Monday 7 a.m. update:
A Virginia lawmaker is now suggesting he won’t move forward Monday with plans to introduce an impeachment bill seeking the ouster of Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Democratic Del. Patrick Hope had said he wanted to introduce articles of impeachment Monday against Fairfax after two women recently accused the Democrat of sexual assault in the 2000s. Fairfax has vehemently denied the claims and called for authorities, including the FBI, to investigate.
Hope said on Twitter early Monday that he had circulated a draft of the impeachment action with his colleagues and received what he called “an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback.” Hope now says “additional conversations … need to take place before anything is filed.”
Impeachment was always unlikely to happen during this legislative session, but lawmakers could revisit it later this year if the political crisis continues.
WASHINGTON (WMAL) – Del. Patrick Hope is expected to make good on a promise to start the impeachment process Monday against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Friday Hope Tweeted, “On Monday, I will be introducing articles of impeachment for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax if he has not resigned before then.”
The impeachment process in Virginia looks a lot like the federal one according to Dr. Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. He said first the Virginia House of Delegates would have to decide whether there is enough evidence to move forward. Members would collect information and testimony and debate the strength of the case against Fairfax.
Attorneys for the women – Meredith Watson and Dr. Vanessa Tyson – accusing Fairfax of sexual assault said their clients would be willing to testify is there is an impeachment hearing.
Fairfax denies ever sexually assaulting anyone and has called on the FBI to investigate the accusations. He also asked people not to rush to judgement.
“Our American values don’t just work when it’s convenient — they must be applied at the most difficult of times,” Fairfax said in a statement.
Hope responded on Twitter Saturday, “The alleged crimes committed by LG Fairfax took place in Massachusetts and North Carolina. The impeachment process is the only way for Virginia to have the investigation that LG Fairfax has demanded.”
Farnsworth said any potential criminal charges would be dealt with in the legal system, which has its own set of standards.
“In an impeachment process, particularly in Virginia where this is a really an extraordinary circumstance that’s being contemplated, there isn’t a very clear track record of admissible and inadmissible evidence, for example, like there would be in a criminal case,” said Farnsworth.
After weighing the evidence, the house would then decide whether to forward the information to the Virginia Senate, which would try the impeachment and decide whether Fairfax should be removed according to Farnsworth. He said the timetable would be up to the elected officials.
In the meantime, Fairfax would continue to fulfill his regularly duties as lieutenant governor.
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