President Trump, having reached the historic — and infamous — landmark of being impeached twice, now faces trial in the Senate. But unlike the first time, he will no longer be in office. So, does the Senate have the power to try an ex-president on impeachment charges? The Constitution says that after the House of Representatives votes to impeach a president or any other civil officer, the case is sent to the Senate for a trial, which “shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification” from future office. Conviction requires a two-thirds vote, but barring Trump from future office would take only a majority vote. Scholars disagree about what the Founders intended. Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe and University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck note that there are six references to impeachment in the Constitution — references that make clear removal is only one of the purposes of impeachment…Former Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow explains that the court in that 1993 case viewed impeachment as a “political question,” not reviewable by the court because under the Constitution, impeachment “is given over entirely to Congress.” “I don’t think any member of this current court would want to get into this mess,” she adds. “This is one of the most controversial political moments in the history of the United states, dealing with an exceedingly unpopular president but one with devoted followers and a most divided Congress.” “Were the court to insert itself,” she says, “it would put at jeopardy the one thing that the courts has, which is an arm’s distance from the direct political process.”
As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy, with job losses mounting, work norms upended, and employees fearful for their safety, the country’s next Labor secretary will be thrust into the spotlight as never before. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to be the strongest labor president in American history, and as his pick for the crucial Cabinet position, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh could significantly improve the lives of working people across the country. He’s poised to lead the charge in restoring rules rolled back by the Trump administration, which steered employment regulations toward corporate interests, and to push for new safety regulations and other benefits for a workforce that has been battered by the coronavirus…It has been nearly 50 years since the country had a Labor secretary with union ties: Peter Brennan, a housepainter turned labor leader who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations. A number of progressive unions whose political leanings don’t often align with those of construction labor groups endorsed Walsh for the post, and this crossover appeal could help the Biden administration gain support from both sides of the aisle. “What strikes me as important about the Walsh choice is that it’s somebody with a clear commitment to the labor movement and the importance of unions and the importance of worker power, and that’s not always true about Labor secretaries, even Democratic ones,” said Benjamin Sachs, a labor professor at Harvard Law School.
For four years, President Donald Trump has careened from one crisis to the next, many of his own making. Still, through the Mueller investigation, two impeachments, the deadliest pandemic in a century, and even a failed and dangerous attempt to overturn his own election defeat, Trump and his administration remained steadfast in at least one quest: to weaken many of the country’s bedrock climate and environmental guardrails. Considered in the course of humanity — or the 4.5-billion-year history of this planet — a single presidential term is barely a blink of an eye. But in just four years, Trump has cemented a legacy — particularly on climate change — that will be felt by generations to come…President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement on Day One of his presidency, but experts say repairing the damage to the country’s international standing that was done by Trump abandoning the accord will not be easy. “In one sense, it’s easy for President Biden to announce on the first day he’s in office that the US will rejoin,” said Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor who served as counselor for energy and climate change in the White House under President Barack Obama. “The hard part is to put together an ambitious, credible pledge for what the US is prepared to do to meet their Paris Agreement commitments.”
An op-ed by Nikolas Bowie: Every January, I write a letter to my incoming law students to get them excited about learning constitutional law. That letter was not easy to write this time. The past few years have shaken my faith in the Constitution. Like many law professors, I once confidently predicted that the Constitution would never permit a president to ban Muslim travelers or put toddlers in cages. I also thought the document prohibited police officers from inflicting excessive force on Black bodies — despite everything I witnessed to the contrary. Still, as recently as two months ago, I thought there was consensus around some interpretations — for instance, that nothing in the Constitution permitted anyone to single-handedly overturn the results of a presidential election. The white nationalists who stormed the Capitol to reject that interpretation left me questioning how long the document will survive. Yet as surprised as I was, I had to share a difficult truth with my students: This has all been a continuation of — not an aberration from — America’s constitutional tradition. A striking photo from the insurrection depicts a man holding a Confederate flag outside the Senate chamber. Behind him, on permanent display, is a portrait of John C. Calhoun. Calhoun roamed the Capitol shortly after its construction by enslaved workers. He boldly protected the system of racialized violence that oppressed these workers — as did the Constitution.
A podcast by Noah Feldman: Understanding the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6th relies on understanding the modern history of the white power movement. In this rebroadcast from 2019, historian Kathleen Belew discusses the modern history of the white power movement and the often overlooked connection between incidents like Charlottesville and the Oklahoma City bombing.
