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Messenger: Hawley needs refresher course on what happens in a ‘normal courtroom’
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Messenger: Hawley needs refresher course on what happens in a ‘normal courtroom’

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Sen. Josh Hawley

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

Sen. Josh Hawley wants to give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a lesson in the “real world.”

The problem is that it’s not a place where he’s spent a lot of time.

Here’s what Missouri’s junior U.S. senator told Fox News last week about his plan to try to change Senate rules to allow a “dismissal” of the articles of impeachment that were voted on in the House, even though they have yet to be submitted by Pelosi:

“In a normal courtroom, in a real world, if the prosecutor does not try his or her case, if they don’t actually bring it forward to the court, the defendant can say, all right, then we’re dismissing the case. The court can say, we’re dismissing the case. In this instance, the Senate is the court and it’s time for us to take action.”

Never mind the former constitutional law professor’s complete disregard for the checks and balances built into the U.S. Constitution, let’s test his theory of what actually happens in a “normal courtroom,” using his brief two-year stint as Missouri’s attorney general as a guide.

Take Jan. 23, 2018. On that day, a federal judge fined the attorney general’s office run by Hawley for its “continued and belated” failure to produce documents in a case related to police brutality.

“Defendants have offered no excuse for waiting until after the motion for sanctions was filed to search for additional responsive documents,” U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Fleissig wrote in her order.

About a month earlier, Hawley’s office had faced a similar talking to from Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem.

In that case, a company was suing the state alleging a breach of contract, and Hawley was defending the state agency involved. His office had failed repeatedly, according to court records, to provide documents through the normal discovery process.

Beetem, a Republican who is in a normal courtroom every day, wasn’t pleased.

“Failure to comply with this schedule, which has been extended a number of times in favor of the state, will result in the imposition of sanctions,” he wrote.

Then there was the criminal prosecution of Reginald Clemons.

Clemons’ 1991 conviction of the rape and murder of two sisters on the Chain of Rocks Bridge had been overturned, and new charges had been filed by the prosecutor in St. Louis. But then an election happened, and the outgoing prosecutor sought a delay in the new trial, because she wanted Hawley’s office to take over as a special prosecutor.

That’s what happened. And what did Hawley do in his first action as prosecutor?

He sought a delay.

None of this normal courtroom stuff, of course, actually matters much to Hawley.

His “real world” ruse is much like a graduate of Yale Law School and Stanford University (Hawley is both of those things) decrying “coastal elites” in the sort of speeches that get the youngest member of the U.S. Senate labeled by paid political consultants as a “populist” and rising star in national Republican circles.

There is nothing particularly normal about an impeachment trial, but should impeached President Donald Trump actually head to a trial in the Senate, Hawley will be a juror, with the constitutional requirement not to prejudge the case against the president, while U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court presides over the trial.

When it comes to prejudging impeachment proceedings, Hawley has some real world experience there, as well.

When former Gov. Eric Greitens, a fellow Republican, was being investigated by the Missouri House (also controlled by Republicans) for a potential impeachment, Hawley issued subpoenas for evidence related to the allegation that Greitens stole a donor fundraising list from the nonprofit he used to run, The Mission Continues.

Greitens’ attorneys objected, and they took Hawley to court to try to stop him, suggesting that because he had already asked the governor to resign, he had prejudged the case.

“Fortunately for Josh, he’s better at press conferences than the law,” Greitens said in response to Hawley’s allegation. “Anyone who has set foot in a Missouri courtroom knows these allegations are ridiculous.”

Greitens, of course, resigned before he could be impeached.

But he was right about one thing.

Hawley knows how to win a press conference.

The senator’s recollection of what happens in a normal courtroom, however, needs a refresher course.

Get Tony's e-newsletter: From City Hall to the Capitol, Pulitzer Prize-winning metro columnist Tony Messenger shines light on what public officials are doing, tells stories of the disaffected, and brings voice to the issues that matter.




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