Republicans Seek Biden’s Impeachment
Amid Allegations of Influence-Peddling

     Constitutional law experts advised a congressional committee Thursday to be careful about overstepping its authority as lawmakers consider impeaching President Joe Biden.
     Republicans accuse him of using his political leadership to enrich himself and his family through influence-peddling with foreign enterprises.
     If true, the accusations would create an illegal conflict of interest for the president.
     Investigators have “uncovered a mountain of evidence” against the president, said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.
     Although the president’s son, Hunter Biden, led “hIs family’s corrupt business dealings,” witnesses, bank records and emails show his father appears to have participated, Comer said.
     The Biden family gained at least $24 million from influence-peddling, much of it from businesses in Russia, China, Ukraine and Romania, he said. An ongoing investigation shows additional payments to the Bidens that might have violated laws on foreign agents and lobbying, according to the president’s Republican accusers.
     Joe Biden denies the accusations, saying they represent reprisal by his political adversaries. Any financial misdeeds can be attributed only to his son, the president says.
     Hunter Biden faces criminal tax evasion charges after the Internal Revenue Service claimed to have found millions of dollars paid to him by foreign businesses that he never reported as income.
     Two law professors who testified at the hearing said that without solid evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors” by the president, Congress lacks the constitutional authority to impeach him.
     "High crimes and misdemeanors" is a phrase from Section 4, Article 2 of the Constitution, which says, "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." It does not require removal from office but authorizes it with a vote of Congress.
     Presidents who have been impeached include Donald Trump, William Clinton and Richard Nixon.
     Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University constitutional law professor, said Joe Biden could lawfully be impeached only with evidence of a “nexus” that proves his support of his son’s inappropriate business dealings.
     So far, the evidence is inconclusive, Turley said.
     Michael J. Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor, said partisan politics appears to be a motive behind accusations against the president as much as evidence of illegal behavior.
     “I don’t think that’s how the law should work,” Gerhardt said. “I don’t think that’s how impeachment should work.”
     He quoted constitutional requirements of 5th Amendment due process and judicial review in questioning whether Congress had authority for impeachment without better evidence.
     “These proceedings should be based on principle, not on partisanship,” Gerhardt said.
     Democrats on the committee joined in denunciations of the impeachment inquiry.
     “It is chaotic infighting,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.
     The law does not support Congress trying to hold the president responsible for wrongdoing of his son, Raskin said.
     “What a staggering failure of leadership,” he said.
     Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, the District of Columbia’s Democratic delegate, said, “It is incredible that we are having this sham hearing.”
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum ( at email: or phone: 202-479-7240.

Justice Kagan Calls for New Code of Conduct
After Ethics Issues Raised at Supreme Court

     Justice Elena Kagan is calling for a “code of conduct” for the Supreme Court in a departure from the position held by most of her colleagues.
     She announced her support for the code of conduct in a speech at Notre Dame Law School last week on the same day a media organization published more revelations of alleged conflicts of interest for Justice Clarence Thomas.
     Kagan did not mention Thomas or any other member of the Supreme Court, only that a code of conduct would "go far in persuading other people that we were adhering to the highest standards of conduct."
     ProPublica and other media outlets reported that wealthy businessmen gave Thomas luxury vacations and  private plane rides, as well as enlisted his help to raise money for conservative causes. The donors behind the gifts and fundraising efforts either have had – or could have – business before the Supreme Court, according to the media reports.
     The allegations against Thomas, as well as Justice Samuel Alito, prompted Democrats in the Senate to introduce the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act earlier this year.
     “The word unprecedented is starting to lose its meaning as we see more and more questionable behavior from justices,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who co-authored the bill. “And public trust and confidence in the Supreme Court is at an all-time low.” 
     It would require the Supreme Court to establish ethics rules for justices and law clerks that could be enforced by Congress. The rules would set disclosure requirements for potential conflicts of interest as well as gifts, travel and income they receive.
     Chief Justice John Roberts has resisted the proposal, saying strict rules imposed by Congress could prevent the Supreme Court from hearing important but controversial constitutional issues. He also questioned whether congressional oversight would violate the separation of powers required by the Constitution.
     He said he might be in favor of a new code of ethics for the Supreme Court but that it should be done internally, “consistent with our status as an independent branch of government and the Constitution’s separation of powers.”
     Kagan addressed differences of opinion on new ethics rules when she said there were some “good-faith disagreements or concerns” among the justices.
     She added that “it would be a good thing for the court to [adopt a new code of ethics].”
     The latest ProPublica report on Thomas said he twice attended an annual event for donors to the conservative political Stand Together network organized by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.
     His support of Stand Together “puts Thomas in the extraordinary position of having served as a fundraising draw for a network that has brought cases before the Supreme Court, including one of the most closely watched of the upcoming term."
     The case ProPublica mentioned refers to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Financial Services Association, which the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Oct. 3.
     ProPublica said that if the conservative plaintiffs win, the ruling could limit "federal agencies’ power to issue regulations in areas ranging from the environment to labor rights to consumer protection."
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum ( at email: or phone: 202-479-7240.

