What You Need to Know About Big Tech’s Crackdown on Trump, Parler


What You Need to Know About Big Tech’s Crackdown on Trump, Parler

Virginia Allen @Virginia_Allen5 / January 12, 2021/ 0 Comments

Twitter permanently banned President Donald Trump from its platform following the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol. Pictured: Trump speaks in the Oval Office before signing an executive order related to regulating social media on May 28. (Photo: Doug Mills/Getty Images)

Following the mob violence at the U.S. Capitol last week, Facebook suspended President Donald Trump from its platform, and Twitter followed suit shortly thereafter. 

Over the weekend, Google and Apple removed Parler, a social media platform widely used by conservatives, from its app stores. Then, Amazon suspended Parler from its web services Sunday evening. Now, many Americans are voicing their concerns over the power such platforms have to limit free speech. 

Klon Kitchen, director of the Center for Technology Policy at The Heritage Foundation, joins the show to explain why Twitter and Facebook say they banned the president, and why Google, Apple, and Amazon are actively suppressing Parler. 

Kitchen also explains what laws and reforms are needed to keep the power of technology giants in check. 

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Virginia Allen: I am joined by Klon Kitchen, the director for the Center for Technology Policy at The Heritage Foundation. Klon, welcome back to the show.

Klon Kitchen: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Allen: So, big tech companies and free speech is definitely on everyone’s mind this week after rioters forcefully entered the Capitol and caused a full lockdown of the building last Wednesday.

Twitter suspended President Donald Trump’s Twitter account first for just 12 hours, but then shortly after they reinstated his account, Twitter banned President Trump from the platform permanently. 

Could you just walk us through the reasoning for why Twitter said that they decided to permanently ban the president from their site?

Kitchen: Sure. And as I do, a bit of context here, conservatives have been concerned about the way the tech industry has been handling itself and conservatives’ reach online for a long time. 

And these companies have utterly failed to win and to hold public trust. That reality is really making an already difficult situation right now even worse because of things like this, where this type of action was taken. 

I’ll walk through a little bit of the rationale behind it, but frankly, the intentions of these companies just aren’t broadly trusted. And so regardless of the relative merit, of the individual case or not, a lot of people are just unhappy and we’re all trying to navigate that. So, that’s just context and I just kind of want to recognize that reality.

In terms of what happened with Twitter’s permanent ban of President Trump, as you said, following the events last week at the U.S. Capitol, he was put on a 12-hour suspension. At the point where he came back up at the end of that suspension, he posted two tweets. 

The first tweet said this: “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, America first, and make America great again, will have a giant voice long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape, or form.” 

He then followed it up with a second tweet that said this: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Now, Twitter initially determined that these tweets did not in and of themselves violate their community standards, and so they were left up. And one could read through those and say, like, “Well, I mean, like, you may agree or disagree with kind of whatever it is the president said, they don’t seem particularly kind of provocative.” 

But Twitter also decided that what they were going to do was they were going to kind of watch the online conversation around these tweets. 

As they did that, they began to observe a growing number of users that were citing or interpreting [the] president’s tweets, those two particularly, as calling for or justifying additional violent political rallies or actions. And that even specific and deliberate planning, including dates and locations, was starting to evolve and be discussed and organized on Twitter and on other social media platforms. 

And that’s actually, if you take a look at the Twitter’s announcement of the ban, they actually kind of obliquely referenced that rationale in the very first paragraph, where they talk about how these tweets are being interpreted and used.

So, this led Twitter to ultimately close the president’s account and to begin working with federal law enforcement and to leverage existing counterterrorism partnerships with other tech companies to begin sharing threat information as this challenge kind of grew.

Now, one final point. I think it’s fair to say that while what I just described as the immediate context for this decision, I think it also is true that this decision is the culmination of four years of sparring between the president and Twitter. The most recent thing may have just been the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

But what we’re seeing now, even a news reporting that’s coming out today, is that these threat streams that seem to have motivated Twitter are now coming into public view and the FBI is now actively warning against some of this.

Allen: Klon, I mean, of course there are instances where individuals should be removed, should be blocked. We obviously don’t want to see people calling for violence, using these platforms to provoke violence. 

But following that logic that essentially Twitter looked at those two initial tweets, they saw that the tweets themselves didn’t violate their standards, then to remove the president because of conversations happening off of those initial tweets—it seems to me that it would make more sense just to focus on removing those individuals who are the ones that are spurring on the violence instead of removing the leader of the free world from Twitter.

Kitchen: Yeah, I think that’s a fair critique. I think one of the challenges is, one, they absolutely did pivot and start focusing on the people who were actually doing the planning. That was clearly happening. 

I think two, one of the things that we have to recognize is it’s broadly believed that there were things that the president has said over the course of time and specifically most recently that actively instigated some of the activities that we observed last week. 

I mean, one of the president’s most ardent supporters, Sen. Lindsey Graham, on Wednesday night came to the Senate floor and said exactly that. As did [Rep.] Liz Cheney, as did [Sen.] Tom Cotton, as did a whole host of other people. 

So, when Twitter gives the justification that, “Hey, we’re concerned that leaving these tweets up … ”—meaning the president’s tweet—“ … could inspire or lead to additional violent action,” whether we agree with them or not, they certainly weren’t the only ones who were making similar judgments. 

And it wasn’t only left or liberal commentators making that judgment, it was also, frankly, those on the political right, even in the U.S. Senate.

