On Wednesday the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump for the second time. The cause was his alleged January 6th incitement of a mob to attack the Capital Building. Those are the facts and they are clear; where it goes from here is very cloudy. Let’s explore.
The first “technical issue” is the House delivering the Article of Impeachment to the Senate; as of this writing that is yet to happen. Timing also enters into the picture. The Senate is not in session on Monday in celebration of Martin Luther King Day. The earliest the Article could be officially received is Tuesday. Wednesday is Inauguration Day. There are Cabinet members to be confirmed by the Senate and the sooner that happens, the better for the incoming Biden administration.
Like any incoming administration the Biden administration has some legislative priorities it would like to see quick action on. The facts that we are in the midst of the worst pandemic in American history and that it has rocked the economy present a special urgency. Not to mention the need to clean up the domestic and international mess the Trump people left. This is disregarding the plethora of imperfections America had “kicked the can” on for decades (and will undoubtedly do so on many over the next four years).
Think of the impeachment as an indictment and the Senate phase as the trial. The Constitution requires that two-thirds of the Senators present vote to convict. That would remove Trump from office which won’t matter because he will already be gone by the time a verdict is reached. If all 100 are seated and present (a fair assumption) it would require 17 Republicans to vote to convict assuming all 50 Democrats do so. That is a distinct possibility though far from a forgone conclusion.
Staying with the trial analogy, if there is a conviction we move into a penalty phase. As previously stated removal from office would be moot. However the Article has an additional penalty – disqualification from holding federal office in the future. This would be imposed by a simple majority so if Trump is convicted the disqualification punishment is almost a certainty.
So the focus is clearly on the 50 Republican Senators – will 17 or more vote to convict. Today I want to focus on five. They illustrate the reasons to vote to convict.
Let me begin by stating the obvious; the Republican Senate caucus is hardly a portrait of profiles in courage. A vote to convict and subsequently bar from office is simply the right thing to do. That takes political courage since Trump has a loyal following and it’s all in the GOP. (When deposed how long he can hold it is another matter – but again if you are a political coward you may not be willing to take that chance.) I feel that Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah will vote to convict because they feel it is the right thing to do. Murkowski is up for reelection in 2022 but she has already won as a write in candidate and proven she doesn’t need the Republican Party infrastructure to win. Romney is probably not going to serve beyond this term. If he should choose to run he is wealthy enough to self-finance a Senate campaign and is incredibly popular in Utah which despite being a reliably red state is not very pro-Trump.
The other camp is occupied by Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri among others. They want to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 and removing Trump from the mix (although I feel he will be so tied up in financial and legal problems that he will not be a factor anyway) would be to their advantage.
A wild card is perhaps the most telling. Reportedly Mitch McConnell is not going to whip the vote and is releasing his caucus to vote their conscious. Make no mistake Mitch would love to see Trump out of the picture but he is being slick about how he goes about it.
The issue of presidential pardons is more imminent. Trump can’t issue them after noon on this coming Wednesday. Will he pardon people like his sons and daughter-in-law who spoke in the run-up to the riot? How about people like Rudy Giuliani and Mo Brooks? How about the actual invaders? What about behind the scenes co-conspirators? There is a lot to watch for here!
I somewhat alluded to it in the above paragraph but what about the possible (and it looks more credible as time passes) House members who abetted the insurrection? Removal from Congress may well be the least of their worries. Remember a Capital Police officer died. That means murder is involved.
I touched on a lot above and we will be living it for months, possibly years. The bottom line is that Trump should be convicted and legally prevented from ever holding federal office again. Let’s see if enough Republican Senators can summon the courage and wisdom.
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