Important impeachment memo disappeared from Senate web server
A public note describing the Senate’s obligations during an impeachment trial is no longer publicly available on a Senate web server in its original form.
The memo, titled “An Overview of the Impeachment Process,” dates from 2005, when it was written by a legislative attorney working for the Congressional Research Service. It provides a legal interpretation of several powers and duties related to impeachment of the Senate, as well as the House of Representatives, based on a detailed examination of the Congressional record dating back to 1868.
The document, which was still circulating among journalists and academics in early October, was hosted on a server maintained by Senator.gov. Journalists this week began to notice that url returned a 404 error message, indicating that the PDF document could not be found. The impeachment note is not available elsewhere online database maintained by CRS.
After investigating the cause of the deletion, staff at the Secretary of the Senate’s office later explained that they attributed the deletion of the document to an update error related to the consolidation of documents on the Senate. impeachment resource guide. As part of this consolidation, the content of the note has been moved to a 2015 document with a different date and title, “Impeachment and Removal”.
Senate staff pointed out that the contents of the note are still intact in another location, although the resource index does not mention where it went and the origin of the note is not listed there. The original document was widely cited during the Trump era, using its URL as the citation. As a result, several published references still indicate an incorrect Senate address, including a report from Common cause; chatter between neighbors on forums like Urban DC Moms and Dads; and high school lesson plans teach “the rule of law”.
The original document is kept in a digital archive at the University of North Texas. In its conclusions, the non-partisan note interprets the House’s impeachment powers broadly, while limiting the Senate more narrowly to a set of prescribed procedures. For example, the note concludes that an impeachment inquiry may stem from the statement of a single member of the House, the method in which the Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked at the end of September, which was recently confirmed by a federal judge. The memo also does not define which committee should oversee the investigation, in line with Pelosi’s approach. Republicans have repeatedly insisted on the colon to discredit the House impeachment inquiry.
The language of the 2005 report is also more emphatic than other legal opinions on what is required of the Senate. For comparison, a recent impeachment preview released last month describes the Senate’s requirement to hold a trial as a pending issue; the 2005 memo, on the other hand, treats the Senate trial as inevitable.
Senate staff believe the document was inaccessible for about a month, between October and November. They attribute the deletion to mistake and bad timing. But the original server address would not be restored, they said, meaning published resources that point to the server address will still result in an error.
Note: This article has been updated to include a late comment from the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, which said the contents of the memo had been incorporated into another document and attributed the disappearance to a maintenance error.