Allen: We have seen that a lot of conservative users are saying that many of their followers have all of a sudden disappeared. Do we know kind of the situation there? What’s happening with mass amounts of people, it seems to be, being taken off the site? And then who is making those decisions for who gets to stay and who’s taken down?

Kitchen: Yup. So, almost near simultaneously to the action against the president, we began observing the loss of thousands of “conservative”—I’m putting that in air quotes because it’s just impossible to know—but conservative followers on Twitter, particularly those who followed conservative influencers. 

And what we have discovered and what’s occurring is that as Twitter and other social media organizations began investigating this threat stream about online kind of anti-government planning, they realized that a key part of what was kind of fomenting that and also kind of spreading it were these users and networks associated with the QAnon conspiracy. 

And so it was decided to increase the scrutiny on those accounts, the QAnon accounts, in an effort to, one, mitigate their ability to kind of coordinate and plan, and then, two, also mitigate the kind of spread of their content.

What that mitigation effort largely consisted of was any account that showed activity that looked like it was either spam or bots—these are kind of automated fake accounts, when I say bots, that’s what I mean—that they immediately moved those accounts into a kind of purgatory status where the owner of the account had to verify that they were in fact a real person. And if they could verify that, usually it’s typically with just a phone number, then they would be reinstated. 

Well, when those accounts were put into that purgatory state, they dropped off the follower count and they went quiet. 

So what happened was it turns out that on the political right side of Twitter and social media, a fair number of our conservative influencers are also followed by these large QAnon networks. And so when they got taken down, you saw a corresponding decrease in the number of followers because those networks, those spammer networks, those bot networks, were being taken down. And the people who are making that decision are the social media companies themselves.

Allen: OK. So at the end of the day, that, in some ways, it’s not a bad thing to have these sort of bot platforms being pulled down.

Kitchen: I mean, look, the influencers will make an argument that it was bad for them because it cuts down on the kind of propagation of their … So, there are plenty of people who are saying, “Look, I’m being suppressed here. You’re preventing the spread of my [message]”—meaning the conservative commentator’s message—“by taking down, you know, my followers, by, you know, thousands at a time.” 

And technically speaking, that’s not wrong. That is one of the consequences. But we’ve often encouraged both sides of the political, or have been encouraging these social media companies to take down these types of networks. And particularly in the context where these networks are being leveraged to plan anti-government violence. It seems like a rational, or at least defensible choice.

Allen: Of course. Let’s talk for a minute about Facebook. So Facebook, they really didn’t hesitate. Right away after the events at the Capitol on Wednesday, following, of course, first, President Trump’s rally, and then the full lockdown of the Capitol, Facebook announced that they were banning [the] president through at least the end of his term. What do you think about Facebook’s decision?

Kitchen: I think any content moderation decision, including who gets to stay on a platform and who doesn’t, is almost always going to be debatable. There’s no ironclad logic that will satisfy everybody. 

I, of course, think that Facebook is a private company and has a choice in whom it will allow to use its platform in the same way that The Heritage Foundation has a choice in who it will allow to use its website to post articles.

I think it hurts the conservative cause. Even if you believe that big tech has waited with bated breath to constrain conservative speech, if you believe that, if you have drawn that conclusion, well, then one of the best things that conservatives can do to combat that is not give them golden justifications for taking that kind of action. 

And the reality is, is that over the last several weeks and even longer, a number of golden opportunities have been presented. And so it makes it really difficult to discern the motives behind any one thing, but this is the sticky situation. 

It goes back to my point at the beginning. The fact that the public does not trust these companies is decisively bad for the country in these types of moments.

Allen: Klon, I think one of the reasons why so much of the public doesn’t really trust these companies is because we’re often seeing, it feels like, these standards applied unequally. That you’ll have groups on the right more frequently targeted than those on the left. 

Is that a fair assessment? I mean, have we seen Twitter and Facebook apply any of these standards to leaders on the left on their platforms? Have any prominent liberal lawmakers been fact-checked or banned?

Kitchen: So, No. 1, what you’re describing is exactly the issue. And look, at one instance, these companies are absolutely hypocrites, and we’ve certainly said that to them to their face. 

I mean, at the point where you have the ayatollah of Iran able to call the state of Israel a cancer on Twitter and that gets left up, but then other actions are taken, I think they’re completely open to legitimate claims of hypocrisy. 

And I have been at the forefront of engaging them on those issues, as Heritage has been more broadly, and I think that’s legitimate.

At the same time, it is also true that actions are taken against Democratic and left-leaning users online, and that that’s not always known. 

A recent example is that there were a host of liberal and left-leaning groups that were labeled or checked, or even kind of brought down, on the night of the Georgia Senate election because they prematurely declared victory. 

Now, that happened, and it happened at a fairly significant scale, but frankly, the left just isn’t as organized as the right is when it comes to this. They’re so fractionalized along different identities that they often aren’t able to kind of make the noise that our side is able to do when action is taken against them online.

Allen: So then what actions should be taken in order to kind of make sure … the standards are applied equally and evenly? Are there certain laws that need to be passed? 

What needs to happen in order for us to be able to move forward in a way that the American people can begin to see that these companies are taking some responsibility for their actions and are actually applying their standards evenly?

Kitchen: That’s the big question. One, there is no silver bullet. Two, there are some very practical things that can be done. 

