I believe it was our friend Spartacus who was first to pull the trapdoor.
The multiple detailed allegations against the Lt. Gov. of Virginia are deeply troubling. They are serious, credible, and corroborated by others. It is no longer appropriate for him to serve. He should resign.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) February 8, 2019
Warren joined in:
These credible and troubling allegations from Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson make it clear that Lt. Gov Fairfax should resign. My heart goes out to these brave women and their families.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 8, 2019
So did Kirsten Gillibrand, whose double standard on Vanessa Tyson was glaring. Gillibrand was quick to declare in September that she believed Kavanaugh’s accuser and that the allegations had disqualified him from a seat on the Court. All she’d say yesterday about Tyson was that she supports her and that her accusation should be investigated.
But now, with two women having spoken up and possibly as many as three more set to come forward, Gillibrand’s finally comfortable here putting #MeToo above partisan interests.
My statement below on Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax: pic.twitter.com/chu4oSdnbh
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) February 8, 2019
Five Democratic congressmen from Virginia — all white, by the way, which is worth noting in case a racial divide opens up over Fairfax’s guilt — also issued a statement calling on Fairfax to quit over the accusations. Question: What if he just won’t go? Ralph Northam allegedly told confidants last week when he was in the thick of his own scandal that he couldn’t resign, not because he loved the job so much but because resigning would be taken as tacit acknowledgment that he’s a racist. He’d be unwelcome in polite society, or at least parts of it. The only way to win people back was to stay put and use his platform as governor to convince them of his good character, which is exactly what he plans to do, allegedly.
That’s the situation Fairfax is in now except vastly more intense considering that he stands accused of multiple serious sex offenses. Resigning will be taken as an admission of wrongdoing. Where does an “admitted” serial rapist go after he’s admitted it? (Assuming there’s not enough hard evidence to send him to prison, I mean.) What does he have to lose at this point by standing and fighting? His chances of being elected governor in 2021 are obviously shot. The best he can hope for is to try to ride this out, cast some doubt on his guilt, and hope to remain respectable enough to be employed as a lobbyist or whatever when his term is up.
Does the legislature have any options in getting rid of him, though? Here’s what Virginia’s constitution says:
The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, judges, members of the State Corporation Commission, and all officers appointed by the Governor or elected by the General Assembly, offending against the Commonwealth by malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor may be impeached by the House of Delegates and prosecuted before the Senate, which shall have the sole power to try impeachments.
Impeachment is a political matter so presumably the legislature can define “corruption” or “high crime” however it likes. But you know what Fairfax’s defenders will say: How can we remove him from office for a “high crime” when he hasn’t been convicted of an actual crime? At a minimum, the Senate would presumably be forced to call Fairfax’s accusers to testify about what he did and hold a de facto criminal trial on whether he raped them, an agonizing, embarrassing spectacle for the state.
And as noted above, there’s potential racial tension here per the fact that Virginia’s political trainwreck this month began with the white governor getting nailed for wearing blackface, then the white AG copping to having once worn it too, and yet the state’s young black lieutenant governor now somehow ending up as the figure most likely to face removal from office by the legislature. That objection is incoherent — blackface is offensive but it ain’t a crime whereas, er, serial rape is — but the politics of it aren’t great. (They’d be even worse if Fairfax’s accusers were white.) That’s why Booker’s call for Fairfax to resign is the most important development so far for Dems who want to push him out. It’s the cover they need from a prominent black Democrat if they want to try to oust him. And even if they don’t want to, they may have to try. Imagine if we end up with five or more accusers telling their stories to the newspapers in gory detail. How could the state ignore them and let Fairfax go on, a heartbeat away from governing the state?
They have no choice. Your exit quotation:
Big news from @ryanobles is breaking on @CNNSitRoom: Virginia State Del. Patrick Hope has begun the the process of drafting the articles of impeachment against Justin Fairfax and he is prepared to introduce them on Monday if the lieutenant governor does not resign before then.
— Dan Merica (@merica) February 8, 2019