ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:
All the talk in Washington today is about President Obama’s deal to extend all the Bush tax cuts, but the Senate this morning is focused on something altogether different: the impeachment trial of a federal judge, only the 12th one in Senate history.
Federal judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of Louisiana was impeached by the House of Representatives in March on corruption charges. The prosecution has argued that Porteous received cash, gifts, and additional favors from lawyers and other people that dealt with his court, while the defense has objected by arguing that the conduct in question occurred before his 1994 appointment to the federal bench and he was never accused of a crime.
If two-thirds of the Senate this week votes to convict him on any of the four counts of impeachment, Porteous would become only the eighth federal judge in history to be impeached. If this occurs, Porteous would not only be removed from office immediately, but he would also lose his pension benefits. In order to qualify for a pension equal to his salary of $174,000, Porteous, who turns 64 next week, needs to serve until age 65.
The Senate launched the impeachment proceedings at 10a today as lawmakers began to hear arguments from Porteous’ counsel, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.
Turley, speaking on the Senate floor, took aim at the four counts of impeachment, denouncing one as “a nonsensical argument from a Constitutional standpoint.”
But Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, head of the House Judiciary Committee Task Force on Judicial Impeachment, fired back by arguing that Porteous’ corruption continued after he rose to the federal post.
“He is not only a corrupt state judge, but would become a corrupt federal judge as well,” Schiff said.
After a break for lunch, both sides will make their closing arguments this afternoon. Then Senate deliberations will take place behind closed doors until they are completed. A Senate vote could occur as late as Wednesday morning.