Rigged or Open: Polar Opposite Positions of Republicans and Democrats
Mitch McConnell is doing his level best to rig Trump’s Senate trial. He says he is NOT going to be impartial even though he is required to take an oath to be impartial so help me God. He loudly proclaims that he is working hand in hand with Trump’s White House lawyers to rig the Senate trial in Trump’s favor and get it over quickly. Why is he so vocal about being all in for Trump? Moscow Mitch is not popular even in his home state of Kentucky, (50% disapproval and only 33% approval rating in his home state). He desperately needs Trump’s support to win re-election. Mitch is the least liked Senator in the country. The way Mitch wins elections is that Trump comes to Kentucky to do rallies and puts his arm around him. Trump is beloved in Kentucky.
Lindsay Graham has a similar problem. That’s probably why Trump and the Republicans wanted Graham in charge of the Senate Judiciary committee that is running the trial. Graham is beholden to Trump and needs him to win re-election. Before Graham went all in for Trump, his approval ratings were in the dumper in his home state of South Carolina. Once he changed his tune to become an all out Trumper, his approvals in his state went up by 24 points. This helps explain why Graham did such an abrupt about face from being a man of honor who aligned himself with John McCain, who was far more principled, to become a toady for Trump. Both McConnell and Graham could lose their elections if Trump turns on them. No wonder Mitch and Lindsay are very vocal about wanting a brief kangaroo court, sham “trial” in the Senate without any evidence or documents. That approach has the best chance of keeping uninformed Americans from hearing the truth about Trump.
Pelosi, Schumer, all the Dems, and many former Republicans who have fled Trump’s GOP want the untainted direct evidence to come out in a trial in the hope that more Americans will understand 1) Trump’s role in the scheme he directed to do a hit job on Biden and 2) how he is destroying the House’s Article I oversight role. They also need Americans to understand 3) that this impeachment and conviction could be the last clear chance for our country to avoid turning into a dictatorship led by a man who is totally unchecked and definitely unbalanced. A live trial is the best way to get beyond the Fox News fog machine that keeps many Americans (willfully) in the dark about how rotten Trump really is as a leader and as a human being. Most Americans are busy living their lives and some are not that aware of anything beyond their own news echo chambers. Many express exhaustion about Trump and blame DC politics for constant bickering, not understanding how critical this moment is for the future of our country. Even at that, the number of people wanting Trump impeached and removed polls at 51%. That’s higher than when Nixon faced his impending impeachment before he left office.
The Tipping Point
If there were a real Senate trial with live witnesses and documents (that have been blocked so far by Trump and his White House team), that number to impeach AND remove could go higher. Sure, it could be risky too since no one knows exactly what Bolton or Mulvaney or other witnesses would say if they came in to testify without ever being deposed or questioned in advance. They would probably perjure themselves to stay in Trump’s favor, expecting that the Dept of Justice led by Bill Barr would never charge anyone who perjures himself for Dear Leader. They might also provide exculpatory evidence (though that is very doubtful since if there was such evidence it would have come out by now). But even with that risk, the gamble of a totally unscripted reality TV trial where witnesses are sworn and testify about what they heard and saw could be worth it. Americans would watch that TV show. And some Americans who watch that show would understand how corrupt Trump really is, goosing the numbers of Americans who want him impeached and REMOVED from 51% to more like 55 to 60%. Analysts have predicted that 55% to 60% impeach AND remove polling numbers would likely be a tipping point for purple state senators to be forced to vote with the Dems to convict and remove Trump resulting in a vote to convict that does not split along party lines even if it does not ultimately remove Trump. Much will depend on voters in particular states: how agitated and vocal those voters are and how willing they are to push their elected officials to do the right thing.
How Schumer Will Try to Get in Evidence Once the Trial Starts
There is another approach to getting a fuller trial with witnesses and documents. Once the trial is in progress, Senators can vote to require witnesses and documents. Chuck Schumer has already vowed to force the issue by calling for votes that will shine the spotlight on purple state senators- do they vote for a fair trial or a rigged trial? Schumer says he is planning to bring a motion for a vote to ask that John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney and other witnesses be brought in before the Senate to tell us what they know. The number of Senators needed to pass a motion to compel witness testimony or document production is only 51, a simple majority. The Dems already have a solid 47 votes. They would need 4 more votes to get to 51. That means the Dems might be willing to agree to start a trial without assurances from McConnell to have live witnesses and documents but once the trial is ongoing, make a pact with the purple state Senators to request witnesses so that the trial is not perceived as rigged by their constituents.
Those Senators who are most likely to side with the Dems are Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha Mc Sally of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah. Romney is not in a purple state, but he does not fear Trump because he has rock solid support so he can follow his conscience rather than paying allegiance to Trump. There might also be additional Senators who would break from the Republican death-grip because their states are trending blue. Those states are North Carolina, Georgia and possibly Texas. Unlike a typical judge in a district court trial setting, Justice Roberts’ role is limited and can be overruled by requests made by the majority (those 51 Senators) who can upend the ongoing trial with additional requests for witnesses and evidence.
