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Tipsheet

Senators Ask DOJ to Get Involved in Expulsions of TN Members

AP Photo/George Walker IV

As if the Biden administration hasn't fawned over state Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones out of Tennessee enough, Senate Democrats are asking that the Department of Justice (DOJ) look into how the members were expelled by Tennessee House Republican members for their participation at a gun control protest at the Tennessee Capitol that got out of hand. Both members have been reinstated, and had been by Wednesday, the day the letter was sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

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According to an exclusive from The Washington Post, which obtained the letter, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as well as Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) are asking the DOJ to use "all available legal authorities" to see if expelling Pearson and Jones somehow violated the Constitution or federal civil rights laws. The senators warn that the expulsion may have violated First Amendment rights, 14th Amendment or civil right statutes, and the rights of citizens of Memphis and Nashville. With the letter, lawmakers appear to very much be making the matter about race, as Democrats are prone to do. 

The letter is described by The Washington Post as "the first formal effort by U.S. Senate lawmakers in response to the removals."

Also cited is a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court opinion from 1966, Bond v. Floyd, which found that the Georgia House of Representatives' refusal to seat Julian Bond, a black lawmaker, over his position on the Vietnam War was unconstitutional. 

Pearson and Jones, who are black, were expelled for violating chamber rules. State Rep. Gloria Johnson, a white woman who is also a Democrat, managed to avoid expulsion by one vote. 

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As Ann Coulter explained in her most recent Wednesday column, aptly titled "Expel Them Again," with original emphasis:

There's a reason Tennessee Democrats frantically tried to prevent the playing of the video.

What it shows is two black Democrats, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, on the Tennessee House floor carrying on for more than an hour, shouting into a bullhorn, waving protest signs, banging on the podium like a drum, and leading chants with protesters in the gallery:

Power to the people! Power to the people!

No justice, no peace! No action, no peace!

Whose house? Our house! Whose house? Our house!

Gun control now! Gun control now!

Please explain how the Jan. 6 QAnon Shaman showed more contempt for the democratic process than Jones and Pearson did. How about compared to a representative sending naughty texts to female colleagues outside of business hours -- the casus belli of the last expulsion in 2016.

Reporting from The Hill, which also obtained the letter, highlighted excerpts that sought to describe the protest as peaceful, which members of the press also desperately tried to do

It was hardly a peaceful protestamounting to an insurrection even. Protesters also engaged in despicable behavior as they held up seven fingers as a way to claim that the alleged shooter who shot and killed six people at the Covenant School, Audrey Hale, was also a victim. With Hale being transgender, activists have turned the issue into being about gun control and supporting trans rights. 

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As part of shutting down proceedings on the House floor at the Tennessee Capitol, Jones and Pearson shouted into a bullhorn, banged on the podium, waved signs, and led chants. 

"These deeply moving expressions of democratic participation follow America’s long tradition of peaceful, non-violent protest, perfected during the struggles and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement," the letter mentioned, again bringing race into the matter, as it would continue to do. 

"Silencing legislators on the basis of their views or their participation in protected speech or protest is antithetical to American democracy and values," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. "We cannot allow states to cite minor procedural violations as pretextual excuses to remove democratically-elected representatives, especially when these expulsions may have been at least partially on the basis of race. Allowing such behavior sets a dangerous--and undemocratic--precedent," the letter added with added emphasis. 

The letter goes on to once more make the matter even more clearly about race while claiming they "were protesting nonviolently. "In taking this radical action, rather than responding to the intolerable violence inflicted upon a Tennessee community, the Tennessee House of Representatives chose to silence Black members of their own body who were protesting nonviolently, in response to violence," it also read. 

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The DOJ confirmed to The Washington Post it had received the letter and is reviewing it. 

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