Spitzer to Resign or NY GOP Calls for Impeachment (UPDATED)
According to the New York Times, it is likely that Gov. Spitzer will resign:
Top aides to Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Tuesday morning that they expect the governor to resign his office, although the timing of the resignation remains uncertain.
Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson and his staff have begun laying the groundwork for him to take over as governor and are reaching out to members of the Legislature, the aides said.
As Gov. Eliot Spitzer faced mounting calls to resign, Republican legislators indicated they will seek to impeach him if he doesn’t quit within 48 hours, a spokesman for a leading New York assemblyman said Tuesday.
“The governor has 48 hours to resign or articles of impeachment would be introduced,” Josh Fitzpatrick, spokesman for Assembly Republican Minority Leader James Tedisco, told Reuters.
How does this affect the presidential race? Not much. According to MSNBC First Read, Gov. Spitzer and Lt. Gov. Paterson are both superdelegates committed to Hillary Clinton. If Gov. Spitzer resigns, there will simply be one less superdelegate.
Scott Horton of Harpers’ calls for a more careful look at how this mess came about:
However, there is a second tier of questions that needs to be examined with respect to the Spitzer case. They go to prosecutorial motivation and direction. Note that this prosecution was managed with staffers from the Public Integrity Section at the Department of Justice. This section is now at the center of a major scandal concerning politically directed prosecutions. During the Bush Administration, his Justice Department has opened 5.6 cases against Democrats for every one involving a Republican. Beyond this, a number of the cases seem to have been tied closely to election cycles. Indeed, a study of the cases out of Alabama shows clearly that even cases opened against Republicans are in fact only part of a broader pattern of going after Democrats. So here are the rather amazing facts that surface in the Spitzer case:
(1) The prosecutors handling the case came from the Public Integrity Section.
(2) The prosecution is opened under the White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910. You read that correctly. The statute itself is highly disreputable, and most of the high-profile cases brought under it were politically motivated and grossly abusive. Here are a few:
Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson was the first man prosecuted under the act — for having an affair with Lucille Cameron, whom he later married. The prosecution was manifestly an effort “to get” Johnson, who at the time was the most famous African-American. (All of this is developed well in Ken Burns’s film “Unforgiveable Blackness”).
University of Chicago sociologist William I. Thomas was prosecuted for having an affair with an officer’s wife in France. Thomas was targeted because of his Bohemian social and his radical political views.
In 1944 Charles Chaplin was prosecuted for having an affair with actress Joan Barry. The prosecution again provided cover for a politically motivated effort to drive Chaplin out of the country.
Canadian author Elizabeth Smart was arrested and charged in 1940 while crossing the border with the British poet George Barker.
(3) The resources dedicated to the case in terms of prosecutors and investigators are extraordinary.
(4) How the investigation got started. The Justice Department has yet to give a full account of why they were looking into Spitzer’s payments, and indeed the suggestion in the ABC account is that it didn’t have anything to do with a prostitution ring. The suggestion that this was driven by an IRS inquiry and involved a bank might heighten, rather than allay, concerns of a politically motivated prosecution.
All of these facts are consistent with a process which is not the investigation of a crime, but rather an attempt to target and build a case against an individual.
The answer of the Justice Department to all this is likely to be: Trust us. But in the current environment, the reservoir of trust is tapped. The Justice Department needs to submit to some questions about how this probe got launched, who launched it, and to what extent political appointees were involved in its direction. This has nothing to do with Spitzer’s guilt or innocence. But it has everything to do with the fading integrity of the Public Integrity Section.