on Thursday, Speaker Johnson declared Republicans have been working as the founders intended.
“So, many of you know my background, I’m a constitutional law attorney,” Johnson told reporters. “I believe this is a very serious matter. I was called upon to serve on the impeachment defense team in the House twice under President Trump when the Democrats used it for raw partisan political purposes, and I decried that at each step of the way.”
Trump’s first impeachment was for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The second impeachment of Donald Trump was for incitement of insurrection.
Insisting impeachment “cannot be wielded for political purposes,” Johnson, Speaker for less than two weeks, said he has “been very consistent, intellectually consistent in this and and persistent that we have to follow due process and we have to follow the law,” which he said means “doing appropriate investigations in the right way at the right pace, so that the evidence comes in and we follow the evidence where it leads, we follow the truth where it leads.”
He declared he was “not predetermined” on a decision to impeach President Biden, nor did he offer what the charges might be, “but I do believe that very soon we are coming to a point of decision on it.”
He claimed that “a lot of American people are anxious about this, many Republicans across the country are anxious to get to the end point on this. And I think some Democrats want to know how it ends as well. What you’re seeing right now is a deliberate, constitutional process that was envisioned by the founders, the framers of the Constitution.”
Despite what critics have charged is a clear lack of evidence of wrongdoing, Johnson insisted, “this is how” America’s founders “envisioned this to go – not the way the Democrats did it, snap impeachment, sham impeachment and all the rest.”
“So I know that I know that people are anxious about it, but I will say, Chairman Comer, Chairman Jordan in Judiciary, Chairman Smith in Ways And Means, they’ve done an extraordinary job, very methodically, and I would say outside the scope of politics, they’ve been taking in the evidence as it goes, so we’re going to follow the evidence where it leads and we’ll see. I’m not going to predetermine it this morning.”
Responding to Johnson’s remarks on Thursday, HuffPost’s senior politics reporter Jennifer Bendery said: “Mike Johnson, the architect of the GOP’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, says Dems impeached Trump twice for ‘raw, partisan, political purposes’ but commits to ‘follow the evidence where it leads’ in the GOP’s baseless impeachment inquiry into Biden.”
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), when asked if there’s enough evidence for the House to draft articles of impeachment against President Biden:
“As we stand here today, I’m not predetermined that, but I do believe that very soon we are coming to a point of decision on it.” pic.twitter.com/LZSvatxBA1
— The Recount (@therecount) November 2, 2023
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On World AIDS Day, DOJ Says Tennessee Law Discriminates Against Those With HIV
The Department of Justice celebrated World AIDS Day by calling out a Tennessee law that discriminates against people with HIV.
The DOJ released a report Friday that the state’s aggravated prostitution law violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. A person arrested under the aggravated prostitution law is normally changed with a misdemeanor, and faces up to six months in prison and a $500 fine. However, if the person arrested has HIV, the crime becomes a felony, and if they’re convicted, they would face between three and 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“Tennessee’s aggravated prostitution law is outdated, has no basis in science, discourages testing and further marginalizes people living with HIV,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “People living with HIV should not be treated as violent sex offenders for the rest of their lives solely because of their HIV status. The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are protected from discrimination.”
The law was originally passed in 1991. It classifies HIV-positive sex workers as violent sex offenders, according to WKRN-TV. This means that in addition to the sentence, those convicted are put on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry, usually for the rest of their lives.
The DOJ advised the state—and particularly, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, which enforces the statute most frequently, the department says—to stop enforcing the law. It also calls on the state to repeal the law and remove anyone from the registry when aggravated prostitution is the only offense. If this doesn’t happen, Tennessee could face a lawsuit.
Tennessee isn’t the only state to have laws applying to only those living with HIV. In 1988, Michigan passed a law requiring those with HIV to disclose their status before sex, according to WLNS-TV. The law is still on the books, but was updated in 2019 to lift the requirement if the HIV-positive person has an undetectable viral load. The law now also requires proof that the person set out to transmit HIV.
Laws like these can work against public health efforts, according to the National Institutes of Health. The NIH says these types of laws can make people less likely to be tested for HIV, as people cannot be punished if they didn’t know their status. In addition, critics say, the laws can be used to further discriminate. A Canadian study found a disproportionate number of Black men had been charged under HIV exposure laws.
World AIDS Day was first launched in 1988 by the World Health Organization and the United Nations to highlight awareness of the then-relatively new disease. The theme of the 2023 World AIDS Day is “Let Communities Lead,” calling on community leaders to end the AIDS epidemic.
