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Impeachment Proceedings Begin Against Federal Judge

A bipartisan House contingent presented articles of impeachment against a federal judge to a solemn, ceremonial gathering of Senators on the chamber’s floor Wednesday.After Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) read the charges against U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Texas, the Senate passed a resolution directing Kent to present his defense to the chamber. The Senate also created a bipartisan committee tasked with gathering evidence for an eventual trial, which could end with Kent being removed from office. All Senators present stood and took an oath to be impartial jurors in Kent’s Senate trial.Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), who is serving as vice chairman of the evenly split committee, said the panel will attempt to complete its review in time to have a trial and possible conviction by the August recess.“Obviously, we have to do our deliberations, but that would be our goal,— Martinez said.A resolution to the matter has some urgency because Kent refused to resign immediately after his May conviction on charges of giving false testimony to investigators who were looking into allegations that he sexually assaulted and harassed female court employees. Instead, Kent has sought to continue receiving his $174,000-a-year salary and benefits while he is in jail. Kent began serving a 33-month sentence last week, and he has said his resignation would not take effect until June 2010.A Senate conviction on the impeachment charges would remove him from the federal payroll.The first meeting of the bipartisan Senate committee is scheduled for Thursday. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) will lead the panel. Other members include Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) , Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and James Risch (R-Idaho).House Members led by Schiff will serve as the prosecution team during the eventual Senate trial. The House team includes Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Kent will presumably be represented by his attorney.Impeachment of any federal official is rare. The House has impeached just 18 officials — including former Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton; the Senate has only convicted seven of those 18.The last time the Senate held an impeachment trial was to consider the 1998 case against Clinton, which stemmed from an affair he had with a White House intern. Clinton was ultimately acquitted by the Senate.

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