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Political Notebook: Burr says Trump violated oath of office, may face censure for impeachment vote

Despite initially believing the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump was unconstitutional once he left office, Sen. Richard Burr joined six other Republican senators in finding Trump guilty for inciting insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

He may face censure by the North Carolina Republican Party for the vote.

With only 57 senators voting guilty, the two-thirds majority needed to convict the former president on a charge of inciting an insurrection and ultimately bar him from running for president again was not reached. A total of 43 senators voted not guilty, including Sen. Thom Tillis.

Burr joined six other Republicans in casting the “guilty” verdict despite initially stating the trial was unconstitutional. He said his decision was not made lightly, but that it was necessary. He added that since the majority of the Senate voted to proceed with the trial, it became established precedent.

“I have listened to the arguments presented by both sides and considered the facts. The facts are clear,” Burr said. “The president promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to cast doubt on the integrity of a free and fair election because he did not like the results. As Congress met to certify the election results, the president directed his supporters to go to the Capitol to disrupt the lawful proceedings required by the constitution. When the crowd became violent, the president used his office to first inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault.”

Burr added in a statement that Trump, “violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States.”

Burr said he hoped that after the vote American can move forward and focus on the critical issues facing the country.

In a statement released quickly after the vote, Michael Whatley, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, on Saturday said Burr was sent to the U.S. Senate to “uphold the constitution,” calling his vote to convict in a trial Burr deemed unconstitutional “shocking and disappointing.”

Sunday night, multiple news outlets quoted N.C. GOP spokesman Tim Wigginton as saying the party’s central committee would meet Monday to consider a resolution to formally censure Burr for his impeachment vote. If approved, it would make him the latest in a series of Republican officials who have been formally censured by their own party for impeachment votes.

Former N.C. Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse wrote for The Carolina Journal that the resolution is expected to pass.

A censure resolution does not carry a formal penalty. It’s a formal statement of disapproval.

Tillis said his vote was based on two fundamental issues with the impeachment process, including the decision to hold a trial for a private citizen and the charge itself. He said there remains valid questions of whether it is constitutional for Congress to put a private citizen on trial, but that even so, “it isn’t prudent in the absence of a thorough impeachment inquiry.”

“The House managers argued impeachment was necessary to bar former President Trump from running for president again,” Tillis said in a statement. “Their rationale is not rooted in any consistent, objective standard and collapses on itself: what accountability would a trial provide to a second-term president who commits impeachable offenses in their final days in office when they are already constitutionally barred from seeking another term? I have faith in the American people to determine whether former President Trump disqualified himself from seeking the presidency in the future.”

Tillis added that the ultimate accountability is through the nation’s criminal justice system “where political passions are checked and due process is constitutionally mandated.”

Tillis criticized the House for declining to interview a witness and conduct a formal and thorough investigation.

 “The impeachment power should be used sparingly and only after careful and deliberate consideration, regardless of whether the individual is still in elected office,” he said. “In their haste to impeach, they completely bypassed all due process for the first time in our nation’s history — including no representation of defense counsel in House proceedings, limited sharing of validating evidence and only calling for witnesses after they already rested their case before the Senate.”

With the next presidential election four years away, Tillis the House has plenty of time to follow due process to attempt to build a credible case if the goal is to bar Trump from running for office again.

Tillis said the most serious aspect of Trump’s conduct “was not necessarily what he said in the lead-up to the attack of the Capitol,” but instead the lack of leadership he showed to put an end to it. He criticized House Democrats for not building their case around that.

NC Association of Educators respond to new CDC school reopening guidelines 

The North Carolina Association of Educators last week commended the CDC’s new school reopening guidelines and called on the state General Assembly to follow the science-based guidance.

NCAE is a state education advocacy organization for public school employees and represents active, retired and student members.

Moving through the North Carolina legislature currently is a bill that would mandate in-person learning options for K-12 students. Following successful passage through the Senate, the House also quickly passed it last week by a vote of 74-44. The bill was sent back to the Senate for a final vote, but some senators disagreed with changes made by the House and have since sent it to a conference committee to negotiate a compromise.

The bill would give school districts two weeks of planning before students return to the classroom at least part-time. It also would require the option of full-time, in-person learning for all special-needs students. Families who wish to continue with remote learning could do so.

Among the CDC recommendations is that 6 feet of social distancing should be “maximized to the greatest extent possible.” The NCAE criticized the state’s Plan A full enrollment guidelines that don’t set a 6-foot social distancing goal.

“This guidance is also a clear statement that Gov. Cooper should veto Senate Bill 37,” NCAE said in a statement. “This risky bill would allow North Carolina middle and high schools to fully reopen without 6 feet of social distancing to protect students from COVID-19. This bill flies in the face of this new CDC guidance. For all the politicians who have claimed to stand up for science, here is your chance. The science says schools can reopen safely during this pandemic when we use a host of safety measures — including six feet of social distancing.”

 

Applications wanted for annual Youth Legislative Assembly

Leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly are inviting North Carolina high school students to apply for the Annual Youth Legislative Assembly program.

The program offers students an opportunity to learn first-hand about the legislative process and to develop leadership skills that will help them succeed in life, said Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore.

The Legislative Services Office, under the North Carolina General Assembly, is now accepting applications for the conference to be held May 1 at the North Carolina General Assembly. Applications will be accepted through April 2 and can be found online at ncleg.gov/YLA. The program is open to students in North Carolina who are in good standing at a public, private, charter or home school.

The YLA teaches high school students about the laws governing North Carolina’s citizens as well as the lawmaking process. Students draft, debate and vote on mock legislative bills while developing skills in research, interviewing, group facilitation and policy writing. As the bills are debated, the students get a chance to practice communicating their ideas, opinions and experiences in a team-building environment. At the conclusion of the three-day program, the participants have a better understanding of the lawmaking process as well as enhanced written and oral communication skills. YLA provides the opportunity for North Carolina’s youth to engage with peers from across the state in a structured, positive, youth-focused environment.

For more information, email YLA Coordinator Erica Gallion at erica.gallion@ncleg.net or call 919-301-1372.

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