Congressmen Advise Staff Members
On Protecting Selves from D.C. Crime

     Washington, D.C.’s frustration with rising crime was taken up in Congress last week when federal officials held a briefing to warn staff members about their personal safety.
     The crime that already has claimed victims among Capitol Hill staffers also is driving arguments between Congress and city officials about how to handle it.
     In February, Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., suffered minor injuries when a man assaulted her in the elevator of her apartment building.
     More serious injuries were suffered by an aide to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., just over a month later as he walked along a downtown sidewalk. He was stabbed multiple times, causing what police said were “life-threatening injuries.”
     The attacks were mentioned by Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wisc., in the U.S. Capitol’s Longworth Building during the briefing on “best practices, safety tips, and precautions." Other presentations were given by representatives from the House sergeant at arms, Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Union.
     “Violent crime is up 39 percent, 5,000 cars have been stolen this year, an average of 20 to 25 a day, and there have been 190 homicides so far this year,” Steil said in a statement. “The reality is crime is skyrocketing in D.C., and it is impacting all who live and work on Capitol Hill."
     Outrage over how the D.C. Council is handling crime spilled over into one of the rare vetoes by Congress of local legislation in March.
     Congress voted to disapprove a D.C. criminal code reform bill that reduced some criminal penalties and expanded rights to jury trials for misdemeanor charges. The District of Columbia Home Rule Act of 1973 gives Congress a right to veto bills passed by the D.C. Council.
     It was the first congressional resolution to overturn a local law in more than 30 years. It also led Republicans to call for closer congressional oversight of the District of Columbia.
     As the backlash continues against local officials, a member of the D.C. Council last week proposed another round of crime fighting measures. Like other get-tough campaigns against crime, it prompted lawyers to caution about potential civil rights violations.
     The proposals from D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto, a Democrat, include a provision to allow police to randomly search persons on pretrial release who are charged with violent offenses. Random searches also would be allowed for persons on parole, probation or court-ordered supervision.
     It drew a quick warning in a letter from D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring and Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby. The letter said “the proposed legislation appears to violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless searches of individuals without probable cause.”
     Pinto says dangers created by crime leave no better options.
     “We are experiencing a crisis of violence in the District, and we must address the gaps in our legal system in order to prevent the proliferation of violence in our communities,” she said in a statement. “Too many of our residents are afraid.”
     Other provisions of Pinto’s “Secure DC Plan” would increase police surveillance in densely trafficked areas and impose more restrictions and penalties for gun crime convictions.
     During the Capitol Hill security briefing, the chairman of Washington’s police union blamed the D.C. Council for contributing to crime by placing too many restrictions on police. They include greater chances for discipline in cases of police misconduct and bans on controversial tactics.
     “We have a city council that’s gone a little bit rogue against law enforcement,” said Greggory Pemberton.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum ( at email: or phone: 202-479-7240.