Featured image by UNIS Vienna/Flickr via Creative Commons License.
John Fetterman Says Bob Menendez ‘Senator for Egypt,’ Should Be Expelled Next
Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) called Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) a “senator for Egypt,” and said he needed to be expelled from Congress, much like the now-former Representative George Santos.
Fetterman appeared on The View on Friday. The live broadcast aired as Santos had been kicked out of the House. When host Joy Behar asked what he thought of the vote, Fetterman immediately replied, “I’m not surprised.”
“If you are going to expel Santos, how can you allow somebody like Menendez to remain in the Senate? And, you know, Santos’ kind of lies were almost, you know, funny,” Fetterman said. “Menendez, I think is really a senator for Egypt, you know, not New Jersey. So I really think he needs to go.”
Host Sunny Hostin then asked if Fetterman was uncomfortable with expelling Menendez, as, like with Santos, he had only been indicted, not convicted.
“He has the right for his day in court and all of it, but he doesn’t have the right to to have those kinds of votes and things. That’s not a right,” he said. “I think we need to make that kind of decision to send him out.”
This September, Menendez was indicted on corruption charges. He is accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold and a car, as well as giving “highly sensitive” information about U.S. Embassy staffers in Cairo to the Egyptian government, according to USA Today. Menendez was forced to step down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was replaced by Ben Cardin, Maryland’s Democratic senator.
Menendez denied wrongdoing, and has refused to resign, despite many calls to do so from both Democrats and Republicans.
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said in a statement following his indictment. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”
This is not Menendez’s first brush with the law. Menendez was indicted in 2015 on federal corruption charges. He was accused of helping Salomon Melgen, one of Menendez’s campaign contributors, by intervening in a dispute with federal regulators and helping Melgen get a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.
In 2017, Menendez’s trial ended with a hung jury, and the Department of Justice declined to retry the case, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Menendez denied all wrongdoing.
House Votes to Boot George Santos 311-114
Representative George Santos (R-NY) has been expelled from Congress following a 311-114 vote; two House members voted “present.”
The expulsion of Santos follows a debate on his fate on Thursday. The vote required a two-thirds majority, or 290 of the 435-seat chamber. This is Santos’ third vote of expulsion; last month, a vote failed with 31 Democrats voting against, according to The Hill.
While the vote was decisive, some notable Republicans voted to save Santos, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN).
“We’ve not whipped the vote and we wouldn’t,” Johnson told CNN Wednesday. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”
Santos himself had harsh words for the House following the vote. Leaving the capitol building, he briefly spoke with reporters.
“The House spoke that’s their vote. They just set new dangerous precedent for themselves,” he told CNN. “Why would I want to stay here? To hell with this place.”
He then cut his time short, telling reporters, “You know what? As unofficially no longer a member of Congress, I no longer have to answer your questions.”
Santos also faces 23 federal charges, which include fraud, money laundering and misuse of campaign funds, according to CNN. He has pleaded not guilty. An Ethics Committee report found evidence that Santos used campaign funds for Botox and even an OnlyFans account.
On Thursday, Santos said he refused to resign because otherwise, “they win.”
“If I leave the bullies take place. This is bullying,” Santos said. “The reality of it is it’s all theater, theater for the cameras and theater for the microphones. Theater for the American people at the expense of the American people because no real work’s getting done.”
Santos also threatened to file a resolution to expel Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). Bowman pulled a fire alarm in September. Bowman pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge, and said it was an accident. He said he thought the fire alarm would open a locked door as he rushed to a vote. Bowman paid a $1,000 fine.
There have only been six total expulsions from the House, including Santos. Santos is the only Republican to ever be expelled from the House.
The previous expulsion was in 2002, when Representative James Traficant (D-OH) was expelled after a 420-1 vote. Traficant had been convicted on 10 counts of corruption-related crimes.
Before Traficant, Representative Michael “Ozzie” Myers (D-PA) was the first representative of the modern era to be expelled. Myers got the boot following his conviction for accepting bribes. Myers couldn’t keep out of trouble; in 2022, he was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison on charges of election fraud.
Prior to Myers, the only expulsions from the House were in 1861, at the start of the Civil War. Henry Cornelius Burnett (D-KY), John William Reid (D-MO) and John Bullock Clark (Whig-MO) were all expelled for joining the Confederacy.
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