The Vote to Convict is 2/3 of the Senators Present! Not 2/3 of the Senate
The number of votes for conviction and removal from office is higher than a simple majority of 51. Conviction requires 2/3 of the Senators present on the day of the vote. As Laurence Tribe writes:
“The Constitution doesn’t indicate that removal from office requires two-thirds of the Senate. It requires two-thirds of senators present for the proceedings.”
Many news agencies gloss over this distinction, assuming all Senators will be present for the vote and that the vote will be along party lines. That may be how it plays out, but it may not be that cut and dry. A 2/3 majority is required to convict which is 67 Senators, and that would be 20 Republicans breaking from Trump’s party, which will not happen. But if you read the Constitution and the rules governing the Senate, there could be as few as 34 members voting to convict assuming there is a quorum of 51 Senators present on the day the vote is held. Here is how that would work:
“Senator Jeff Flake speculated that at least 30 Republican senators would cast their vote for impeachment against Trump—but only if it were held on a secret ballot. (Flake went further, suggesting the number might be as high as 35.) Suppose those 30 senators were seeking a way, as Flake suggested, to remove Trump while avoiding the rage of his base. They might boycott the proceedings—or, when the big day of the vote arrived, mysteriously not show up. With 70 members now present, the number of senators required to convict Trump is no longer 67. It’s 47: exactly the number of seats Democrats and independents currently hold in the Senate.”
Right now this scenario is not likely but as a number of investigations move forward, including the investigations into Trump’s financial records and taxes, the SDNY investigation of Guiliani and his buddies Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and if there is more of a bombshell from, for instance, the translator(s) who sat in with Trump and Putin who could tell us what was said in those secret meetings and how Trump sold our country out to help himself win re-election (of course he did that), then who knows if the Republican Senators might just decide to have a “sick out” on the day of conviction? It would be a cowardly way to get the Dems to own the conviction of Trump and save our democracy from disaster. But if nothing else, the GOP has established itself as a bunch of cowards in the last three years.
Why This Vote to Convict Matters! A Lot!
I am usually someone who looks on the bright side. But I have to say what I see. And right now, if nothing changes the current political landscape, our country is on the verge of sliding into a dictatorship. If Trump skates on conviction in the Senate, which looks likely, he will be utterly unstoppable. He will claim he is totally exonerated and will rewrite the rules to suit himself to get re-elected, get his wall, get whatever he wants. If Trump does not have to comply with House oversight, he won’t. If Russia, North Korea, China and many other countries can help our country fall apart and cease to be a world power they will gleefully do that. These countries will aide and abet Trump by manufacturing whatever fake news dirt he wants on the Democratic nominee to help him win again. They know that with Trump as president the world will be in disarray, our country will be divided, and they can take advantage of it all. These foreign countries are not the friends of the US but they befriend Trump personally, buttering him up and probably offering him real estate deals he can benefit from (as Turkey is doing). They will most certainly take up Trump’s invitation to meddle in our election.
Therefore, unless something changes in this equation we are barreling towards an election in November in which we will not be able to trust the result.
Our complicit Republican led Senate just voted election protection measures down -for the third time! The Senate is, like Trump, inviting meddling in the election of 2020. The House seems powerless to stop the Senate from destroying the power of Congress and doing damage to our democracy. Trump has hollowed out the agencies that protect us (although there is a cyber-security team that may be stepping up to try to keep out foreign interference- however they are not supported by Trump).
Absent a conviction, the very last chance to keep our democracy would be a blue tsunami in 2020 that will flip the Senate (we HAVE to nominate a Democrat who will make it easier for Democrats to win in the swing states!!!) because even if Trump loses the election narrowly he will say he won it and will insist on staying in power. If he won’t leave, the last best chance to get Trump out of power after that would be to have both chambers of Congress (Senate and House) working in concert to check him when he commits the next impeachable offense (which he will do as certainly as the sun rises) and evict him from the presidency that way. In other words we have to flip the Senate. And the GOP needs to be overwhelmingly defeated. Americans might not care now but they will care when our democracy is gone. By then it will be too late. Now is the time to try to prevent that from happening.
Especially if you live in a purple state or a red state WRITE YOUR SENATOR, SHOW UP AT HIS OFFICE, JOIN INDIVISIBLE, THE LOCAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY, JOIN MOVEON.ORG. GO TO RALLIES THEY ORGANIZE. THIS IS IT. EVEN BEFORE THE TRIAL STARTS. ACT! TELL THESE SENATORS THEY MUST CONVICT TRUMP! That way when they do not vote to convict, they will have been warned and they will also be marked for removal from office themselves.