Pa. Senate approves rules for impeachment trial, invites House to present articles against Krasner
Pennsylvania Senate Chambers. Source: WikiMedia Commons
Beginning its constitutional role in the impeachment process against Philadelphia’s top prosecutor on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Senate approved two resolutions setting rules for the rare and lengthy process and formally inviting the House of Representatives to deliver the articles to the upper chamber.
The resolutions, put forth by recently elected Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, are the first step toward a trial, which could end with the removal of Larry Krasner as district attorney of the state’s largest city. Lawmakers voted 30-20 to approve both measures, with Philadelphia Sen. Jimmy Dillon being the only Democrat to vote in favor of the resolutions.
After the House impeachment managers — two Republicans and one Democrat — and sergeant at arms on Wednesday present the articles of impeachment, which accuse Krasner of misbehavior in office and obstructing a legislative investigation, Senate lawmakers will take an oath to uphold the state Constitution during the trial.
The Senate on Wednesday also will consider a writ of summons notifying Krasner to answer and appear before the upper chamber. A response is required by Dec. 21.
The trial will begin on Jan. 18, marking the first impeachment proceeding in nearly three decades. The late Rolf Larsen, a Supreme Court justice at the time, was removed from the bench for improperly discussing court matters in 1994.
A two-thirds majority vote in the Senate is required to remove Krasner from office, meaning that some Democrats in the 50-seat chamber would have to support the measure for it to succeed.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, argued against the resolutions, saying they should expire at the end of the current legislative session, which is Wednesday. Costa added that some lawmakers who voted on the trial rules would not be returning for the next two-year legislative session.
He also noted the power shift in the House, saying that proceeding with a trial would undermine voters who elected a Democratic majority in the lower chamber during the Nov. 8 general election. Krasner, a Democrat, easily won re-election last year.
The House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order, which was formed in June to investigate and review rising crime rates in the state’s largest city, has focused on Krasner’s approach to prosecuting crime in Philadelphia. In September, the GOP-controlled panel conducted a series of public hearings with live testimony on gun violence.
Earlier this year, the House voted 162-38 to hold Krasner in contempt for refusing to respond to a subpoena issued by the GOP-controlled committee.
Krasner agreed to testify before the committee. But there were conditions from the panel, including that the meeting would take place behind closed doors without a public live stream or audio recordings. While the committee would have a copy of the testimony, Krasner said he could not make a copy.
During an October press conference at the Capitol, Krasner — who has urged lawmakers to focus on a statewide review of gun violence and increased crime through a public process — told reporters that Republicans were using impeachment as a “political stunt.”
After the impeachment vote in the House earlier this month, Krasner accused those backing his impeachment of using “the drastic remedy of impeachment of an elected official because they do not like their ideas.” He has also argued that lawmakers are trying to “erase” Philadelphia voters by attempting to remove him from office.
“They have impeached me without presenting a single shred of evidence connecting our policies to an uptick in crime. We were never given the opportunity to defend our ideas and policies — policies I would have been proud to explain,” Krasner said. “That Pennsylvania Republicans willfully avoided hearing the facts about my office is shameful.”
State Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, who heads the House Democrats, said she was disappointed that Senate leaders continued “the political games initiated by the House Republicans in the final weeks of our legislative session.”
McClinton called the upcoming impeachment proceedings “nothing more than a distraction from the GOP’s failure to take any meaningful action on violence prevention during its lengthy leadership tenure.”
“This impeachment fails to meet the high standards outlined in our state Constitution — both procedurally and substantively,” she said. “As lawmakers, we each take an oath to uphold the Constitution, not undermine its legitimacy for perceived political gain.”
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