Jack Evans Saga Plays Alongside the Trump Show

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Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans in downtown D.C. in January. Photo by Jeff Malet.

That old saying and song — “All politics is local” — continued to play in Washington this week,  as the story of the political fate of the longest-serving D.C. Council member vied for attention with the likelihood of an impeachment trial, the winnowing of the field in the Democratic presidential nomination race and the further adventures of President Donald Trump at home and abroad.

Those matters took up almost all the Dec. 4 front page of the Washington Post, where the big story on top was possible impeachment. “Trump abused powers, report says” ran up top with “House committee levels accusations” and “President says there was ‘nothing done’ beneath. More could be found below the fold with “Campaign to pressure Ukraine began as a Giuliani effort to undercut Muller.”

Off to the side, we saw the ranks of presidential hopefuls thinned by one: “Early star Harris ends her campaign,” read the headline for the vertical story. Farther down, Trump’s travels to the NATO summit and his highs and lows popped up: “Trump takes his unbalancing act to world stage,” with “As NATO summit opens, president bosses, banters and shows his boredom.”

But perhaps the most talked about item locally could be found on the bottom of the front page, right side, and it was a surprise of a considerable sort: “D.C. Council votes in favor of removing Evans” and “12-to-0 decision sets stage for historic expulsion after ethics, FBI probes.”

This one probably had the Christmas party scene buzzing the most, at least in Washington, and certainly in Georgetown, because Evans is a resident of Georgetown. He has lived there during most of his longest-running tenure as Ward 2 Council member  and was generally considered one of the most important members of the community there — a neighbor, prominent politician and Democrat.

That Tuesday morning, the council had gone into a noon meeting with the intention of discussing what to do about Evans and the allegations surrounding the ethics of his various dealings with private clients in his position as a council member.  That morning, according to reports, the council was thought to consider censure as the most likely and perhaps best outcome after a council-ordered investigation reportedly found 11 instances of ethical violations.

A large majority of the council had already expressed a wish that Evans should resign. But it was reported on the morning of the meeting—which Evans did not attend—that there were only three members in favor of expulsion, all of them at-large council members. Instead, by a 12-0 vote, the council for expulsion, and in apparently no uncertain and unprecedented terms. The result now awaits another vote-taking meeting on the horizon  which could finalize the issue as early as December 17.

The vote also seemed to mark the end of Evans’s political career. Throughout the various revelations and events, there remains an ongoing federal investigation. One small win for Evans: invalid signatures on a recall petition rendered it void. On June 16, there will be a Democratic primary election, for which six candidates have signed up.

As of this writing Evans has made no public comments in the aftermath of the vote, although, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has urged Evans to resign, according to a report in the Post, Nevertheless, there have been no indications over the period of reports and counter-reports that Evans plans to resign.  Still, he has not yet filed papers for re-election.

There appear to be few moves left for Evans, after the often strongly worded vote by the D.C. Council for expulsion. “He has betrayed each and everyone of us,” said Mary Cheh, a Democrat from Ward 3.

There seems to be a gloomy wait and see atmosphere hanging over the fate of Evans, as it mixes in with the equally unappetizing—for some—prospect of an impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Democratic House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff reported to the press on the impeachment hearing and claimed that the president had abused the powers of his office for personal political gain.

Yesterday, four constitutional scholars gave their reports on the constitutional issues at stake and in play, three of them saying that impeachment was necessary and one saying that the charges did not meet impeachment standards.

Even here, the exchanges on the floor were often fraught and angry, all of which promises for more of the same to come. Whatever civility remains after this has long gone home to do some Christmas shopping.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kamila Harris, once something of a rising star and even one of the favorite in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination, even as it appeared that the party was moving to centerfield, right behind a suddenly beleaguered duo of progressive stars, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Trump himself was in London, being feted by the Queen of England, getting into noticeable and talked-about tiffs with the leaders of France and Canada — finally cutting his visit short, obviously distracted by the impeachment proceedings, and the difficulty of dealing with our traditional allies.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in calling for articles of impeachment, said that they had been left with “no choice.” It goes without saying: more to come.

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