Newly-elected House member Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) has became a target for bad faith criticism because of her open practice of Islam and faux hand wringing for declaring the new House’s intention to “impeach the motherfucker” when referring to President Donald Trump.
Beyond that, in just two weeks in office, Tlaib has become embroiled in new cycles involving being photographed with a member of Hezbollah.
Now, an accusation that she’d “become a martyr and blow up Capitol Hill” has shown light on another drama. The comment came after a South Florida official posted about a petition she’d sign. One that, because of Tlaib’s loathing of the president and embrace of the Palestinian, is calling for her to be impeached.
Just a few days after Tlaib’s swearing (and swearing-in), a petition appeared on Change.org, started by a person calling themselves only “MRS AMERICAN CITIZEN [sic]” demanding Tlaib be impeached and removed from the House.
Her crimes? Being “fraudulently elected to our house of representatives” thanks to using an address in her district that she doesn’t live in, being “said to have ties to terrorist organizations such as HAMAS, HEZBOLLA , CAIR & the Muslim Brotherhood,” taking “85,000 from the OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION – GEORGE SOROS,” and encouraging “resistance to our constitution, our laws and our Presidentt.”
Despite its nonsensical grammar and unfounded accusations, the petition has only grown in both size and profile. A BigLeaguePolitics story from Jan. 8 claimed it was “gaining momentum” with 80,000 signatures; while it had over 207,000 a week later. In fact, it seemed well on its way of achieving its goal of 300,000 signatures.
What happens then? Nothing. But even if the petition wanted to accomplish something, it has two clear stumbling blocks before Representative Tlaib is hauled before the House Judiciary Committee.
The first is that it’s grossly inaccurate. There’s no evidence Tlaib used an address out of her district when running for the House, and the story the petition mentions is from her 2010 election to the Michigan state house, and was never substantiated. There’s also no evidence that she’s “a danger to our sovereignty. a detriment to society , and to this country” as the petition claims. (Change.org didn’t respond to a request for a comment from Daily Dot.)
The accusation that Tlaib took “85,000 from GEORGE SOROS” is also inaccurate—and a perfect example of how virtually every right wing conspiracy theory, even the ones that are ostensibly pro-Israel, devolves into anti-Semitism. Tlaib was awarded a fellowship by the Open Society Foundation, founded by Soros, to “develop a step-by-step training program to help communities transcend barriers to full civic participation and make their voices count in policy making.”
But the grant, made in late 2016, was suspended when Tlaib ran for office. As the Foundation’s website puts it, “when Ms. Tlaib informed us that she was planning to run for the U.S. Congress, we mutually agreed to suspend her fellowship and no further payments were made.”
Beyond the inaccuracies and Islamophobia, the petition is also fundamentally inaccurate in one other respect: members of Congress aren’t impeached, only expelled.
The Constitution gives broad authority to both the House and Senate to police its own membership, through expulsion with a two-thirds vote by the membership and no involvement by the other. Impeachment involves both bodies of Congress, one impeaching and the other convicting, but the only attempt to ever impeach a member of Congress stalled over authority issues.
In 1797, Tennessee Senator William Blount was found to have been involved in a conspiracy with British official to seize Spanish-held land in Louisiana. When the scheme was uncovered, Blount attempted to flee the country, but was arrested and taken back to Washington. The House initiated impeachment, the Senate voted to expel him, and Blount fled the capital again.
Despite not being present for his own trial, and having already been expelled, the Senate heard arguments for and against impeaching Blount. Ultimately, they voted against a resolution naming Blount as an impeachable public officer, arguing that they ultimately didn’t have the jurisdiction to impeach their own members.
Since then, Congress has never again approached the idea of impeaching and removing one of its own members, and it’s not clear if constitutional impeachment even applies to elected officials, who aren’t usually considered “civil officers of the United States.”
But could Tlaib conceivably be expelled or censured for her remark about impeaching Trump?
The difficulty of persuading two-thirds of the House to vote to expel means it’s only happened twice since the Civil War, both for bribery. Censure might be more possible, and the House used to be fairly liberal with censuring members for “unparlimentary language,” but they’ve only done it once since 1983.
If Republicans still held the House, it’s possible Tlaib could face a milder rebuke, called a reprimand. Indeed, House Republicans immediately called on new Speaker Nancy Pelosi to address Tlaib’s remark, but Pelosi waved it off as merely language she wouldn’t use. The House did, however, almost unanimously vote to reprimand Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for comments asking what the problem is with white supremacy, just the third reprimand given out in the last two decades.
Ultimately, while Change.org has left the petition up, the site amended it with a note reading “We have received flags from our users that the statements in this petition are contested. You should consider researching this issue before signing or sharing.
” Of course, MRS AMERICAN CITIZEN wasn’t thrilled about that, amending the petition with her own note claiming “TLAIB AND HER PALS ARE FLAGGING THIS PETITION STATING INACCURATE INFORMATION .. SHE IS A LIAR AND EVERYTHING IN THIS PETITION IS FACT.”
It’s likely this will be far from the only controversy Tlaib faces during her time in office. But it’s certain she won’t be impeached.