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Pelosi says House will impeach Trump unless VP forces ouster

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday the House will proceed with legislation to impeach President Donald Trump as she pushes the vice president and Cabinet to invoke constitutional authority to force him out, warning that Trump is a threat to democracy after the deadly assault on the Capitol.

Pelosi made the announcement in a letter to colleagues, saying the House will first vote to push Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the powers of the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. After 24 hours, she said, the House would proceed with legislation on impeachment. Trump could become the only president to be impeached twice.

“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” she wrote, adding: “The horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”

On Monday, Pelosi’s leadership team will seek a vote on a resolution calling on Pence and Cabinet officials to invoke the 25th Amendment.

With the House not in session, there is likely to be an objection to its consideration. Pelosi would then put the resolution before the full House on Tuesday. If it were to pass, Pence and the Cabinet would have 24 hours to act before the House would move toward impeachment.

With the impeachment planning intensifying, pressure was mounting for Trump to leave office before his term ended amid alarming concerns of more unrest ahead of the inauguration.

Two Republican senators have now said they want Trump to resign immediately in the wake of the deadly riots at the Capitol. The president whipped up the mob that stormed the Capitol, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five dead.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on Sunday joined Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in calling for Trump to “resign and go away as soon as possible.”

“I think the president has disqualified himself from ever, certainly, serving in office again,” Toomey said. “I don’t think he is electable in any way.”

A growing number of lawmakers want to prevent him from ever again holding elected office.

House Democrats are expected to introduce articles of impeachment on Monday. The strategy would be to condemn the president’s actions swiftly but delay an impeachment trial in the Senate for 100 days. That would allow President-elect Joe Biden to focus on other priorities as soon as he is inaugurated Jan. 20.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat and a top Biden ally, laid out the ideas Sunday as the country came to grips with the siege at the Capitol by Trump loyalists trying to overturn the election results.

“Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running,” Clyburn said.

Murkowski, who has long voiced her exasperation with Trump’s conduct in office, told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that Trump simply “needs to get out.” A third, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., did not go that far, but on Sunday he warned Trump to be “very careful” in his final days in office.

During an interview on “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Pelosi invoked the Watergate era when Republicans in the Senate told President Richard Nixon, “It’s over.”

“That’s what has to happen now,” she said.

Corporate America began to show its reaction to the Capitol riots by tying them to campaign contributions.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s CEO and President Kim Keck said it will not contribute to those lawmakers — all Republicans — who supported challenges to Biden’s Electoral College win. The group “will suspend contributions to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy,” Kim said.

Citigroup did not single out lawmakers aligned with Trump’s effort to overturn the election, but said it would be pausing all federal political donations for the first three months of the year. Citi’s head of global government affairs, Candi Wolff, said in a Friday memo to employees, “We want you to be assured that we will not support candidates who do not respect the rule of law.”

House leaders, furious after the insurrection, appear determined to act against Trump despite the short timeline.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said an impeachment trial could not begin under the current calendar before Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

While many have criticized Trump, Republicans have said that impeachment would be divisive in a time of unity.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said that instead of coming together, Democrats want to “talk about ridiculous things like ‘Let’s impeach a president’” with just days left in office.

Still, some Republicans might be supportive.

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said he would take a look at any articles that the House sent over. Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a frequent Trump critic, said he would “vote the right way” if the matter were put in front of him.

The Democratic effort to stamp Trump’s presidential record — for the second time — with the indelible mark of impeachment had advanced rapidly since the riot.

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I, a leader of the House effort to draft impeachment articles accusing Trump of inciting insurrection, said Sunday that his group had 200-plus co-sponsors.

Toomey appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Clyburn was on “Fox News Sunday” and CNN. Kinzinger was on ABC’s “This Week,” Blunt was on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and Rubio was on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

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Washington’s 2021 legislative session was already bound to be as challenging as any in state history.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers have arranged Zoom-powered proceedings, with a limited number of legislators allowed at any one time on the House and Senate floors, and the Capitol closed to the general public.

Their task list is packed. It includes: adopting a 2021-23 state operating budget; relief for businesses and individuals struggling through coronavirus-related shutdowns; speeding vaccinations; debating new taxes and a sweeping clean-fuels proposal; and efforts to transform policing and promote racial equity.

That would be a tall order to start with. Then came last week’s deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump insurrectionists, and a smaller breach by conservative protesters at the grounds of the governor’s mansion in Olympia.

Those incidents have heightened tensions in the state Capitol, which had already seen violent clashes between right-wing and left-wing demonstrators in recent months, including a Dec. 12 shooting leaving one man injured. Last week, a man with a gun threatened to shoot and kill journalists outside the Capitol.

Additional demonstrations are expected at the start of the 105-day legislative session Monday, with some organizers explicitly stating they’d push to enter the domed Capitol building — though some have since called off such plans.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Democratic and Republican lawmakers are pressing ahead with the session, pledging security will be tight. Fencing has been erected, and Inslee on Friday called up as many as 750 Washington National Guard members to protect legislators, their staff and the general public.

“We have to be able to do our business and not be intimidated and scared because people are going to show up,” said state Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, speaking at an Associated Press legislative preview last week.

State Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, agreed, noting the Legislature regularly sees throngs of people demonstrating. She drew a distinction between those who want to peaceably object to the Capitol closure and others who would use the situation “to bring anarchy.”

“If we kowtow to that intimidation, then they’ve won,” Short said.

Monday’s order of business is largely administrative, with the state House and Senate convening to adopt rules that will govern the remainder of the session, including frameworks for remote voting and testimony. But those proposed rules are expected to draw objections from some Republicans who say the public should be allowed to participate in person.

There appears to be broad support to pass an early relief package to sustain businesses, workers and families hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and Inslee’s emergency public health orders restricting business openings and in-person gatherings.

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said she wants to see action in the first two weeks of the session, including more than $300 million for rental assistance and $125 million in small-business grants.

Democrats will run the show, as they control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. That has raised expectations among party activists, labor leaders and environmental groups for a bold, progressive agenda.

Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, the House Republican minority leader, understands his party cannot block legislation on its own. “We’re going to lose votes,” he said.

He said he’s been “obsessed” with ensuring the Legislature has made adequate arrangements for public input in the remote environment. He recalled two years ago, when hairdressers descended on Olympia to protest a proposed regulatory change that could have increased their taxes. The Legislature ultimately changed course.

“That’s not going to be possible anymore,” he said. “Public access to the process is important and not everybody has great internet access.”

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said Democrats have worked hard to ensure the public can participate, pointing to efforts even before this year to expand remote testimony.

“Our goal is to have a legislative session that is safe for members, for the staff and the public, that is as transparent or more transparent and accessible than before,” Billig said.

The difficult nature of the mostly remote session, and skepticism about tax increases, could actually splash cold water on some of the majority Democrats’ plans.

Legislative leaders caution the 2021 session will inevitably produce fewer new laws than usual, as they slog through a cumbersome and unfamiliar process of remote committee hearings and piped-in public testimony.

“There is no question that it will be slower than our normal session,” said state House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington. House Democratic leaders have asked members to sponsor no more than seven bills each.

Inslee and other Democratic leaders say they’re confident in prospects for top agenda items, including a capital-gains tax aimed at the wealthiest Washingtonians.

Inslee has pushed for a capital-gains tax since 2014, when he broke a 2012 campaign pledge to veto any new taxes. But it consistently has failed amid opposition from Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

In an interview, Inslee said he has “an extra high level of confidence” his plan will finally pass, saying the public “has had a bellyful for our unfair tax system.” He dismissed a recent Crosscut/Elway Poll showing just 41% support for the tax.

A public hearing on the proposal, Senate Bill 5096, is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The measure would tax capital-gains earnings above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for couples, with exemptions for sole-proprietor businesses, home sales, retirement accounts, farms and forestry, and income from salaries.

Inslee’s 2021-23 budget proposal would spend $57.7 billion — an increase of more than 10% over the last biennium. It includes a nearly $400 million boost for COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment, vaccine distribution and boosts to the state’s strapped public health system. The governor also wants $400 million in new schools funding.

Republican leaders stressed they think the budget is not in dire shape and that there’s no need to raise taxes. If revenue estimates don’t continue to improve, they said, there’s plenty of money in the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“I’m not a fan of new taxes in any year, but this year in particular,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, the Republican minority leader. “We don’t need them to balance the budget, we don’t need them to make additional investments to help with COVID.”

Inslee disagreed. “Governments are kind of counter-cyclical. When you have more people in need, state governments don’t have less to do, we have more to do,” he said.

Washington lawmakers also return after a year of widespread protests in the wake of killings by police of Black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Manuel Ellis in Tacoma. The protests over the deaths and other law enforcement uses of force have invigorated a movement seeking to transform policing and push more broadly for equity across society. A new statewide advocacy group, the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance, plans to push lawmakers for change.

“We kind of see it as our mission to take the energy and pressure that is on the streets and connect that energy to the halls of power,” said Livio De La Cruz, who sits on the alliance’s steering committee and is a student at Seattle University School of Law.

The alliance is advocating for reforms to law enforcement, more funding and attention to health care and education for people of color, and ending the state ban on affirmative action.

Inslee has unveiled his own slate of equity proposals, as well as legislation to ban chokeholds by police and create a new statewide office to investigate police killings.

Another longtime priority for Inslee and environmentalist allies is a clean fuels standard, which would require steady reductions in climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

Oregon, California and British Columbia all have adopted such standards. But in Washington, opposition from oil companies, truckers, Republicans and some Democrats has killed clean-fuel bills in recent years.

“We got so close the last two sessions. I really feel like this session we can get it over the finish line,” said Leah Missik, transportation policy manager for Climate Solutions.

Leaders from both parties said they hope to stop legislating via Zoom as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic is sufficiently beaten back.

Wilcox said he’ll push for a return to a regular session, or at least some sort of hybrid, as soon as conditions improve in Thurston County.

“We can’t wait to meet in person,” said Sullivan.

• Staff reporter Joseph O’Sullivan contributed to this report.

Carol Hassen forever changed the Central Washington arts scene

Carol Hassen, an artist and former director of the Larson Gallery in Yakima and Gallery One in Ellensburg, was always herself.

She was a tireless advocate for artists and the arts in general, bolstering the careers of established artists and introducing emerging ones. She took two of Central Washington’s most significant arts organizations to new heights, helping create endowments at both that have secured their futures. She was funny and tough and didn’t have time for phonies or pretentiousness, but if you were a local artist in need of a champion she was there for you.

“She was really honest,” said Monica Miller, who succeeded Hassen as Gallery One director in 2014 and remains in the role. “If she didn’t like something, you would know it. She didn’t mince words. The benefit of that was that she also said all of the good things. It means a lot to see somebody who is brave enough to just walk with that integrity and that honesty.”

Hassen died from brain cancer Jan. 2, a week shy of her 78th birthday.

Born in Indiana, the fourth of five children in a family that lived at or near the poverty line, Hassen moved to Oregon in her youth. Her family moved a lot; she attended 13 schools in 12 years. When her father was between jobs, they lived in a trailer with a fold-down bed she’d share with her younger sister.

That experience contributed to her dedication to providing for her own family, said her husband, artist Bob Fisher. Hassen had a son and adopted a daughter with her first husband, John Moisan, whom she married shortly after high school. They divorced while the children were still young.

“She was a single mom, going to school full time and working and having a house,” Fisher said. “But she made sure that the kids, Jeff and Jennifer, each had their own bedroom.”

Hassen discovered her artistic drive at age 30 after taking an art class. She left the paralegal work she’d trained for in favor of art school at Oregon State University, from which she graduated in 1977. In 1979, she moved to Ellensburg to teach art at Ellensburg High School, but the position was defunded shortly thereafter. So she got a part-time teaching position at Central Washington University, from which she would earn her master’s in art in 1983. While there she met Fisher. They married in 1986.

“Her house was the center of the graduate student life off campus, and it wasn’t because it was the party house,” Fisher said. “It was because she was always available to anyone who needed help. If someone needed help with a project or studying for an exam, or if they needed a shoulder to cry on after a breakup, she was there.”

In 1989, she became executive director of Yakima Valley Community College’s Larson Gallery, a post she would hold until 2006. During that time she helped elevate it from a nice but small and unknown gallery to one widely recognized as among Central Washington’s premier arts venues. Under Hassen, the gallery hosted retrospective shows for regionally important artists, launched the popular Tour of Artists Homes annual event, and established an endowment that now boasts more than $400,000. Those efforts gained her a Governor’s Arts Award from Washington Gov. Gary Locke in 2001.

“She took the gallery to the next level,” current Larson Executive Director David Lynx said. “She made it more solid, and not even just in the gallery. The whole idea of Tour of Homes and getting art out to people was really important to her.”

That’s how Jane Gutting, a local artist who was then superintendent of state Educational Service District 105, met Hassen in the late 1980s. Hassen wanted to talk about getting K-12 students into the Larson Gallery.

“She worked really hard to connect art educators,” Gutting said. “She was a great artist in her own right, but she was equally passionate about art education and getting art to everybody.”

Hassen returned to nonprofit leadership in 2010 when, having moved from Yakima back to Ellensburg in 2008, she recognized a need at Gallery One. She led that organization until 2014 before turning it over to Miller, whom she had encouraged as a replacement. As with the Larson Gallery, she reinvigorated Gallery One and helped establish an endowment fund that will ensure its future.

“Her ability to make a little bit of money and a little bit of help become something much larger was a great strength of hers,” Fisher said.

Miller, reluctant at first to fully buy into the mentor-mentee dynamic between the two, came to appreciate Hassen tremendously over the years.

“I trusted her, and I laughed with her,” Miller said. “Carol always used to say she was grooming me. I didn’t really like the word ‘grooming,’ but in hindsight she treated me like a daughter and took me under her wing.”

Gallery One will honor Hassen with a retrospective exhibit that will hang throughout February. “Decades of Art” will include work from throughout Hassen’s career. The pieces, many of which are paintings of serene settings, have taken on a new resonance for Miller since Hassen’s death.

“They look like peaceful places to be,” she said.

That’s fitting for an artist who seemed at peace with herself and who she was.

“She did have this confidence of self,” Miller said. “She just owned who she was. She knew what her achievements were. She knew what she was doing. Maybe that confidence is what gave her that space to help so many others.”

Fired or resigned?
Former Wapato Police Chief Michael Campos was fired last year ‘for acts of serious misconduct.’ He later reached a $125K settlement with the city
  • Updated

A former Wapato police chief was fired with cause in May after an internal investigation found evidence that he had attempted to intimidate witnesses into changing their statements, lied under oath and involved himself in an investigation where he had a clear conflict of interest.

But his personnel records will indicate that he resigned. He also will walk away with $125,000 to settle an employment claim he filed against the city through the police union.

As with many of the city’s dealings over the past few years, it’s complicated. It’s so complicated that an investigator with the state’s Labor and Industries Department, assigned to look into the case, added a separate “background” section to the standard form.

Michael Campos, a police officer whose career with the Wapato police department started in 2005, was appointed to serve as the city’s police chief by then-Mayor Dora Alvarez Roa in August 2018 during a controversial time.

Alvarez-Roa and then-City Administrator Juan Orozco made headlines when a state audit reported eight egregious findings of gross misappropriation of government resources and unlawful activity, including violations of nepotism and ethics policies and the state’s open public meetings act. The city also faced numerous lawsuits from former employees alleging retaliation and harassment, including several police officers who chose to resign.

Campos was named in several of the former officer filings, alleging in part that he had worked with Orozco to use the police department to harass citizens. The appointment also was controversial because Alvarez-Roa had terminated Police Chief Dominic Rizzi without cause and appointed Campos, whose civil service rank is that of a police officer, over the department’s only acting sergeant at the time.

Alvarez-Roa received less than 10% of the vote in the 2019 election, and Keith Workman was elected mayor. Shortly after taking his oath of office, Workman demoted Campos to his civil service rank. He placed Campos on paid administrative leave in December pending an investigation, the details of which were undisclosed at the time.

Documents recently obtained by the Yakima Herald-Republic through public records request revealed that Campos was terminated with cause May 29 by recently-installed Police Chief Nolan Wentz. The documents also show that Campos referred his situation to the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or DOSH, shortly after, alleging his termination was tied to concerns he had brought up about the police station during a public council meeting.

But that’s not what the investigation showed.

An investigation

In November 2019, as acting police chief, Campos approached the Wapato City Council with concerns about the police station, a more-than-100-year-old building that he said was infested with birds and rodents and was otherwise unsafe for officers working there.

In June 2020, he told DOSH in a standard “whistleblower complaint” form that he believed his termination was “politically motivated” and that he was demoted, placed on administrative leave, investigated, and ultimately fired in retaliation for raising those concerns, according to the document. The employment discrimination investigator closed the case after his investigation found “insufficient evidence” to support Campos’ discrimination complaint.

The investigation records, provided to the newspaper through a public records request, revealed previously undisclosed details about Campos’ employment and termination. The report states that the city’s current police chief, in an interview, said he fired Campos “for committing acts of serious misconduct unrelated to the report he made about the Wapato Police Department building.”

The inspection report notes that a former Wapato police officer approached Workman on Dec. 4 with allegations that Campos had lied during the officer’s unemployment hearing before the state Employment Security Department. The officer also alleged that Campos had intimidated witnesses during an investigation into former Mayor Tony Guzman and also was involved in drafting an incident report that led to Guzman’s arrest — at the request of Orozco — in violation of state law, department policy, and an existing conflict of interest.

Campos and the police union did not respond for this story. But in a four-page letter from Campos to the police chief, dated May 28, Campos denied the allegations brought against him. He said he was “appalled” by the city’s treatment of him, called the independent investigation “incomplete and quite frankly biased,” and contested claims that he had used his position for personal gain.

