Impeachment petitioner seeks to withdraw from proceeding

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — One of the four Kentuckians to sign a petition pushing for the governor's impeachment signaled Wednesday that he wants to withdraw from the proceeding, a lawmaker said.

A legislative committee reviewing the petition received a letter from the petitioner's attorney indicating he wants to end his participation, said Rep. Jason Nemes, the panel's chairman.

The governor's office also received a letter from the attorney. That letter said the petitioner, Randall Daniel, agreed to withdraw from the citizen's petition after it was explained to him that impeachment "is not a proper response when public officials make policy decisions with which a citizen disagrees."

The other three petitioners have signaled they are proceeding with their effort.

Meanwhile, the committee will seek additional information from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, Nemes said. The Republican lawmaker didn't specify what information was being requested.

"We will ask the governor to turn that information around quickly so we can resolve this matter as expeditiously as possible," Nemes said.

Beshear had already submitted a lengthy response to the impeachment petition. The governor has said there are "zero grounds" for his removal from office. He points to a state Supreme Court ruling last year that said he had the authority to put restrictions on businesses and individuals to try to contain the coronavirus. Beshear says his actions saved lives.

The petition claims the governor violated the state and U.S. constitutions with a series of restrictions he ordered to try to prevent the virus's spread.

Asked about the impeachment petition at his COVID-related briefing Wednesday, Beshear said none of his actions were "anywhere close to an impeachment standard in Kentucky."

"The steps that we took were taken virtually everywhere across the country and were all intended to save and to protect lives," he said. "So we're going to keep doing the right thing. If I would allow myself to be intimidated or bullied by petitioners or others in the midst of COVID, it would cause me to either make decisions or not make decision that would cost the lives of Kentuckians."

The legislative panel voted Wednesday to make filings from both sides open to the public but then took deliberations on the matter behind closed doors.

The Republican-led committee took the action at the start of the meeting and then went into a closed-door session that lasted two-and-a-half hours.

When the panel reconvened in public, Nemes announced that one of the petitioners was seeking to withdraw and more information would be sought from the governor. The committee then adjourned without indicating when it will meet again.

Beshear recently submitted his response to the impeachment petition, and three of the petitioners offered their reply, Nemes said. The panel voted to make both responses public. But the committee reserves the right to "keep something in confidence if it's necessary," Nemes said.

The House committee consists of four Republicans and three Democrats. Republicans hold a supermajority advantage in the chamber.

The petition against Beshear is among a flurry of actions seeking the ouster of prominent Kentucky officeholders. A petition filed recently seeks the impeachment of Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron. The petition was signed by a handful of Kentuckians, including three grand jurors who criticized his handling of an investigation into Breonna Taylor's shooting death by police.

Another petition is seeking the ouster of Republican state Rep. Robert Goforth for an incident in which he was accused of trying to strangle a woman. Goforth, a former gubernatorial candidate, pleaded not guilty after his indictment on charges of strangulation and assault. The case is pending.

Kentucky law requires impeachment petitions to be referred to a House committee but does not require any further action. Under the state's constitution, the House possesses the sole power of impeachment. An impeachment trial is held in the state Senate, with a conviction requiring the support of two-thirds of the senators present.

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