Updated: Jan 25, 2021
Powerful Republican forces are advocating Donald Trump's conviction by the Senate so the party can be freed from the defeated bully of a president who spent four years terrorizing anyone who failed to support him, according to published reports.
That's an outcome that Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (KY) may well endorse, as he has not foreclosed his own vote for impeachment.
"Mitch said to me he wants Trump gone," one Republican member of Congress told CNN. "It is in his political interest to have him gone. It is in the GOP interest to have him gone. The question is, do we get there?"
On January 19, McConnell said on the Senate floor that the mob that breached the Capitol in a riot that claimed five lives had been "fed lies" and was "provoked" by Trump.
It is interesting to note that Democrats, who now control the 50-50 Senate with the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, originally intended to start the impeachment trial immediately after the House formally transmitted its Article of Impeachment. That would have started the trial early this coming week.
But McConnell said he wanted to wait until mid-February to give Trump's legal team time to prepare his defense, so Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), set a new date of February 9.
This, of course, gives Democrats time to complete confirmation of President Biden's cabinet nominees and move forward priority legislation, including the coronavirus relief package. But it also could provide more time for GOP impeachment advocates to convince the 17 Republican senators needed to join Democrats and vote to convict. Could that be one reason why Schumer so easily agreed with the timeline delay?
CNN reported that dozens of influential Republicans, including some former Trump administration officials, have been conducting a sort of whisper campaign trying to convince GOP senators to vote to convict and make certain that Trump can never run for office again. Trump, of course, has floated the idea of seeking the presidency in 2024 and of starting his own political party, the Patriots Party.
The CNN story was based on more than a dozen sources who said a successful conviction is critical to the future of the Republican party, which would be even further ripped apart if Trump follows through with those plans.
All of this follows reports that numerous major political donors have decided to stop contributing to Republican members of Congress who initiated and supported the effort not to certify the electoral college votes that handed the presidency to Biden and instead hand Trump another four years.
As the old saying goes, "Money talks and bullshit walks." We may see just how true that is, especially in politics.
CNN said it had obtained a nine-point memo that includes talking points in favor of Trump's impeachment. The memo, CNN reported, charges that "it is difficult to find a more anti-conservative outburst by a U.S. president than Donald Trump the last two months."
The memo says Trump "urged supporters from across the nation to come to Washington, DC, to disrupt" Congress on January 6 and egged on the crowd, which was "widely understood to include people who were planning to fight physically, and who were prepared to die in response to his false claims of a 'stolen election.''
CNN said the memo points out that Trump "tweeted and made other statements against the Vice President as the Secret Service was being forced to rush Mike Pence out of the Senate chamber and into a protective bunker."
However, it is clear that Trump still has stalwart supporters in the Senate, indicative of the growing split within the GOP over him.
Said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Fox News last Wednesday, "If you're wanting to erase Donald Trump from the party, you're going to get erased," adding, "This idea of moving forward without Donald Trump in the Republican Party is a disaster for the Republican Party."
That comment comes, of course, from one of Trump's strongest advocates, a senator who promoted Trump's false claims that the election was fraudulent and that he was the rightful victor. It comes from a senator who personally tried to intervene in the Georgia election so Trump could be declared the winner, even though he had lost to Biden by several thousand votes.
Graham is no longer chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, since Democrats are now in control. It remains to be seen just how much influence he retains within the Senate's GOP membership. Should Trump be convicted with Graham having been his lead defender, how much clout will the South Carolina senator really retain?
Core Defense Diminished
When the trial does begin, the core of Trump's defense -- that he cannot be impeached because he is no longer president -- has been debunked by a bipartisan group of legal scholars in a detailed statement, obtained by Politico.
“We differ from one another in our politics, and we also differ from one another on issues of constitutional interpretation,” wrote the signatories, which include the co-founder and other members of the conservative Federalist Society legal group. “But despite our differences, our carefully considered views of the law lead all of us to agree that the Constitution permits the impeachment, conviction, and disqualification of former officers, including presidents.”
The document was signed by more than 150 legal scholars, including Steven Calabresi, the co-founder of the Federalist Society; Charles Fried, who served as solicitor general under Ronald Reagan and is now an adviser to the Harvard chapter of the Federalist Society; Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University and adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute; and Brian Kalt, a law professor at Michigan State University and leading scholar on the specific question of whether former officials can be impeached.
That conclusion, which is certain to carry weight during the Senate trial, flies in the face of assertions by Trump's defenders that a former president cannot be impeached.
“The Senate lacks constitutional authority to conduct impeachment proceedings against a former president,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said in a statement last week. “The Founders designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office—not an inquest against private citizens.”
However, the statement from those legal scholars flatly discounts that assertion.
"Impeachment is the exclusive constitutional means for removing a president (or other officer) before his or her term expires," it states. "But nothing in the provision authorizing impeachment-for-removal limits impeachment to situations where it accomplishes removal from office. Indeed, such a reading would thwart and potentially nullify a vital aspect of the impeachment power: the power of the Senate to impose disqualification from future office as a penalty for conviction. In order to give full effect to both Article I’s and Article II’s language with respect to impeachment, therefore, the correct conclusion is that former officers remain subject to the impeachment power after leaving office, for purposes of permitting imposition of the punishment of disqualification."
If, indeed, Republicans do want to be rid of Donald Trump, then those words should be heeded. It is their way out. It is their way to send this criminal president to the trash heap of history, where he rightfully belongs.