So, in terms of beginning to directly address the lack of confidence in these companies, I think there has to be some demonstrated accountability. I think these companies have to demonstrate some accountability. 

And I think one of the best ways to begin that—this is not going to be decisive, it’s not sufficient, but it is required—and that is reform of what’s called Section 230. This is what’s called intermediary liability protections that these companies enjoy. 

We’ve written a paper about it. I’ve got it on our website. I’m sure you can link to it. But it’s “Section 230: Mend It, Don’t End It,” in which we lay out a number of very specific changes to that law that we think would bring it into compliance with its original intent. And that would begin to provide the type of accountability that we’re talking about here.

Allen: How do you think the rest of the world is kind of viewing this situation? Because as you mentioned earlier, we’ve seen other very dictatorial, radical, violent leaders in countries like Iran and China who are allowed to remain on platforms like Twitter and yet President Trump has been pulled off. 

So, what are we kind of hearing from the international community about how this is being viewed?

Kitchen: Well, China specifically is watching this and they are then explaining to people how this is yet another piece of evidence that our system of government is unsustainable and that the alternative that they’re offering is a better way. 

And what they say is, like, … the Chinese government says they can promise the wealth of capitalism coupled with the stability of authoritarianism. And they identify technology as being the kind of key mechanism for realizing both of those two promises.

And so they look at our democracy and without a doubt, our shared experiment in ordered liberty right now feels very disordered. It feels very messy. And in one sense, it is. In another sense, I would encourage conservatives to also understand that our nation has faced challenges like this before, that we have some underlying institutional stability that allows us to see our way through it. 

We certainly need to exercise prudence and caution and charity, frankly, toward one another, but we can get through this. 

I don’t buy into apocalyptic notions about where the nation is right now. But that would certainly be something that the Chinese and the Russians and the Iranians and the North Koreans and all kinds of other foreign bad guys out there would have us believe. And I think that is neither safe nor justified.

Allen: It certainly flies in the face of who we are as Americans that one of our foundations is that of free speech. And even with private companies where the First Amendment doesn’t directly apply to them, there’s no doubt that free speech is something that is really sacred for Americans in that social media space and is still thought that it should be guarded and protected. 

So, how do we go about promoting that free speech online?

Kitchen: Look, our system of government is not made for efficiency, right? Our system of government is made for stability, and there are some internal tensions that are kind of baked into the cake. And one of those tensions is when we talk about valuing freedom of speech, that’s absolutely the case. But we mean that not just for individuals, but also entities like these companies. 

The decisions that they’re making about who will and will not be on their platform, those are free speech issues on their part, again, in the same way that we would never want the government to come in and tell Heritage that we have to post certain materials on our website, that Heritage doesn’t want to post for whatever reason. 

But the reality is that Section 230 governs that activity, Heritage’s online presence, as much as it does Facebook’s online presence.

And so the rules that we make for the one are going to apply to the other. And so there’s just this inherent tension that we’re going to have to navigate. 

Now, there’s room for improvement. And that’s why we wrote the paper on Section 230 and we made the recommendations that we had. 

But … everyone should understand that fixing Section 230, one, is going to be requiring a scalpel, not a broad sword. And two, that that is in no way, shape, or form a silver bullet because we have these baked intentions within our society that are going to persist long after Section 230 is dealt with.

Allen: Klon, one of those sort of free market solutions that we’ve seen in recent years arise are other social media platforms. And there’s one in particular that I’d love to chat about for a few minutes called Parler. And that’s known to be very friendly to conservatives. It doesn’t censor posts. 

Many on the right, they’ve been using Parler to share their ideas. And after the events of Wednesday and President Trump’s removal from Twitter, we saw a real flood of conservatives moving over to Parler, but Apple, Google, and Amazon have removed or taken away services from the Parler app. 

So, let’s start with just talking about Apple and Google. Can you just explain what exactly is going on there with more or less kind of their censorship almost of Parler?

Kitchen: Well, OK. So, this goes back to the investigation that came on Twitter in terms of the anti-government violence planning. And as all of that was being mapped out, it was discovered that a huge center of gravity for that activity was actually occurring on Parler. And so as the various platforms became aware of that reality, they began to take action. 

So, when Twitter learned that people were using Twitter that way, Twitter had moderation rules that allowed them to kind of take action and remove those accounts. 

Parler is deliberately kind of making its brand that we’re the “no moderation” social media company. Well, what that means is that they actually don’t have, and weren’t, moderating [of] any of that violent content or that content justifying violence on their platform. And they also did not have any type of a mechanism for users to report that kind of content.

Well, not moderating violent content and not having a mechanism to report violent content actually violates the rules that Apple and Google have set for being hosted on their app stores. And the reason that they have those rules is because if someone were to use Parler’s app to successfully plan and conduct a violent act, well, if Apple and Google were aware of that activity, but allowed it to persist, then they could be held liable. 

So, that is one of the reasons why … Google just kicked them off completely as soon as they discovered it. Apple gave them 24 hours to adopt new moderation controls, and Parler failed to do that. 

And so both of them out of, I mean, frankly, a self-preservationist motivation, said, “Well, OK, well, we’re not going to assume the liability of this. If you’re not going to take action, we’re not going to host you.”

It was similar when Amazon made its decision. Amazon has similar rules. Amazon provides the cloud infrastructure that supports Parler. And for the same rationale of not wanting to be held liable for the violent content on Parler, [Amazon] said, “Listen, you either take care of this or we’re going to no longer host your services.” Parler failed to take care of this, Amazon dropped them. 

