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Impeachment process a hot topic nationally as well as for readers of PolitiFact Wisconsin
This photo montage shows the Sunday, Dec. 20, 1998, editions of newspapers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island with headlines of President Clinton's impeachment. (Associated Press) This photo montage shows the Sunday, Dec. 20, 1998, editions of newspapers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island with headlines of President Clinton's impeachment. (Associated Press)

This photo montage shows the Sunday, Dec. 20, 1998, editions of newspapers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island with headlines of President Clinton's impeachment. (Associated Press)

By D.L. Davis December 2, 2019

In November, presidential politics and impeachment took center stage when the House Intelligence Committee launched hearings on allegations President Donald Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate his political rivals in the U.S.

The hearings resonated nationwide, including in Wisconsin, where a congressman's claim of being a historical footnote topped PolitiFact Wisconsin's most-clicked items for the month.

Here is our "High Five" for November 2019: 

1. U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse: "I am the only member of Congress that voted for both inquiries -- the Clinton inquiry and now the Trump inquiry."  

In 1998, Kind -- who was starting his second term in office -- was one of 31 Democrats who voted in favor of a Republican resolution to launch a formal impeachment inquiry of Clinton. 

Ultimately, four articles of impeachment were brought against Clinton, including two perjury charges, one charge of abuse of power and one of obstruction of justice.

Kind voted against all of the articles of impeachment, and the House eventually voted to impeach on obstruction of justice and a single perjury charge. 

In all, 55 current members of the House -- 40 Democrats, 15 Republicans -- were in office at the time. Of those, Kind, indeed, was the only one to vote for both Clinton and Trump inquiries.

We rated Kind's claim True

2. American Family Insurance CEO Jack Salzwedel: "There’s more African American males in the penal system right now than there were (enslaved) at the height of slavery." 

At the end of 2016, there were 487,300 black men serving time in state or federal prison and about 200,000 serving time in local jails, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report "Jail Inmates in 2016." The agency also recorded 771,355 on probation and 289,000 on parole. 

That means about 1.75 million black men were under federal, state and local criminal justice supervision. That is about double the 872,924 black men who were enslaved in 1850.

Of course, the nation’s population has grown a lot since 1850. Indeed, there are far more black residents in the United States now — about 40 million -- than the 23.2 million total residents in 1850. 

In 2016, the total U.S. population stood at 308,745,538

By that comparison, black enslaved males tallied 3.7% of the population in 1850, while African American males imprisoned today represent about 0.6% of the population.

On a strictly numerical basis, the claim is on point. There is some clarification needed, though -- chiefly the fact that the nation’s population growth means a lower figure on a percentage basis. 

We rated the claim Mostly True

3. U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville: The House impeachment rules resolution "does not provide the president with due process protections that were afforded to both President Clinton and President Nixon."

Bill Clinton was impeached by the House in 1998, formally accused of perjury and obstruction of justice in the wake of his affair with a 22-year-old White House intern. Clinton served out his term when the U.S. Senate ultimately acquitted him.

Richard Nixon was not actually impeached. The House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment in July 1974 and sent them to the full House for consideration. But Nixon resigned in August 1974 after the Supreme Court forced him to release incriminating White House tapes, leaving office before the House could vote.

Steil argued Trump isn’t being afforded the "due process protections" that presidents Clinton and Nixon received in their impeachment proceedings since he can’t participate in the Intelligence Committee phase and can lose his protections before the Judiciary Committee if he doesn’t cooperate.

But the Intelligence Committee claim doesn’t hold up since that body is filling a unique investigative role. The closest analog from past impeachments is the investigative work done before the matter even reached the House — and Clinton and Nixon had no role or protection during those.

The potential for Trump to lose protections if he doesn’t cooperate is indeed unique this time. That said, the House is only the investigative side of an impeachment inquiry; the trial side — where due process more directly applies —  is handled in the Senate.

For a statement that contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, we rated the claim Mostly False.

4. Vice President Mike Pence on a visit to Wisconsin tweeted: "Since President (Donald Trump’s) election, 36,000 jobs have been created in WI."

Pence’s number lines ups with — and actually understates — the gains since January 2017, according to the latest data. 

But it’s an oversimplification to imply that Trump deserves the credit for that bump. And it ignores an important fact: State job numbers have fallen so far in 2019. 

The number of jobs in Wisconsin rose from 2.94 million in January 2017 — when Trump was sworn in — to 2.98 million in October 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a difference of 40,900.

And recent data tells a different story. The monthly jobs data shows a loss of 9,300 jobs from January 2019 to October 2019.

For a statement that is accurate but needs clarification or additional information, our rating was Mostly True

5. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said 1,000 people failed gun background checks in Wisconsin in 2018, but "almost none of them were prosecuted for trying to do a background check and illegally buy a weapon."

Vos raised that issue while objecting to Gov. Tony Evers’ push for a red flag law in Wisconsin. He said the state should focus on "enforcing the laws that are already on the books" rather than pursuing legislation the parties don’t agree on.

On average only about two people per year are charged specifically with the crime of providing false information on a background check.

Prosecutors say violators can also be charged with the more serious crime of being a felon in possession of a firearm — or attempting to do so. But anecdotally we found no evidence that this happens frequently.

Beyond that, failing a background check is only a crime if the applicant knew they were banned from having a gun.

Add it all together and we get a statement that is accurate, but needs some additional information and clarification. 

We rated the claim Mostly True.

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Our Sources

PolitiFact Wisconsin

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Tony Evers called lawmakers in Thursday to act on guns. GOP leaders rejected it within seconds." Nov. 7, 2019

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Impeachment process a hot topic nationally as well as for readers of PolitiFact Wisconsin