Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), a veteran caucus member, said it would be "as supportive of our colleague as possible, in terms of saying a person in America is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty."
Exactly what I expected, but didn't dare hope for.
While the Caucus would be crazy to go to the mat for Jefferson, they do have a point about a double standard:
The black caucus accused Pelosi of a racially tinged double standard. As she was moving against Jefferson, she allowed Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), who is white, to remain on the Appropriations Committee despite dealing with his own federal investigation. Mollohan, now chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the departments of Commerce and Justice, did recuse himself in issues involving federal law enforcement.
The difference, such as it is, is that the case (and known evidence) against Mollohan is nowhere near as lurid or eye-popping as that against Jefferson. But that's a pretty small difference. The more relevant distinction might be that Mollohan is a far more powerful legislator than Jefferson.
Regardless, Mollohan has no business retaining his seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, and arguably ought to step down from the Appropriations Committee in general. Letting him stay there is a far more egregious black eye for Democrats than letting due process take its time with Jefferson.
Update: Jefferson meekly gave up his seat on the Small Business Committee, sparing himself and committee members the embarassment of an expulsion vote. And Republicans are pushing to have Jefferson expelled from Congress -- an ethical standard I criticized as extreme in yesterday's post. Pelosi, meanwhile, is expected to quickly name 10 Democrats to a pool used to form investigative subcommittees of the Ethics Committee, a necessary prelude to an Ethics investigation of Jefferson.
Let me repeat: establishing expulsion-on-indictment as a standard for membership in Congress would be a very, very bad idea. It would be bad for individual rights, bad for representative democracy and encourage politically motivated investigations of Congress members. Republicans need to stop the irresponsible grandstanding. Isolate Jefferson? Fine. Kick him out before he's had a trial? No.
Black Caucus, Mollohan, Jefferson, politics, midtopia