And now, subsequent cloud service providers for the exact same reasons are not willing to take them up.

So, the bottom line here is that it’s not as though other social media companies didn’t have the idea that Parler was offering of trying to be kind of a free speech zone, meaning like a zero-moderation zone on social media. It’s just that by becoming that, by choosing that business model, two things happen. 

One, you tend to be a pretty gross place. There’s lots of stuff that shows up. Some of the worst stuff on the internet ends up being on your platform because you’re not moderating. And not a lot of people want to go there. 

And then two, you expose yourself to these types of existential liabilities. And this was always going to be something that Parler faced, and at the point where that inherent challenge intersected with the ongoing anti-government violent planning, that just became the straw that broke the camel’s back for these other companies.

Allen: So, then, taking all that into consideration, as a tech policy expert, what is your assessment of Apple, Google, and Amazon’s actions here?

Kitchen: Well, so, looking at just the facts and not trying to discern intentions, the fact base that’s laid out there in terms of their concerns about liability, I mean, that’s legitimate, it’s discernible, it’s clear. That’s true. 

I mean, just imagine for a second if we found out that there was an app on the Google and Apple app store that … let’s say it was a Saudi Arabian messaging app. And we found out that al-Qaeda used that app to successfully plan an attack against the United States and that Apple and Google knew that that activity was going on on that app and didn’t take action against it. What do you think would happen to those companies?

Allen: Yeah, it wouldn’t end well.

Kitchen: No, right? I mean, certainly they would be dragged before Congress, rightly, and grilled and asked, “Why did you allow this activity to happen?” But then there would be very real legal liabilities that they would be exposed to, and rightly so. Well, this is exactly that kind of scenario, right?

Allen: Yeah.

Kitchen: That doesn’t mean that I’m letting them off the hook for their hypocrisy or for the thousands of other dumb things that they have done or ways that they have treated the conservatives. I’m not denying any of that. But in this specific case, over the last six days, the things that are being asserted and the fact pattern that is being laid out would seemingly justify at least some of these actions.

Allen: Klon, this is obviously such a complex issue. There’s so many layers here and various facets to the situation. 

But for individuals who are just kind of looking at the situation, and I think specifically for conservatives who are feeling really overwhelmed and just kind of watching so quickly how it feels like all of these social media companies have very, very quickly, it sort of feels like are intentionally pushing those on the right out, pushing them off. And I think people are kind of wondering like, where does this stop? 

I mean, are all of conservatives going to essentially be thrown off of these social media platforms? I mean, how concerned should we kind of be about where this leads and where it’s going to end?

Kitchen: Well, I think real concerns are justified in terms of, even if what’s going on right now is completely legitimate, it is a valid concern to be worried that these concerns could be expanded to include much broader types of conservative content that we would have a real problem with, right? 

So, I am very sympathetic to that concern. And it’s something that we at The Heritage Foundation are obviously mindful of and pushing back on. 

We’re wading into this conversation, trying to be kind of the adult in the room by recognizing the realities that we’ve been talking about up until this point and recognizing the very real negative kind of overreach that could follow all of this.

But while we engage in that, I’m often telling myself two things. One, well, don’t give them any excuse, right? So, really be smart about how I’m operating. But then two, understand that there’s some inherent risks to the way we’ve organized our society, where these companies and individuals have rights, have freedoms. And sometimes those rights and freedoms are bumping into one another. 

Now, that doesn’t mean that the status quo is the best possible way. In fact, I feel like the status quo is probably unsustainable. And so we need to be thinking very carefully about how we allow these companies to play a role in our society, to what degree, if any, we need to impose some type of a constraint on them, but we also need to understand the full consequences of any constraints that might be placed on them. 

And that again, our underlying conservative political philosophy understands that there is no perfect solution, it is always about trade-offs. But I think it’s time to start thinking more carefully about what trade-offs may be warranted in this modern context.

Allen: Klon, we really appreciate your expertise on this issue. How can our listeners follow your work and keep up with all the research and the work that you’re doing on this issue?

Kitchen: Yeah. Thank you. Well, I mean, I try to be available on podcasts like this. They can go to the Heritage website and do a simple name for my search. It’s Klon … Kitchen, just like the room. You’ll see, I think most of everything I produce, whether it’s published somewhere else or not, there. 

I have a newsletter, a weekly newsletter called the Kitchen Sync, … where I just kind of comment and give updates on the latest tech policy and news. You can sign up for that, I think, on the Heritage website as well. And yeah, I think that’s a good way. 

You can also follow me on Twitter, if that’s your thing, @klonkitchen. And yeah, I’m happy to engage as I can.

Allen: Great. Klon, thank you so much. We really appreciate your time today.

Kitchen: My pleasure.

——-


NEWS

Could Trump Face Impeachment Trial After Leaving Office? 7 Things to Know

Fred Lucas @FredLucasWH / January 11, 2021 / 0 Comments

A protester identified as Kenneth Lundgreen makes his point Monday as police set up barricades outside Twitter’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco after the social media giant permanently barred President Donald Trump from its platform. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/ Getty Images)

Democrats want to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, but they’ll have to hurry—even to get a simple majority vote in the House of Representatives. 

The goal of a second impeachment would be to disqualify Trump from holding office again. Or, more to the point, prevent him from running for president in 2024. 

