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Republicans gag mentions of Trump conviction in House

Republicans gag mentions of Trump conviction in House
Republicans gag mentions of Trump conviction in House

 


The chamber of the United States House of Representatives is supposed to be a dignified place, where lawmakers refer to each other as gentleman or gentle lady, speak only to the president, and never engage in personally disparaging remarks to towards their rivals, an offense known as engaging in personalities.

But what happens when the leader of a party is a criminal convicted by a jury of things that would normally be considered unspeakable in the House?

Former President Donald J. Trump's historic crime conviction raised historic questions for House decorum rules, which have existed for centuries but can be bent to the will of the party that controls the majority-led chamber .

Republicans who now hold the majority have used these rules to impose what is essentially a gag order against talking about Mr. Trump's secret payments to a porn actress or that he is a criminal, even though those claims are false. these are no longer just allegations but the basis for a jury verdict of guilty. This, they said, constitutes a violation of House rules.

In short, perhaps the only place in the United States where people are not allowed to speak freely about Mr. Trump's crimes is the floor of what is often called the People's House, where Republicans went so far as to delete one of these mentions. the official file.

In recent weeks, Republican leaders have cracked down on Democrats who referenced Mr. Trump's legal cases, citing centuries-old rules of decorum dating back to the days of Thomas Jefferson. Simply mentioning that Mr. Trump is a criminal elicits a rebuke from whoever is presiding when the offensive fact is uttered. (Mr. Trump is also charged with crimes in cases related to his handling of classified documents and his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.)

The president would remind members to refrain from engaging in personalities toward presumptive nominees for president, is now a common phrase heard in the chamber after the words Trump and criminal are mentioned.

On one occasion, Republicans barred Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, from speaking for the rest of the day and removed his comments from the congressional record after he denounced Mr. Trump and his trials.

When they censor any mention of Donald Trump's criminal convictions, they are essentially trying to suppress a fact, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said in an interview. I know of no precedent where factual statements have been banned in our lifetime.

Mr. Raskin said the silencing of Mr. Trump's critics in the House had a historical analogue: the House's banning of laws relating to the abolition of slavery, before the Civil War. In 1836, the House adopted a so-called gag rule that automatically deferred action on all slavery-related petitions without hearing them.

From a legislative perspective, that was of course much more important than the new rule against mentioning Trump's criminal record, Mr. Raskin said.

Yet, he said, he considers the ban on criticizing Mr. Trump’s criminal status to be Orwellian.

The battle over what can be said in the House began last month after Mr. McGovern, the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, said Mr. Trump was on trial for concealing secret payments to a star. porn. political gain, not to mention three of the criminal charges he faces.

Representative Jerry Carl, Republican of Alabama and presiding officer at the time, chastised Mr. McGovern for engaging in personalities.

But Mr. McGovern insisted.

We have a presumptive presidential candidate facing 88 charges, and we are being prevented from even recognizing him, he complained, adding: He is also accused of plotting to overturn the election. He is also accused of stealing classified information, and a jury has already found him responsible for rape in civil court, and yet in this Republican-controlled House it is acceptable to talk about the trial, but it must be called this is a sham.

That's when Rep. Erin Houchin, Republican of Indiana, stood up to demand that Mr. McGovern's comments be retracted, meaning his remarks would be expunged from the congressional record and Mr. McGovern would not be allowed to speak on the floor for the remainder of the session. day.

After a long delay, while Mr. Carl figured out what to do, including consulting the parliamentarian, whose job it is to interpret the rules of the House, he signaled that Mr. McGovern's remarks would, in effect, be stricken from the report.

The Massachusetts gentleman's comments accuse a presumptive candidate for president of engaging in illegal activities, Mr. Carl said. Presumptive candidates for president receive the same treatment under the rules of decorum during debates as a sitting president.

In truth, Republicans have exempted themselves from this standard of equal treatment when it comes to President Biden, whom they routinely accuse of criminal conduct even though they have produced no evidence of it. Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, chairman of the Oversight Committee, began a recent meeting by simply stating that the rule against speaking ill of a president will not be in effect for the duration of today's hearing . Since this was part of an impeachment investigation, he explained, members must be allowed to speak frankly.

Republican leaders have often allowed their members to trample on rules of decorum without repercussions in other contexts as well, most notably when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia insulted the membership of Rep. Jasmine Crockett, Democrat of Texas, during a a committee hearing. Mr. Comer refused to retract his comments, as Democrats demanded, and allowed him to continue participating.

When it comes to Mr. Trump, Republicans go back to the 18th century to justify banning disparagement of him, believing in effect that he should be treated like a king.

Mr. Carl cited a section from Thomas Jefferson's manual, which governs standards of decorum in the House and states that personal abuse, innuendo or ridicule of the president is not permitted. Jefferson based this rule on a similar policy in the British Parliament of the time, which held that speaking irreverently or seditiously against the king was against the order.

(Jefferson prepared the rules for his own leadership while he was vice president, and thus president of the Senate, from 1797 to 1801. In 1837, the House adopted a rule that the provisions of his manual would also govern their chamber .)

Therefore, although remarks during the debate may include criticism of such a candidate's official positions, referring to the candidate in personally offensive terms, whether through an actual accusation or mere insinuation, constitutes a breach of the order, Mr. Carl said. He added: “An accusation that the president committed a crime, or even that the president did something illegal, is not admissible.

The decision sparked outrage among Democrats, who said they would continue to invoke Mr. Trump's legal cases in the House.

In recent weeks, Rep. Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, was reprimanded for saying that presidential candidate Donald Trump had just become a convicted felon, according to a jury of his peers. Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, told Republicans: “You are fighting for a criminal.

No Democrat since Mr. McGovern has had his remarks retracted, but the threat looms every time.

Ms Houchin said she asked for Mr McGovern's comments to be removed because, in her view, he had gone too far.

He could have chosen other words that would not have been removed, but because he persisted in making specific accusations, he broke House rules, she told reporters afterward.

Mr. McGovern's list of the various legal cases against Mr. Trump has been removed from the record, but because it is the 21st century, they live on in online videos.

For his part, Mr. Raskin has tried to find creative ways to invoke Mr. Trump’s criminal cases without running afoul of the ruling.

During a recent speech, he referred to an unspeakable American criminal, one of the country's 19 million people and an unrepentant, anonymous criminal from New York, without mentioning the former president's name. He referred to Mr. Trump's secret affair as the trial whose very existence must be sent down the Orwellian memory hole to save someone's hurt feelings.

In the interview, he noted that no rule could erase Mr. Trump's criminal status.

I fear that Republicans have started a competition to see how creative we can be in talking about Donald Trump's criminal convictions without explicitly saying those words, Mr. Raskin said.

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