Impeachment proxy voting opens potential legal loophole for Trump

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With President Trump's fate at stake, dozens of House members on Wednesday cast their votes by proxy, under special coronavirus rules allowing them to offer their input through the use of a designated voter. And in doing so, they may have given Mr. Trump a legal angle to challenge the move.
This is what a virtual pandemic impeachment looks like.

With President Trump's fate at stake, dozens of House members cast their votes Wednesday by proxy, under special pandemic rules allowing them to offer their input through the use of a designated voter. In doing so, they may have given Mr. Trump a legal angle to challenge the move.

The House has been using virtual voting for months, including on coronavirus relief measures. But impeachment brings new constitutional questions, said Mark Strand, president of the Congressional Institute, a nonprofit focused on making Congress run better.

He said nobody has had standing to challenge the proxy process, but that could change.

"Is that person going to be Donald Trump? He could say, 'Well, you shouldn't be able to impeach me without having people vote in person.' I don't know," Mr. Strand said.

Other congressional scholars and legal experts, though, said they believe the House is on safe ground.

"I don't see why the manner of meeting or voting would be a problem. It is a piece of congressional business, to be conducted, as with all such business, in the manner each house thinks best," said James A. Gardner, a law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

To be sure, most lawmakers did show up in person during the 232-197 vote that made Mr. Trump the first president ever to be impeached twice.

Fifty-seven lawmakers had active proxies during the vote, though it appears only about 52 used them. About three-quarters were Democrats and the rest Republicans.

Subtracting the proxy votes, there would have been a majority for impeachment but it would have been closer than the final tally.

Virtual impeachment began this week when the House Rules Committee met mostly by video to orchestrate debate on a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to trigger the 25th Amendment to sideline Mr. Trump.

The committee then held a virtual session to write rules of debate for the impeachment.

Ahead of…
Stephen Dinan
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