Here are seven things to know as impeachment moves forward, again. 

1. When Would Impeachment Happen?

It appears likely that the Democrat-controlled House would impeach Trump before he leaves office but deliver the article or articles of impeachment to the Senate after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. This could reportedly happen as early as Wednesday. 

The demand for socialism is on the rise from young Americans today. But is socialism even morally sound? Find out more now >>

House Democrats introduced one article of impeachment Monday, charging the president with “incitement of insurrection.” 

The measure was co-authored by Reps. David Cicilline, D-R.I., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., all members of the House Judiciary Committee and close to House Democrat leadership. 

In a public statement, the three Democrats said:

Last Wednesday marked one of the darkest days in the history of our country. After months of agitation and propaganda against the results of the 2020 election, the United States Capitol—the citadel of our democracy—was attacked as President Trump’s supporters attempted to stage a coup and overturn the results of our free and fair presidential election. We cannot allow this unprecedented provocation to go unanswered. Everyone involved in this assault must be held accountable, beginning with the man most responsible for it – President Donald Trump. We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies—foreign and domestic.

The House Judiciary Committee could expedite the matter without a hearing and pass articles of impeachment with a party-line vote, as it did in late 2019. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she would bring a vote on impeachment to the House floor if Vice President Mike Pence didn’t convene the Cabinet to remove Trump under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. 

Most constitutional legal scholars say the 25th Amendment wouldn’t be applicable in this case because it was meant for circumstances when a president is incapacitated.  

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he would bring up Raskin’s proposal to form a 25th Amendment Commission to evaluate the physical and mental fitness of the president for continuity of government. The congressional commission still would have to work with the vice president.

Pelosi tweeted Monday that the House would vote on the 25th Amendment legislation, and if this did not succeed, “As our next step, we will move forward with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=dailysignal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1348677048634634247&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailysignal.com%2F2021%2F01%2F11%2Fcould-trump-face-impeachment-trial-after-leaving-office-7-things-to-know%2F&siteScreenName=dailysignal&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=500px

It requires only a simple majority in the House to approve articles of impeachment. However, it requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, after a trial, to remove a president from office. 

In late 2019 and early 2020, Trump—like Presidents Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868—was impeached in the House and acquitted by the Senate. 

Those previous impeachments of presidents, as well as impeachments of judges, had a goal in mind, said Thomas Jipping, former chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, who was involved in the impeachment trial of a federal judge in 2010.

“It is supposed to be the first step in the removal of a public official from office,” Jipping, deputy director of the Mees Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “What is the point of removing someone from office who doesn’t occupy that office?”

An ABC News poll found 56% want Trump to leaveoffice before the end of his term. 

2. How Would Disqualification Work?

Trump and some supporters have indicated he would run again for president in the 2024 race. 

But the Senate could vote to disqualify Trump from holding any future federal office. 

Article I, Section 3, Clause 7 of the Constitution says that if a federal official is convicted in an impeachment trial, “judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.” 

Unlike removal from office, the Senate needs only a simple majority to disqualify someone from holding office. However, a two-thirds vote for removal must first occur before moving forward to the disqualification vote. 

“The Senate trial would require a two-thirds votes on removal, after that, the next step would be further sanction, mainly prohibiting him from holding office again,” Michael Lawlor, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven, told The Daily Signal.

Lawlor helped lead the impeachment effort against a Connecticut governor. 

“They could potentially strip [Trump] of a presidential pension, Secret Service protection and a presidential stipend,” he said.

Lawlor, a Democrat, was chairman of the Connecticut Legislature’s House Judiciary Committee and a member of the House impeachment committee investigating then-Gov. John G. Rowland, a Republican, in 2004. In that case, Rowland resigned and the House took no further action.  

3. When Would Senate Hold a Trial?

Senate rules say an impeachment trial must begin at 1 p.m. the day after the Senate receives the article or articles of impeachment from those chosen to be the House impeachment managers. 

So, the earliest a trial could start would be when the Senate is back in session, which Jan. 20. That’s the day of Biden’s inauguration as president. 

However, Senate Democrat Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., reportedly will seek the support of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to use a 2004 Senate rule to allow the leaders to recall the Senate into emergency session before Jan. 20. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=dailysignal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1348752843054993413&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailysignal.com%2F2021%2F01%2F11%2Fcould-trump-face-impeachment-trial-after-leaving-office-7-things-to-know%2F&siteScreenName=dailysignal&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=500px

But the second Senate trial of Trump could happen more than three months later. 

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., saidSunday that the House could take up impeachment this week, but hold off on delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate until after 100 days into Biden’s term. 

The reason would be to prevent a distraction from Biden’s legislative agenda, Clyburn said. 

An impeachment at this point would be almost entirely political theater, presidential historian Craig Shirley says. 

“This would be a sequel to a bad movie,” Shirley told The Daily Signal, adding: “Even for Democrats, Trump is good for ratings; whether someone has a good, bad, or indifferent view of Trump, he draws attention.”

4. Could the Senate Disqualify Trump From Future Office?

Once all the senators are seated for an impeachment trial, to convict Trump would require 17 Republican senators to vote with all Senate Democrats. 

Again, the Senate could not move to a simple majority vote to disqualify Trump from holding office unless it already had a vote of two-thirds or more to convict the president. 

