The seven GOP Senators who voted to convict Trump were unafraid of political retribution

Here is Catie Edmundson at The New York Times:

…the senators were united by a common thread: Each of them, for their own reasons, was unafraid of political retribution from Mr. Trump or his supporters.

“Two are retiring, and three are not up until 2026, and who knows what the world will look like five years from now,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “It looked pretty different five years ago than it did today. All seven of them have a measure of independence that those who have to run in 2022 in a closed Republican primary just don’t have.”

Read the rest here.

My breakdown:

Ben Sasse (NE): Just got re-elected for another six year term, thus freeing-up his conscience again.

Bill Cassidy (LA): Just got re-elected for another six year term, thus freeing-up his conscience.

Susan Collins (ME): Just got re-elected for another six year term, thus freeing-up her conscience again.

Lisa Murkowski (AK): Is facing re-election in 2022. She voted out of conscience and conviction. She has everything to lose. Some reports say she may face a primary challenge from Sarah Palin.

Richard Burr (NC): Is retiring.

Pat Toomey (PA): Is retiring.

Mitt Romney (UT): Up for re-election in 2024. He voted out of conscience and conviction.

I realize that I am being somewhat cynical here. I am sure that moral conviction informed the votes of Ben Sasse, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Richard Burr, and Pat Toomey. But it is a lot easier to vote your conscience when you don’t have to face voters again until 2026.

Trump is acquitted by a vote of 57-43 in the United States Senate

Fifty-seven U.S. Senators voted to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment trial. But it was not enough. Sixty-seven voters were needed to convict.

Here are the GOP members who broke with their party and voted to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment trial:

Richard Burr (NC)

Bill Cassidy (LA)

Susan Collins (ME)

Lisa Murkowski (AK)

Mitt Romney (UT)

Ben Sasse (NE)

Pat Toomey (PA)

I am grateful for these courageous Republicans and I am proud of my Senator Pat Toomey.

But I am embarrassed to be an American today. I continue to feel betrayed by my fellow evangelicals. So many of them are responsible for empowering Trump and the Senators who voted to acquit him today. I feel a lot like I did back in November 2016.

Senate Intelligence Committee Unanimously Concludes that Russia Helped Trump Win in 2016

trump putin

Here is Ellen Makashina at The Washington Post:

The Senate Intelligence Committee has unanimously endorsed the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia conducted a sweeping and unprecedented campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

The heavily-redacted report, based on a three-year investigation, builds on a committee finding nearly two years ago that the January 2017 intelligence community assessment (ICA) on Russia was sound. The spy agencies also found that Russia sought to shake faith in American democracy, denigrate then-candidate Hillary Clinton and boost her rival Donald Trump.

Read the rest here.

It is worth noting that the Senate Intelligence Committee includes Republican Senators James Risch (ID), Marco Rubio (FL), Susan Collins (ME), Roy Blunt (MO), Tom Cotton (AR), John Cornyn (TX), Ben Sasse (NE), and Richard Burr (Chairman-NC).

No tweets yet from Trump.

Would the Founders Have Recognized GOP Arguments Against Trump’s Removal?

Impeachment Image

As we enter the 2020 election season I have been trying to do more writing for local and regional outlets here in Pennsylvania. This morning I have an op-ed on the impeachment trial at LNP/Lancaster On-Line (formerly Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era).  Here is a taste:

Other Republican senators, including Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Pennsylvania’s own Pat Toomey, argued that Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president was “inappropriate,” but did not rise to the level of impeachment.

This last group of senators justified their acquittal votes in two ways.

First, some of them argued that the Founding Fathers would have opposed a partisan impeachment. (No House Republicans supported impeachment.)

This is not true.

In Federalist Paper No. 65, Alexander Hamilton, one of the most prolific defenders of the Constitution during the ratification debates of 1787-1788, predicted that impeachments would always be political. As a result, the Senate should always proceed with caution, prudence and wisdom.

Moreover, the framers of the Constitution would never have referred to an impeachment trial as “bipartisan,” since at the time of its writing there were no political parties in the United States.

The second way that this cohort of Republican senators justified their acquittal vote was by claiming that “the people” should decide whether Trump should be removed from office and this should be done when they cast their ballots during the November presidential election.

The Founding Fathers would not have recognized such an argument.

Read the entire piece here.

More GOP Senators Make the “Let the People Decide” Argument to Defend Their Votes for Trump’s Acquittal

Collins

Last weekend it was Lamar Alexander.  Yesterday it was Lisa Murkowski.  Today it was Susan Collins and Joni Ernst.

As I argued (with the help of historian Jeffrey Engel) last weekend in the case of Marco Rubio, in an impeachment trial a Senator can vote however they want to vote.  They don’t have to explain their vote.  They can argue that Trump committed an impeachable act (Collins and Ernst do not go this far) and still choose to acquit him.

Alexander, Murkowski, Collins, Ernst all believe that Trump did something wrong when he asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.  Alexander said that the framers of the Constitution believed that it was the “people” through the “ballot”who should remove a president in an election year. This is an absurd historical claim.  Though Murkowski, Collins, and Ernst do not appeal to the founding fathers, they seem to accept Alexander’s argument.

So here is my question for these Senators:  How will you hold Trump accountable for what he did?  Is delaying the acquittal vote until Wednesday in order to make Trump deliver tonight’s State of the Union address amid an impeachment trial enough of a punishment? If Trump did something wrong, as the majority of Senators believe, how will the Senate exercise its constitutional requirement to check the executive branch?

