8 Investigates

Impeachment questions arise as political scandals engulf Virginia

What to know about the unprecedented procedure

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -- Talk of impeachment for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax may have you wondering how that would work in Virginia. 8News dug into it. 

First off, it would be unprecedented. It's never happened in Virginia's history.

According to the Virginia Constitution - "offending against the Commonwealth by malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor,” is grounds for impeachment. 

Associate political professor at VCU Dr. Alex Keena tells 8News it’s the only way according to the constitution for state lawmakers to remove someone from power. However, he also says it's not an easy process. 

"It's actually an uphill battle to remove somebody from office,” Keena explained.

The House of Delegates would have to vote to impeach, proceedings would then take place in the Senate.

"It's actually a very high bar. Two-thirds of the Senate would need to vote to remove the Lt. Governor from office. So that ends up being 67 senators, which is a huge number,” he says. 

On Monday, Delegate Patrick Hope, a Democrat from Arlington backed off calls for impeaching Fairfax amid allegations of sexual assault because lawmakers aren't even sure if they have the legal footing to conduct an investigation into alleged offenses predating the Lt. Governor's time in office. 

“You know, we’ve tried to look at some research on how other states have done it and obviously United States Congress, but it’s uncharted territory,” says Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-District 66).

The lawmaker admits there is even a question about their subpoena power.

"We would really need to get legal counsel in to make sure we have firm footing, moving too quickly on something this important would really be a mistake,” says Cox.

Overall, there seems to be a consensus today at the Capitol that there should be an investigation into these allegations against Fairfax but no one seems to know how that should happen.

Virginia State Police wouldn’t have the jurisdiction to investigate crimes in other states.

Fairfax himself has called for an independent investigation. He’s hoping the FBI will step in.

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