BREAKING: The Special Counsel for the Alabama House of Representatives’ Impeachment Committee Jack Sharman has released a tentative schedule for the impeachment hearings against Robert Governor Bentley on charges relating to his misuse of state property in the course of covering up his affair with senior political advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
According to a live Twitter broadcast by ABC 33/40, this is the tentative schedule for the proceedings:
- April 7 – Report Released
- April 10th – Witnesses Called, Case Presented to Committee
- April 11th – Governor calls witnesses, presents case to committee
- April 14th – Summations
- One week for Governor Bentley to submit a written letter to the committee
- May 1st – Committee votes on whether or not to present articles of impeachment
- May 4th – Articles of impeachment presented to House
- May 9th – House votes on articles of impeachment
If the House approves the articles of impeachment, a special trial will be held by the Alabama State Senate. The Governor’s lawyers are insisting that this process is a violation of the Governor’s Due Process rights.
There is very little precedent in Alabama for impeaching a statewide official, and the law has historically been extremely vague on the matter. Last year, a state constitutional amendment was passed that clarified the number of votes necessary for impeachment – two thirds of state senators present and voting. No constitutional officer in Alabama has faced impeachment since 1915. Then, it was Secretary of State John Purifoy, who was accused of bribery. The motion failed. No elected official currently alive in Alabama has ever participated in an impeachment hearing, which has made this an extremely long and complicated process.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall confirmed back in February that a special prosecutor had been appointed to investigate Governor Bentley on corruption and ethics charges. My sources in Montgomery tell me that the grand jury has been meeting for quite some time now, and that there may be some shocking and unexpected developments later this year. This investigation is entirely separate from the impeachment proceedings, and may involve additional charges – possibly including some related to the Governor’s appointment of former Attorney General Luther Strange to replace Senator Jeff Sessions. There is also speculation that charges may be issued based on Governor Bentley’s use of campaign funds to pay the legal fees of Rebekah Mason – payments which Republican Secretary of State John Merrill insists were illegal.
However, there may be yet another development. Despite the best efforts of the Governor’s office to squash the rumors, there is wide speculation that he plans on resigning before the impeachment proceedings are given a chance to move forward. The justification for doing so would supposedly be health-related, as he recently spent a short time in the hospital for what was then claimed to be a “routine” medical procedure.
While this move would protect Governor Bentley from impeachment, it would likely have no bearing on any official criminal charges that may be filed by the Attorney General’s office or any other branch of law enforcement. Regardless of how he leaves the Capitol, there is hardly anyone in Montgomery that I have spoken to that believes that Robert Bentley will still be Governor in 30-60 days. In the case of his exit, Lt. Governor Kay Ivey will become the second female Governor of Alabama in history.
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Trey Edwards is a conservative Republican campaign consultant and strategist in Alabama. Follow him on Twitter @treyedwardsal.