Thursday, May 23, 2024

In the GOP House, details of Trump’s trials are an unfair personal attack. (Phillip Bump column, WaPo)

Unconstitutional, outrageous, intentional rule-twisting by Dull Republicans, a sin, a crime or a tort? The ex-President is not a King.  The ex-President is not a member of Congress.  Hence, the rule has been. misinterpreted, intentionally, by the House Parliamentarian and the Speaker of the House."What do you expect from a pig but a grunt?"  New Orleans DA Jim Garrison,  played by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone's movie, "JFK."  So is the party of book-banning, intolerant, stiff-necked LGBTQ+ bashing fascists (calling themselves "conservative") House Republicans a cult, or KKKult)? You tell me.  The House is now headed by Speaker Michael Johnson, who was a mouthpiece for mendacious book-banners and Gay-bashers before being elected to Congress.  What rough beasts haven taken over the People's House.  Hang your heads in shame, GQP. Here is Phillip Bump's analysis from The Washington Post:

In the GOP House, details of Trump’s trials are an unfair personal attack

Rep. Jim McGovern’s (D-Mass.) articulation of Trump’s legal issues on Wednesday was stricken from the record.

Analysis by 
National columnist
May 22, 2024 at 5:03 p.m. EDT
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, speaks during the panel's meeting last month. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
5 min
Add to your saved stories

candidate for president of the United States is on trial for allegedly helping facilitate a hush money payment to a porn star to avoid a sex scandal during his 2016 campaign, and then fraudulently disguising those payments in violation of the law. He’s also charged with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election. He’s also charged with willful retention of classified information. And a jury has already found him liable for rape in a civil court.

As you probably know, those statements apply to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee on November’s presidential ballot. They are also statements that, with only a few slight changes, were deemed unfair personal attacks by House Republicans and removed from a record of debate on Wednesday afternoon.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) rose on the House floor to challenge having been admonished for saying Trump had been indicted by a grand jury and is on trial. He made a parliamentary inquiry about the admonishment; that is, he asked Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry L. Carl (R-Ala.) for clarification on the rules of debate. Specifically: “Has the chair determined that it is unparliamentary to state a fact?”

Carl was handed a note, suggesting that McGovern's question was anticipated.

The chair is not in a position to determine the veracity of remarks made on the floor,” he replied as the member facilitating debate at the time. “Members must avoid personalities.”

McGovern declared this to be “unbelievable.”

“Personalities” is another of those terms that has a specific meaning in the context of the House. It comes from a long-standing rule governing debate in that chamber, including the rules adopted for the 118th Congress.

“Remarks in debate (which may include references to the Senate or its Members),” Rule XVII, Section 1b states, “shall be confined to the question under debate, avoiding personality.” And “avoiding personality” means, simply, not making personal attacks on peers.

The intent is to foster collegiality, to keep members of Congress from attacking other representatives, senators or the president. In this way, decorum might be maintained and interpersonal disparagements limited.

But Trump is not a representative, senator or president. He is a private citizen, at least at the moment. And there are broad protections granted to members of Congress under the Constitution’s speech and debate clause. That clause protects sitting legislators from lawsuits for defamation, among other things, specifically to allow them to speak freely. McGovern has broad impunity for his comments when speaking from the House floor — except, it seems, from rebuke by the Republican majority.

To McGovern’s point, it’s fraught to suggest that statements of fact are personal attacks. He noted that previous comments about the trial in New York, in which Republicans called it a “sham,” did not prompt any sanction. His articulation of Trump’s status, though, did.

Pressing his point, he outlined the facts at the beginning of the article.

“These are not alternative facts. These are real facts,” he began. “A candidate for the United States is on trial for sending a hush money payment to a porn star to avoid a sex scandal during his 2016 campaign, and then fraudulently disguising those payments in violation of the law.”

We can split hairs here; the payment was sent by his attorney, Michael Cohen. And Trump is innocent until proven guilty, so we use the word “allegedly.” But “on trial for” serves a similar purpose and the allegations made otherwise comport with his articulation.

“He's also charged with conspiring to overturn the election,” McGovern continued, referring to charges in Fulton County, Ga. “He's also charged with stealing classified information.”

That latter claim is a stretch. Trump isn’t charged with stealing or theft but, instead, with “willfully retaining” documents in his possession. It’s the difference between you picking my pocket and you running off with my wallet instead of returning it after I asked you to hold it for a moment.

McGovern added that “a jury has already found him liable for rape in a civil court,” which is true.

It was at about this point in McGovern’s soliloquy that Rep. Erin Houchin (R-Ind.) demanded his comments be stricken from the record. Carl stated that the words would be taken down and told McGovern to sit down.

This probably wasn’t a great idea from a political standpoint. The clip of McGovern’s objection and comments was shared on social media, where prominent Democrats quickly jumped in to defend the legislator — and ensure their followers saw what he said. This is the Streisand Effect at work: the effort to suppress awareness of information can draw even more attention to it.

But we shouldn’t lose sight of McGovern’s broader point. It is both the case that his comments were (largely) accurate and also that they were embarrassing for Trump and, by extension, members of his party who seek to downplay his legal problems. McGovern highlighted this tension, giving Republicans the opportunity to argue that true things said about a nonmember violated rules of decorum barring the disparagement of elected officials.

Houchin and Carl obliged.

Philip Bump is a Post columnist based in New York. He writes the newsletter How To Read This Chart and is the author of The Aftermath: The Last Days of the Baby Boom and the Future of Power in America. Twitter

No comments: