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Pennsylvania Senate plans to put progressive prosecutor on trial

The Pennsylvania State Senate is beginning a potentially long and partisan process of considering whether to oust Philadelphia Democratic District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Members of the Republican-controlled Senate are scheduled to receive formal impeachment articles from House impeachment officers Wednesday, which they will read in a ceremony before the senators are sworn in as jurors.

The impeachment is part of a nationwide wave of efforts to oust progressive prosecutors over crime-fighting policies amid a nationwide rise in violent crime. Krasner was not accused of any wrongdoing.

The Republican majority in the Senate said members of the chamber have a constitutional obligation to review articles of impeachment. But minority Democrats say Republicans are unconstitutionally extending the process beyond Wednesday’s end of the legislative session to a new biennial session.

The impeachment process itself is not scheduled to begin until January 18. Krasner has until December 21 to make a plea.

Krasner — a progressive civil rights attorney who ran as an opponent of the death penalty, bail and prosecution of minor nonviolent crimes — was overwhelmingly re-elected last year to a second four-year term. He calls his impeachment “pure politics” and an attempt to undermine the will of Philadelphia voters, while Democrats call it an abuse of legislative power.

In the articles, House Republicans allege that Krasner’s policies and practices have “resulted in disastrous results” for Philadelphians.

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Krasner, however, said House Republicans did not have a shred of evidence that his policies were linked to a “rise” in crime, and numerous researchers said they found no link between progressive crime-fighting policies and increases in homicide rates.

The vote on Krasner’s impeachment in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives was down to one vote along the party line. A Senate vote to convict him — and force him out of office — will require Democrat cooperation, and Democrats have shown no willingness to cooperate.

The state constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, or 34 out of 50 senators, to convict. The November 8 election brought the GOP a 28-22 majority in the Senate in the next legislative session.

The last time the Pennsylvania Senate tried an impeachment trial was nearly three decades ago when, after a months-long trial, it convicted a former state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen, who had already been convicted of conspiracy in a criminal court and had been removed from office was out of the office.

Krasner’s impeachment vote came amid mounting gun violence and killings in the state’s largest city and disagreements between Krasner and the police department over how to contain it. Krasner has also clashed with the city’s police union – which has backed his opponents in both of his campaigns – amid a spate of criminal cases indicting officers in the country’s sixth-most populous city.

House Republicans approved seven impeachments, including complaints about Krasner’s prosecution and bail policies. They also cited court reprimands about how his office handled several cases, complained that he had failed to adequately update crime victims of developments in certain cases, and alleged that Krasner obstructed the House investigation of his office.

Krasner and the Democrats accuse Republicans of neglecting violence by blocking the city’s efforts to enact gun control measures. Democrats also say the case against Krasner is weak.

Pennsylvania lawmakers removed only two officers — both judges — by impeachment. The first was district judge in 1811.

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