“I did not utilize my position to secure any special privileges, receive any gift or compensation, reward or gratuity,” Campos wrote. “I did not disclose confidential information for any personal gain or benefit.”

Details about Campos’ responses to the allegations also were included in the Labor inspection report.

The state investigator said in the report that Campos “denied that he is guilty of the acts he was accused of committing” during his Loudermill hearing — part of the due process requirement when employees are facing discipline. The investigator also noted that Campos said he had “made every effort to remove himself or minimize his involvement” with the Guzman situations but was “acting under the directives of Orozco,” who had “directed him to oversee, monitor, and supervise the investigation” despite being informed by the city attorney that doing so created a conflict of interest, according to the documents.

Regarding attempts to intimidate witnesses, the investigator noted: “Campos said that he did not intentionally lie in his testimony … he simply did not remember his involvement.” The investigator also wrote that Campos had tried to downplay the allegations by challenging the “character” of Workman and the reporting officer “and placed the blame for the situation on Juan Orozco.”

The officer resigned in 2018 and has an active lawsuit against the city, alleging Campos and Orozco retaliated against him when he refused to comply with directives he believed were unethical. The case is waiting to be scheduled for a jury trial.

The city hired the Menke Jackson Beyer law firm to conduct an internal review, which found that Campos had involved himself in the Guzman investigation although he knew there was a conflict of interest, had attempted to intimidate witnesses into changing their statements, and had lied under oath in the administrative hearing, according to the investigator’s report.

“Campos claims there are political motives for some of the actions taken … however, he ignores the overwhelming evidence that he is in fact guilty of the offenses alleged by the city,” the investigator wrote. “Campos’ misconduct consists of criminal violations, regardless of whether he is referred for prosecution.”

Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Brusic said his office has received information from the Wapato Police Department relating to the county’s Brady list — a list typically compiled by a prosecutor’s office or a police department with the names and details of law enforcement officers who have had sustained incidents of untruthfulness, criminal convictions, candor issues, or some other type of issue placing their credibility into question.

Brusic said his staff is reviewing Campos’ situation and the findings from the law firm’s investigation. Campos will “most likely” be added to the Brady list, Brusic said.

He added that only his office and the state Attorney General’s office have the authority to find someone “guilty” of criminal convictions. For that to happen, Wentz would have to refer charges to Brusic or the attorney general for review, and those agencies would have to independently verify criminal acts had been committed, Brusic said.

Wentz said the city does not plan to refer charges, citing a settlement agreement the city has reached with Campos and the police union that also limited what he was able to say.

A settlement

The investigator’s report noted that Wapato had sent information to the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission indicating Campos may have committed “disqualifying misconduct” that could result in the termination of his peace officer certification.

The commission informed the newspaper that Campos’s certification, as of Dec. 21, 2020, was “under review.”

The union for Wapato police officers, Teamsters Local 760, filed a grievance on Campos’ behalf that challenged his termination. In written correspondence to Wapato’s police chief that the newspaper received via public records requests, the union raised issues about Campos’ pay and also cited that the city’s internal investigation exceeded the 120-day period allowed by the collective bargaining agreement. The city, in response, noted that the pandemic and initial difficulty finding an investigator had stalled the investigation’s start by more than a month.

Campos also filed a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The union, and Campos, agreed to drop those claims when the city of Wapato signed off on a $125,000 settlement during a December council meeting.

Teamsters and the employment commission did not respond to requests for a copy of the employment complaint, so the details remain unknown. The settlement document mentions the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. But a Nov. 12 document from the EEOC, also disclosed via public records request, said that the agency was “unable to conclude that the information obtained established violation of the statutes.”

Under the settlement’s provisions, city personnel records will indicate that Campos voluntarily resigned from his position. The city’s mayor will respond to employment verification requests by stating the dates Campos was employed, the positions he held, and the compensation he received. The city also won’t contest Campos’ claims for unemployment benefits.

Campos, in return, agreed to waive his claims against the city and to not sue Wapato in the future over his employment or termination.

The settlement notes that everyone involved, if asked about the settlement, can say only that “the grievance was settled on terms that both sides considered fair” and that neither party admitted to violating contracts, collective bargaining agreements, or existing laws.

A public records request to the city of Wapato turned up Campos’ resignation letter, dated Oct. 21.

“This letter will serve as a formal notice of resignation. I regret to inform you that I will be terminating my employment, as a police officer, with the Wapato Police Department. It has truly been an honor to work for the City of Wapato. I would like to thank the citizens of Wapato, for the great opportunity of allowing me to serve,” the letter reads in full.