To put it one way, a conviction requires a supermajority of 67 out of 100 senators. A sentencing would require only 51 votes. 

After Georgia Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff take office, the Senate will be split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. And once sworn in as Biden’s vice president, Kamala Harris, in her role as president of the Senate, will give the Democrats a majority in case of tie votes.

Many Senate Republicans—including Ben Sasseof Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—expressed strong disapproval of some of Trump’s remarks to supporters in a rally  before the Capitol riot. But reaching 17 Republican votes to convict would be difficult, particularly if Trump already is out of office. 

Given the slim chance of a conviction, impeachment after Trump leaves office would be largely a political move, Jipping said. 

“They want him to leave office as bruised and roughed up as possible, and sullied in the eyes of the public,” Jipping said. “The point would be to inflict as much damage politically as possible.”

But there is a path to convicting Trump, Lawlor said. If Trump or his associates were aware that rhetoric at the rally was a signal to riot at the Capitol, he said, Republican senators likely would get on board. 

“I’m not sure it’s that unlikely,” Lawlor said, adding:

It depends on what we find out over the next few weeks. Was there some collusion with the folks at the Capitol? Republicans might say, it was really that bad. … If there is evidence this was an intended outcome, if Trump—aside from maybe being a cheerleader—knew this would happen, more Republicans would vote to convict.

5. What Happens If Trump Pardons Himself?

Whether a president can pardon himself never has been tested, though Trump reportedly is considering the move.  

The Constitution’s pardon clause provides that the president “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”

So, a pardon would shield Trump from prosecution at the federal level, but it would have no effect on Congress’s power to impeach and remove him. 

A pardon also wouldn’t prevent Trump from being prosecuted at the state level. New York Attorney General Letitia James has targeted Trump, long a New York-based developer and businessman. 

“For a president to pardon himself would give the appearance a president of the United States is completely above the law,” Lawlor said. “It would be tested in the Supreme Court. It’s like a law school debate of nightmare scenarios.”

Constitutional scholars argue about the topic, Shirley said. 

He said it will take time for emotions to cool and temperatures to lower to assess Trump’s presidency and accomplishments such as record economic growth, Middle East treaties, and successful development of vaccines to fight COVID-19.

“He didn’t end his presidency well,” Shirley said. “He had a good story to tell as a one-term president. It would have been a good story to tell for a two-term president. But you can’t judge the Trump presidency without judging his character. It’s not just accomplishments. It’s also character.”

6. What Other Impeached Officials Were Disqualified?

Out of 15 federal judges impeached in U.S. history, eight were removed from office. The Senate voted to disqualify three of those eight judges from holding federal office again. 

In 1862, Judge West H. Humphreys of the Western District of Tennessee was the first judge to be impeached, convicted, removed, and disqualified from holding future office. 

Humphreys stands out for being found guilty of “waging war on the U.S. government” during the Civil War.

The other two judges prohibited from holding office again had been charged with corruption: Judge Robert W. Archibold of the U.S. Commerce Court in 1912, and Judge Thomas Porteus of the Eastern District of Louisiana in 2010. 

The most notable federal judge to be impeached by the House and removed by the Senate but not disqualified from holding future office was Judge Alcee Hastings of the Southern District of Florida. In 1988, the House charged Hastings with perjury and soliciting a bribe.

After he was acquitted in a later criminal trial, Hastings ran for Congress in 1992 and won. He continues to represent Florida’s 20th Congressional District. 

 7. What Usually Happens When an Impeached Official Is Out of Office?

The House in 1876 impeached a Cabinet secretary after he had left office. The Senate acquitted him in a trial. 

In the most recent example, the Senate in 2010 dropped a trial for a federal judge who had resigned. 

Judge Samuel Kent of the Southern District of Texas was accused of sexual misconduct in August 2008. Kent pleaded not guilty to five related charges. 

The next month, he pleaded guilty in a criminal court to obstruction of justice in connection with making false statements to a special investigative committee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

The guilty plea to obstruction allowed Kent to avoid prosecution on the other charges.As part of the plea, though, the judge admitted to engaging in nonconsensual sexual contact with two court employees. He was sentenced to 33 months. 

A special House investigative committee to explore impeachment, chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, who would go on to lead the impeachment of Trump, began hearings with Kent’s alleged victims on June 2, 2009. 

Kent had announced that he would resign in a year—on June 1, 2010, which would have allowed him to continue collecting his salary for a year. Kent reported to prison on June 15, 2009. 

The House on June 9 recommended four articles of impeachment against Kent. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the articles and sent the articles to the House floor the next day. 

On June 19, the full House approved two articles of impeachment related to sexual assault, one for obstruction of justice and another for providing false statements to the FBI. 

The Senate trial began June 24 with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., as chairwoman and Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., as vice chairman of the specially appointed Senate Impeachment Trial Committee. The same committee handled the trial of Porteus. 

On June 25, when Senate staffers traveled to a prison to present Kent with a summons to testify, the judge gave them a handwritten resignationnote. This time the resignation was effective June 30, 2009.

The House then passed a resolution, HR 661, to end the Kent proceeding, and the Senate special committee took no further action on Kent. 

“There would have been no point in moving forward with a vote to remove him from office because he already quit,” Jipping said. “After HR 661, there was no reason to pursue any further.” 

Another example, in the executive branch, goes back to the scandal-plagued War Secretary William Belknap of  the Grant administration. In 1876, a House investigation found evidence that Belknap took part in kickbacks and other corruption involving a military vendor that paid $20,000 to the war secretary. 

