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Now You Know

WHY CENSURE?

It’s not a constitutional power granted explicitly by name to Congress, but lawmakers have slapped a censure on four sitting Presidents.

Pres. Trump makes history as #5.

Now You Know

What Happened:

  • The Democrat-led House of Representatives voted to censure Pres. Trump for a tweet he wrote about Democrat lawmakers.
  • Critics called the tweet racist; the President denies it.
  • We placed the entire tweet on the source page for you to read in full.
  • The resolution to censure Pres. Trump passed along party lines: 240-187.
Now You Know

What Happens Now?

Practically: Not much. It’s a public reprimand with no other actionable or legal punishment.

Politically: Democrats can rally together, showing a united front against a Republican president ahead of an election year. President Trump can also use this to rally his base.

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Interesting To Note:

  • Congress can punish lawmakers three ways: expulsion, censure and reprimand.
  • Expulsion is the only punishment mentioned by name in the constitution. 
  • Censure evolved as a punishment starting in 1800s.
  • Other Presidents censured: Presidents Jackson, Lincoln, Taft & Buchanan.
Now You Know

The first time censure was considered in Congress? In 1798, when one state lawmaker spat on another; ultimately there was no censure vote. Mostly censure has been used for bad behavior: "defamatory or insulting statements."

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Full Tweet in Question:

Donald J. Trump: @realDonaldTrump

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….

….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

House condemns Trump ‘racist’ tweets in extraordinary rebuke
https://www.apnews.com/a67df9b560fc416f8326827b36b0de81

Discipline & Punishment
https://history.house.gov/Institution/Origins-Development/Discipline/#censure
Decades before the House first expelled Members it contemplated censure to register its deep disapproval of a Member’s behavior. Early in its existence, the House considered (but did not ultimately use) censure to punish Matthew Lyon of Vermont and Roger Griswold of Connecticut for well-publicized breaches of decorum in early 1798. Lyon had spat on Griswold during a heated argument and, when the House later declined to expel or censure the Vermonter, Griswold sought to defend his honor by caning him at his desk. Consumed by this “affray,” the House created a Committee on Privileges to investigate the incident though it ultimately refused to recommend a punishment after both men promised “to keep the peace.”

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R45087.pdf

History of Presidential Censure Attempts, 1789-2016, 1 st-114th Congresses As stated earlier, there is no uniform language of censure. Therefore, the designation of censure is somewhat subjective. The censure resolutions identified in this report either contained the word “censure” or explicitly cited an alleged abuse of presidential power.20 Using these criteria, CRS identified 13 former Presidents who were the subject of censure attempts while in office: 11 by resolutions of censure, one via a House committee report, and another through an amendment to an unrelated resolution. On four occasions, the House or Senate adopted resolutions that, in their original form, charged the President with abuse of power. Otherwise, presidential censure resolutions have remained in committee without further consideration or were not adopted in a floor vote. The following sections provide additional information on each censure attempt. The measures are also listed in Table 1. Resolutions Adopted The four adopted censure-related resolutions were all simple resolutions.21 As such, they expressed the “sense of” the respective chamber but did not have the force of law or contain any disciplinary authority. In two cases identified (Presidents Lincoln and Taft), the resolutions were amended on the chamber floor so that they no longer clearly censured the President. In another case (President Buchanan), the resolution’s language may have intended a lesser rebuke than censure. The fourth case, President Andrew Jackson, remains the clearest case of presidential censure by resolution, although his censure was subsequently expunged.