On MSNBC Live, Contessa Brewer suggested that there is "a cloud over" Al Franken because a potential legal challenge by Sen. Norm Coleman or filibuster by Sen. John Cornyn could impede efforts to seat Franken in the Senate. Additionally, Brewer said that despite a potential legal challenge or filibuster, Sen. Chuck Schumer is "saying we should get him [Franken] in right away." But in purporting to represent Schumer's remarks, Brewer did not mention that Schumer reportedly said "there are still possible legal issues that will run their course."
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During the January 5 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Contessa Brewer suggested that there is "a cloud over" Democrat Al Franken -- who reportedly leads incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) by 225 votes upon completion of the Minnesota Senate recount -- because a potential legal challenge by Coleman or filibuster by National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman Sen. John Cornyn (TX) could impede efforts to seat Franken in the Senate. Additionally, Brewer said that despite a potential legal challenge or filibuster, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is "saying we should get him [Franken] in right away." But in purporting to represent Schumer's January 4 remarks, Brewer did not mention that Schumer reportedly said "there are still possible legal issues that will run their course." Schumer concluded: "With the Senate set to begin meeting on Tuesday to address the important issues facing the nation, it is crucial that Minnesota's seat not remain empty, and I hope this process will resolve itself as soon as possible."
Brewer did not explain how a potential legal challenge by Coleman or a Senate filibuster by Cornyn constitutes "a cloud over Franken." As Media Matters for America has documented, numerous media figures have similarly warned that a "cloud" hangs over President-elect Barack Obama because of the scandal involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) or asserted that the scandal threatens to cast a "cloud" over Obama's presidency, despite the absence of any actual allegations of wrongdoing by Obama or his staff.
As Media Matters noted, in a January 4 post on ABC News' The Note, senior congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl uncritically quoted Cornyn's baseless assertion that Schumer "believes Al Franken should be seated without an election certificate signed by both the Secretary of State and Governor, as Minnesota law requires."
From Schumer's statement, as posted on the TPM Election Central blog on January 4:
With the Minnesota recount complete, it is now clear that Al Franken won the election. The Canvassing Board will meet tomorrow to wrap up its work and certify him the winner, and while there are still possible legal issues that will run their course, there is no longer any doubt who will be the next Senator from Minnesota. Even if all the ballots Coleman claims were double counted or erroneously added were resolved in his favor, he still wouldn't have enough votes to win. With the Senate set to begin meeting on Tuesday to address the important issues facing the nation, it is crucial that Minnesota's seat not remain empty, and I hope this process will resolve itself as soon as possible.
From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the January 5 edition of MSNBC Live:
BREWER: Senator [Harry] Reid [D-NV] says, look, we can -- we pick who sits in the Senate. The House picks who sits in the House. Is that true?
NATE PERSILY (Columbia Law School professor): Well, the Supreme Court actually has issued a decision right on point, and it said that, you know, the qualifications in the Constitution as to age, citizenship, and residency are grounds for disqualifying someone, but you can't just decide who can sit there. So if the Democrats wanted to deny seats to all the Republicans, they can't do that.
Now, there might be special circumstances here, because Blagojevich and this appointment are sort of under a cloud of suspicion of impropriety. And so, some people are saying, well, you know, they can deny a seat to [Roland] Burris because it's almost as if there's sort a bribery angle to this, but I think that's a pretty hard road for them to hoe.
BREWER: And -- and don't they have more control over who sits in the Senate, like, once the senator is actually there, seated in the Senate? Can they do anything about a person who's just incoming and hasn't necessarily done anything wrong?
PERSILY: Well, it's -- what they're -- people are saying is that they can deny him a seat because it's almost as if this is like a -- say a bribery type of case, right? So that there is this cloud that's hanging over the appointment, so therefore that it's almost as if someone were buying an election.
BREWER: Interesting that you bring up this cloud hanging over the appointment, because we're looking at Minnesota, where, today, they're considering whether to name Al Franken as the winner. It appears that he's ahead in the recount. That being said, you've got Norm Coleman who's challenging it, perhaps legally. We may see a legal challenge. John Cornyn of Texas says he's going to filibuster Al Franken being named to that seat. So isn't there a cloud over Franken, and yet you have Schumer saying we should get him in right away?
PERSILY: Well, that's right. What the Constitution says is that each house -- either the House of Representatives or the Senate -- is the judge of the qualifications, returns, and elections of their members. And there have been instances where they've said, you know, there's something suspicious in a certain election, therefore we're not going to seat them. That requires a majority vote of the Senate, and so, we'll see if they can prevent a majority vote from happening.