Democrats weigh impeaching Fairfax over sex allegations
WASHINGTON – Virginia Democratic lawmakers began circulating a draft resolution Sunday to begin impeachment proceedings against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax over the allegations of sexual assault that have been leveled against him by two women.
Fairfax, a Democrat, has fended off calls from the state Democratic Party and some state and national lawmakers to resign after Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson publicly came forward last week to accuse him of sexual assault.
Tyson accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004, at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Watson on Friday accused Fairfax of assaulting her in 2000, while they were students at Duke University.
Fairfax says the encounters were consensual, and he has characterized the allegations as a smear campaign against him.
He has said repeatedly that he will not step down and wants the FBI or others to investigate the accusations.
Shortly after the second woman came forward Friday, Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, said he would introduce articles of impeachment if Fairfax did not resign by Monday.
Hope emailed a draft of a resolution that would initiate impeachment proceedings to his Democratic colleagues for review Sunday afternoon. The Washington Post obtained a copy of the email and resolution.
“Whereas the House of Delegates believes all allegations of sexual assault must be taken with the utmost seriousness; and whereas the House of Delegates believes the allegations made by Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Ms. Meredith Watson (Fairfax’s accusers) to be credible in nature, while also respecting the principles of due process; now, therefore, be it resolved by the House of Delegates that proceedings for the impeachment of Lieutenant Governor Justin E. Fairfax shall be initiated,” the draft resolution says.
A spokeswoman for Fairfax said he is opposed to the impeachment process and wants an independent investigation.
“The Lt. Governor is aggressively exploring options for a thorough, independent, and impartial investigation of these allegations,” spokeswoman Lauren Burke said in a statement.
“We hope, for example, that the FBI will show a willingness to investigate,” Burke said. “It is especially important in the most difficult of times that we pay attention to our fundamental Constitutional values. He believes that an inherently political process is not the most likely path for learning the truth. The Lt. Governor is confident in the truth that will emerge from an independent impartial investigation.”
A vote on the resolution, which could come as early as Tuesday if it is introduced today, would direct the House Committee for Courts of Justice to hold hearings on the allegations against Fairfax, with the support of legislative staff and state agencies.
Such an investigation would be the precursor to the committee’s recommendation for impeachment and a vote of the full House.
In his email to colleagues, Hope stressed that his proposed resolution is not an impeachment, but the start of an investigation into the allegations that could lead to impeachment.
“It is not impeachment,” Hope said in the email, underlining the words for emphasis. “It is a process to investigate whether the Courts Committee would recommend impeachment.”
It’s unclear how much support there is for an impeachment effort in the Republicancontrolled General Assembly.