On March 2, 1876, Belknap resigned from office just minutes before the House was scheduled to impeach him. The Democrat-controlled House nevertheless approved five articles of impeachment, including one accusing Belknap of “criminally disregarding his duty as Secretary of War and basely prostituting his high office to his lust for private gain.”

The fact that Belknap no longer held office didn’t prevent the Republican-controlled Senate from holding a trial. On Aug. 1, 1876, a Senate majority voted in favor of all five articles of impeachment against Belknap—well short of the two-thirds required to convict.

The former war secretary was acquitted and never prosecuted.

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I have read several books by Alan Dershowitz and he is a liberal but he does look at the constitution honestly and here he has made some very insightful observations that I am sure will upset Democrats but nonetheless will not slow them down from impeaching the President a second time because of their hate of all things Trump!

Dershowitz: Senate Rules Would Prevent Impeachment Trial Of Trump

Dershowitz: Senate Rules Would Prevent Impeachment Trial Of TrumpAn image from video of Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for President Donald Trump, walking from the podium after speaking on behalf of the president during the impeachment trial in the Senate on Jan. 27, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)By Newsmax Wires 
Sunday, 10 Jan 2021 2:42 PM

Join in the Discussion!


Harvard law professor and constitutional law expert Alan Dershowitz on Sunday warned an impeachment of President Donald Trump won’t go to trial — but could “lie around like a loaded weapon” for both parties in the future.

In an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Dershowitz said a Senate trial of citizen Trump would be unconstitutional.

“It will not go to trial,” he said. “All Democrats can do is impeach the president in House of Representatives, for that you only need a majority vote. 

“The case cannot come to trial in the Senate” because of rules that do no allow it until, “according to the Majority Leader [Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.), until 1 p.m. on Jan. 20” — an hour after Trump leaves office.

Read Newsmax: Newsmax – Breaking News | News Videos | Politics, Health, Finance
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“Congress has no power to impeach or try a private citizen, whether it’d be a private citizen in Donald Trump or …. Barack Obama or anyone else,” he said. “The jurisdiction is limited to a sitting president and so there won’t be a trial.”

But Dershowitz said he worried more about  is“the impact of impeachment on the First Amendment.”

“For 100 years the Supreme Court and other courts have struggled to develop a juris prudence which distinguishes between advocacy and incitement.”

“To impeach a president for having exercised his First Amendment rights would be so dangerous to the Constitution, it would lie around like a loaded weapon ready to be used by either party against the other party and that’s not what impeachment nor the 25th amendment were intended to be,” Dershowitz said.

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Mark Levin Podcast * Mark’s radio show | 08 January 2021

Levin: Media ‘exploiting’ Capitol riot to ‘silence conservatives’ as Democrats work to ‘choke the system’

‘The media have played a huge, huge role in what’s going on in this country,’ says ‘Life, Liberty & Levin’ host

By Charles Creitz | Fox News

The mainstream media is “exploiting” Wednesday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol building in an effort to “silence” conservatives and Republicans, Mark Levin says on this week’s episode of “Life, Liberty & Levin.”

The host emphasizes that “we should be furious about what happened on Capitol Hill,” but adds that “the media have played a huge, huge role in what’s going on in this country.”

“We need to reject all this violence, but what about the media?” asks Levin before displaying front pages of various newspapers from around the country. 

“The New York Times: ‘Trump Incites Mob’. This is projection,” Levin contends. “This is projection. He never did that. Or The Washington Post: ‘Trump mob storms Capitol’. There were hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people there … That’s an awfully broad brush. Or the [New York] Daily News: ‘President Incites Insurrection’ … or USA Today: ‘Pro-Trump Mobs Storm US [sic] Capitol’. How about ‘Thugs Storm U.S. Capitol’? How about ‘Lawbreakers Storm U.S. Capitol’?”

Levin then calls out politicians like Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who he says are also “exploiting the situation.”

“They’re talking about impeaching the president of the United States or [invoking] the 25th Amendment nine days before he leaves office,” the host says. “Do they even know what’s involved in the 25th Amendment?

WATCH ‘LIFE, LIBERTY & LEVIN’ SUNDAYS AT 8 PM ET ON FOX NEWS CHANNEL

“So they double down, they triple down, they quadruple down. They’re not going to change at all. On one side of their mouth, they talk about unity. Out of the other side of their mouth, they spit on people,” he goes on. “Seventy-four million [Trump-voting] people and more, they’re not going away. Their concerns still exist.”

Meanwhile, Levin says, House Democrats are working toward their goal to “choke the system even further” by passing a rules package for the 117th Congressthat makes it “virtually impossible for Republicans to even propose legislation or amend legislation, even though [they] only has a 10- or 11-person majority in the House.”

“Nancy Pelosi … eliminated 100 years of tradition …”, the host argues, “and the media are trying to intimidate conservatives and constitutionalists by projecting onto them the violence that occurred by reprobates and others who need to be tracked down and punished.

“So it seems that the lessons have not been learned,” Levin concludes. “They certainly haven’t been learned by the left, they certainly haven’t been learned by the media, and they certainly haven’t been learned by the Never Trumpers.”