Federal Judges Suspend 96-Year-Old Colleague
Who They Say Shows Mental Decline

     Judges from the Federal Circuit Court in Washington, D.C., last week suspended a 96-year-old fellow judge for one year after she refused to submit to a mental competency test.
     They accused Judge Pauline Newman of misconduct for not cooperating in their investigation.
     The other judges are trying to force her to retire after her colleagues complained her age is diminishing her ability to perform her job properly. Newman says the accusations are ill-founded and ageist.
     They also violate her rights as a federal judge appointed by the president for life, according to her attorney.
     The dispute again raises the issue of how much is too much in lifetime appointments of federal judges. Some members of Congress have proposed term or age limits but so far have run up against the need to change the U.S. Constitution before they could force judges out sooner.
     A day before Newman’s suspension was announced, two congressmen introduced a bill that would set term limits of 18 years for Supreme Court justices.
     Term limits are “necessary because lifetime tenure on the United States Supreme Court leads to a Court that is insulated from, and unaccountable to, the American people, which is bad for democracy,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. 
     The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit presides over more specialized cases than the Supreme Court, such as patents, trademarks, government contracts and veterans’ benefits. 
     It was established in 1982, only two years before President Ronald Reagan appointed Newman to the court. It grants its judges the same lifetime tenure as the Supreme Court.
     Newman quickly established herself as a fierce defender of patent rights and a prolific dissenter in court rulings.
     Greg Dolin, her lead attorney in her attempt to retain her position on the court, said she often provides unique perspectives on the law. She dissents in about half the court’s opinions, compared with 5 percent of the time for most federal circuit judges.
     Her colleagues, such as Chief Judge Kimberly A. Moore, say her forgetfulness, occasional flares of temper and slow pace of work in the past two years show age is taking a toll that should make Newman retire.
     When Moore asked Newman to resign earlier this year, she refused. Moore then ordered the investigation of Newman’s competence, prompting the now 96-year-old to sue in May to keep her job.
     Moore convened a Judicial Council for the investigation and to make recommendations. In July, the panel of judges recommended suspension. Newman has not been assigned new cases since then.
     The Judicial Council said interviews with court staff demonstrated Newman’s “significant mental deterioration including memory loss, confusion, lack of comprehension, paranoia, anger, hostility, and severe agitation.”
     The council wrote that, "Judge Newman has been having trouble recalling events, conversations, and information just days old and having trouble comprehending basic information that court staff communicate to her."
     The order of the one-year suspension on Wednesday added, “We are acutely aware that this is not a fitting capstone to Judge Newman’s exemplary and storied career. We all would prefer a different outcome for our friend and colleague. However, we have a solemn obligation … to take action — and not to simply look the other way — when it appears that a judge of this Court is no longer capable of performing the duties of her judicial office.”
     Newman said she already underwent examination by a neurologist and a psychiatrist. Both cleared her as fit to handle her caseload at the court.
     The Judicial Council said the neurologist and psychiatrist were chosen by Newman, reflecting a conflict of interest that made their report suspicious.
     Newman plans to appeal the suspension to the federal courts’ Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, which consists of seven judges from different parts of the United States.
     Newman’s lawsuit is Newman v. Moore et al. in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum ( at email: or phone: 202-479-7240.

Financial Experts Advise Lawmakers
On Future for Artificial Intelligence

     U.S. senators last week let the financial industry know more laws are coming soon to regulate their growing use of artificial intelligence.
     However, they acknowledged they do not have all the answers on how to do it.
     Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., summed up the balancing act Congress wants to perform by asking financial industry experts, “How do we not screw it up?”
     “We stand in the middle of a journey of monumental change,” Rounds said during a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
     Some innovations created through the machine learning of artificial intelligence (AI) are not regulated, creating loopholes in the laws that could deeply hurt banks, the stock market and the nation’s economy, according to experts who testified at the hearing.
     So far, financial industry executives have discussed hopes for bigger profits with AI but largely ignored how it could help fraudsters build on the $50 billion a year banks estimate they lose to computer-based scams.
     AI innovations of recent years have allowed banks to tailor promotions to personalized interests of customers, reduce the manpower needed to comply with regulations, more closely analyze credit risks of borrowers and restock the cash in ATMs.
     In recent quarterly reports, the financial institutions – along with other corporations – predicted greater efficiency, lower costs and bigger profits using AI.
     Lawmakers at the Senate hearing cautioned against a rush by bankers toward AI-inspired profits that could force them to make remedial repairs if they do not prepare for the risks.
     In one example mentioned at the hearing, banks sometimes use voice recognition technology to identify their customers for phone transactions. Recent AI language generators can create voices that mimic other persons, potentially allowing fraudsters to mimic bank customers while stealing their money.
     Experts who testified at the hearing cautioned against the heavy hand of government regulation that could stifle innovation, perhaps leaving the United States behind China and other international competitors.
     “It is an area of fierce international competition,” said Daniel S. Gorfine, chief executive officer of the financial industry advisory firm Gattaca Horizons LLC and a Georgetown University law professor.
     He recommended that regulators assess emerging AI opportunities but avoid “a singular focus on risk” that “can blind us to the greater benefits that may be present.”
     Melissa Koide, chief executive officer of FinRegLab, a financial services technology research organization, said improved credit analyses from AI could extend credit to about 50 million U.S. adults whose credit risk cannot be assessed through traditional methods.
     The result is “the potential to improve fairness and inclusion” in business opportunities for persons who are overlooked by financial institutions now, she said.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum ( at email: or phone: 202-479-7240.

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