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein: A lot of people are falsely shouting fire these days, and causing panics. Should they be punished? What about the platforms that host them? For some shouts, the answer is clearly yes. In 2019, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg called for national regulation, specifically emphasizing harmful content and the integrity of elections. Whatever you think of his particular proposals, he pointed in promising directions. In the last year, Twitter and Facebook have taken significant voluntary steps to combat misinformation, including warnings, reduced circulation and removal. Should the government step in to oversee those steps? Should it require them? Should it forbid them? Should it demand more? To answer these questions, we need to engage the First Amendment. The Supreme Court did that in 2012, offering something like a green light for falsehoods. In a key passage in the case of U.S. v. Alvarez, the court invoked the totalitarian dystopia of George Orwell’s “1984” to declare, “Our constitutional tradition stands against the idea that we need Oceania’s Ministry of Truth.” The case involved Xavier Alvarez, an inveterate liar who falsely claimed that he had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. That claim violated the Stolen Valor Act, which made telling that particular lie a crime. The court struck down the law, ruling that Alvarez’s lie was protected by the First Amendment.
Trump will no longer be president by the time any Senate trial concludes. Two experts, Professors Laurence Tribe and Ross Garber, debate whether the Senate can still try a former President.
The Senate vote on whether to remove President Donald Trump from office will not happen until he is no longer in office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made that reality plain soon after the House voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday. “Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office,” he said. “This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact.” Which raises two obvious questions: 1) Can you impeach (and remove) a former president from office? 2) What, exactly, is the point of doing it — even if you can? The first question is, interestingly, something on which there is considerable debate among Constitutional scholars…Laurence Tribe, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, wrote this Wednesday in response to Luttig’s argument: “To be sure, a former officer may no longer be ‘removed’ even upon conviction by a two-thirds vote. But that has no bearing on whether such an ex-officer may be barred permanently from office upon being convicted. That separate judgment would require no more than a simple majority vote. Concluding otherwise would all but erase the disqualification power from the Constitution’s text: If an impeachable officer became immune from trial and conviction upon leaving office, any official seeing conviction as imminent could easily remove the prospect of disqualification simply by resigning moments before the Senate’s anticipated verdict.”
An op-ed by Einer Elhauge: President Trump’s defenders are claiming that his incitement of the attack on the Capitol is protected by the First Amendment under the venerable case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, and that he shouldn’t have been impeached for it or that he should be acquitted. But this claim is wrong. Even if Brandenburg applied to impeachments, which are different from criminal cases, the facts of that case are easily distinguished, and Trump’s conduct clearly meets the legal standard that Brandenburg set. The case dates to 1964. At a Ku Klux Klan rally on June 18, after a film that contained some hateful speech about Black and Jewish people, the defendant gave a short speech at a farm in Hamilton, Ohio. The only arguably inciting part of the defendant’s speech was that “if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the White, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken.” In other words, the speaker simply said that if suppression continued for a sufficiently long period of time, his organization might have to take vengeance of some unspecified form at some unspecified future time. The defendant in Brandenburg also said that the KKK planned to march on Congress on July 4, but that was over two weeks later, and his speech didn’t indicate that he thought the suppression of White people would have continued for long enough by then that the July 4 march would be the right occasion for any possible revenge.
Glenn Greenwald was pissed. The Columbia Journalism Review had just asked whether Substack should remove the writer Andrew Sullivan from its service. And having recently joined the email newsletter platform himself, Greenwald attacked. “It was only a matter of time before people started demanding Substack be censored,” he said, taking it a step further than the CJR. Last October, Greenwald left The Intercept, a publication he founded, claiming the publication’s editors, who previously hadn’t touched his work, “censored” him ahead of the 2020 election. So he moved to Substack, which advertises itself as a home for independent writing…Substack, Spotify, and Clubhouse’s current perspective on content moderation mirror how Twitter, Facebook, and Google once viewed the practice. Twitter executives initially called themselves “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” Facebook insisted it had no business touching political content. YouTube allowed Alex Jones and other wingnuts to build misinformation empires on its service. Now, Substack CEO Chris Best — reflecting the smaller platforms’ attitude on moderation — told CJR that if you’re looking for him to take an “editorial position” you should find another service. After initially resisting aggressive content moderation (aside from no-brainers like child porn), the bigger platforms have slowly relented. “They are agreeing that they need to moderate more aggressively and in more ways than they used to,” Evelyn Douek, a Harvard Law School lecturer who studies content moderation, told OneZero. And if past is prologue, their path to the current state is worth revisiting.