—-

December 13, 2020

Office of Barack and Michelle Obama
P.O. Box 91000
Washington, DC 20066

Dear President Obama,

I wrote you over 700 letters while you were President and I mailed them to the White House and also published them on my blog http://www.thedailyhatch.org .I received several letters back from your staff and I wanted to thank you for those letters. 

I have been reading your autobiography A PROMISED LAND and I have been enjoying it. 

Let me make a few comments on it, and here is the first quote of yours I want to comment on:

The story of how this postwar consensus broke down—starting with LBJ’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his prediction that it would lead to the South’s wholesale abandonment of the Democratic Party—has been told many times before. The realignment Johnson foresaw ended up taking longer than he had expected. But steadily, year by year—through Vietnam, RIOTS…and Nixon’s southern strategy; through busing, Roe v. Wade, urban crime, and white flight; through affirmative action, the Moral Majority, union busting, and Robert Bork; through assault weapons bans and the rise of Newt Gingrich…and the Clinton impeachment—America’s voters and their representatives became more and more polarized.

During 2020 I have noticed lots of riots and looting across the USA and I wanted to ask you why it is always the liberals doing that? AND WHY DIDN’T ANYONE CONDEMN THESE ACTIONS AT THE 2020 CONVENTION AND DIDN’T YOU SPEAK AT THE CONVENTION TOO?

Philadelphia Riots Another Case of Street Violence Used to Advance Radical Political Agendas

https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/10/28/philadelphia-riots-are-another-case-of-street-violence-used-to-advance-radical-political-agendas/embed/#?secret=TeMODTeKco

Philadelphia Riots Are Another Case of Street Violence Used to Advance Radical Political Agendas

James Carafano @JJCarafano / October 28, 2020 / 4 Comments

Philadelphia Riots

In Kenosha, Portland, Seattle, and Chicago, city officials have tolerated criminal activity performed by mobs for politically motivated reasons. Philadelphia appears to be the next hotspot for mob violence to go unchecked. Pictured: A barricade is set on fire during a night of looting and violence in Philadelphia on Oct. 27. (Photo: Gabriella Audi/AFP/Getty Images)

COMMENTARY BY

James Carafano@JJCarafano

James Jay Carafano, a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges, is The Heritage Foundation’s vice president for foreign and defense policy studies, E. W. Richardson fellow, and director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies. Read his research.

Like the replay of a bad movie, a law enforcement incident in Philadelphia triggered an excuse for violence and looting. It remains to be seen whether the City of Brotherly Love will become the next “Kenosha,” where city officials moved quickly to restore order and seek state and federal support—though sadly after 48 hours of opportunistic looting, violence, and destruction devastated the city.

Or perhaps Philadelphia will be the next PortlandSeattle, or Chicago, where systemic attacks seem to be a daily occurrence.

Police in Philadelphia are fully capable of restoring peace. The open question is whether the mayor and Larry Krasner, the former defense attorney-turned elected rogue prosecutor, will do their job and hold people accountable for their crimes.

When local, state, and federal governments work together, act quickly, and demonstrate no tolerance for organized violence to advance radical agendas, communities are kept safe and equal protection under the law is afforded for all citizens.

The left is actively working to undermine the integrity of our elections. Read the plan to stop them now. Learn more now >>

On the other hand, when local officials, the media, and politicians ignore, excuse, normalize, and enable violence, everyday Americans pay the price.

There is a plague sweeping this country that many don’t want to talk about: The deliberate use of street violence to advance radical political agendas, often under a smoke screen of campaigning for civil liberties. The evidence of organized criminal activity at the root of the outbreaks in American cities is mounting.

The list of people enabling this violence sadly includes some public officials, who are principally responsible for ensuring public safety. For example, a growing threat to peaceful communities is “rogue prosecutors,” former criminal defense attorneys recruited and funded by liberal billionaire backers, who—once elected—abuse their office by refusing to prosecute entire categories of crimes.

These rogue prosecutors are usurping the power of the legislature in the process, and ignoring victim’s rights—all to advance their politics.

Baltimore is a perfect  example. Since being sworn into office, under the watch of Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.

Rogue prosecutors fuel street violence by refusing to prosecute rioters and looters. When confronted with the rising crimes rates, Mosby called the statistics “rhetoric.”

The only way to break the cycle of violence is for local and state officials to work with each other, and if necessary, the federal government. They need to stop enabling the destruction of property and lives on their streets, and start investigating and prosecuting the individuals (and organizations) behind the riots.

It’s time to start shaming and calling out the media, politicians, and advocates who excuse and normalize the violence.

There is a proven action plan for making our streets safe. It is past time for officials to start following this blueprint.

There is no time—zero time to waste. There are already fears of more violence in our streets, regardless of the outcome of the national elections.

In my hometown of Washington, D.C., downtown buildings are already boarding up in anticipation of violence on our streets after the election. If Trump wins, violence. If Biden wins, violence. This makes no sense, and it’s time for it to stop.

It is time for every official and public figure, every political party, in every part of the country to publically reject violence on American streets as a legitimate form of protected speech. Violence is not protected speech, period.

The notion of deliberately destroying the lives and property of our neighbors to advance a radical political agenda is abhorrent. American leaders—of all stripes—should stand up now as one and reject these violent acts. It has gone on for too long, well before the death of George Floyd.

Leaders in Philadelphia and across America must take a principled stand to demand the end to this violence, and they need to do it before the election. In one voice, they should demand: “Leave our streets alone.”

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733 everettehatcher@gmail.com

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