Democrats weigh im­peach­ing Fair­fax over sex al­le­ga­tions

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Fenit Ni­rap­pil

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.

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