Presidential Censure in Historical Context

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Democrats in the Senate believe that Trump should be removed from office.  They will vote along these lines tomorrow.  But they only have 47 votes.  This is well below the 67 votes needed to remove the president from office.  In all likelihood, the Senate will acquit Trump.

But several GOP Senators have noted that Donald Trump acted inappropriately when he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden.  Marco Rubio even suggested that when Trump withheld American aid to Ukraine until he got an investigation into his political opponent the president was committing an impeachable offense.

While some Senators will defend the president at all costs, it seems that others–Lamar Alexander, Rubio, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney–may want to send a message of rebuke to the president for his corrupt behavior. A censure might be an appropriate way to do this.

I don’t think Joe Manchin will get many Democrats to support a presidential censure.  Most Democrats want Trump out of office. Censure will look like a compromise.  But what if the Republicans pushed for censure?  If they really think that Trump committed unethical or impeachable offenses, perhaps they would want to remind the president that his call to Ukraine was not “perfect.” By calling for a censure of Trump, Manchin appears to be calling their bluff.

If the Senate did pass a censure resolution against Trump it would not be the first time this has happened in American history.  As historian Mark Cheathem reminds us, the Senate censured Andrew Jackson in 1834.  Here is a taste of his post at his blog Jacksonian America:

In 1834, the Senate passed a censure resolution against President Andrew Jackson. The decision to rebuke Jackson stemmed from his actions during the Bank War. Suspicious of the 2nd Bank of the U.S., Old Hickory had waged a battle against the financial institution since his first term. In 1832, he vetoed a congressional bill that would have granted the Bank a new contract four years earlier than expected. The following year, in an attempt to permanently weaken the Bank, Jackson ordered Secretary of the Treasury William J. Duane to remove the government’s deposits. When he refused, the president fired Duane. Jackson replaced him with Roger B. Taney, who implemented the removal policy. Bank president Nicholas Biddle responded by instigating a recession. “This worthy President thinks that because he has scalped Indians and imprisoned Judges, he is to have his way with the Bank,” Biddle said. “He is mistaken.”

Jackson’s opponents, led by Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, also took action. When Jackson refused to give the Senate a document on the removal of government deposits that he had submitted to his cabinet, Clay introduced censure resolutions against both Jackson and Taney. “We are in the midst of a revolution, hitherto bloodless, but rapidly tending toward a total change of the pure republican character of the government, and to the concentration of all power in the hands of one man,” Clay said in a speech on the Senate floor. He compared Jackson to a tyrant and warned his fellow senators that if they did not stand up to him, then the nation would collapse. “We shall die—ignobly die! base, mean and abject slaves— the scorn and contempt of mankind—unpitied, unwept, unmourned!” he concluded dramatically. In a decidedly partisan vote, in March 1834, the Senate passed censure resolutions against both Jackson and Taney. Senators also rejected Taney’s recess appointment as Treasury secretary.

Read the entire piece here.

No Fire Department Says “that [fire] started on the night shift, we are not going to put it out”

Bolton

Will there be witnesses in the Donald Trump impeachment trial?  Utah Senator Mitt Romney and Maine Senator Susan Collins want to hear from John Bolton.  According to The New York Times, John Bolton’s forthcoming book reveals that Donald Trump told Bolton he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until the country’s officials investigated the Biden family.  I am guessing that other Senators will want to hear from Bolton as well. Stay tuned.

Up until this point, Trump and his defenders have said that witness are not necessary.  If the House impeachment managers want witnesses, the GOP Senators argue, they should have called them during the House impeachment proceedings.  Whatever you think about this argument, it is no longer relevant.   We now have a first-hand witness who was not available to the House during the impeachment proceedings.  He has relevant information.  He must be heard.

John King of CNN put it best. No fire department tasked with fighting a big fire says, “that [fire] started on the night shift, we are not going to put it out.”

Who in the Senate Will Have the Courage to Vote Against Party?

Senate

Probably no one.

It will take 67 United States Senators (2/3rds of the Senate) to remove the soon-to-be-impeached Donald Trump from office in a Senate trial.  There are currently 45 Democratic Senators and two independent Senators (who will vote with the Democrats).  There are 53 Republican Senators.

In order to remove Trump from office, all of the Democrats and Independents will need to vote for removal and twenty Republicans will need to break with their party.  I doubt this will happen.  But it would certainly be revealing if a handful of principled Republicans (whether such Republicans exist is another question) broke with their party and voted to remove Trump from office.

Who might be the candidates for such a break with party?  The best bets (granted, they are really long shots) are:

Mitt Romney (Utah): Strong critic of Trump with nothing to lose. Utah Republican’s don’t like Trump.

Susan Collins (Maine):  She is not afraid to break with Trump, but did vote to confirm Bret Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.  Don’t hold your breath. If Collins votes for removal she might lose her seat in Maine.

Lisa Murkowski (Alaska): She has voted against Trump on healthcare and Kavanaugh.

Lamar Alexander (Tennessee):  He is retiring and has been quiet.  Maybe he will want to go out with integrity.

That’s it.

Of course Trump might turn this into a circus.  If this happens, and witnesses are called, perhaps a few more minds might be changed or more information might be revealed.  Mitch McConnell, of course, does not want this to happen.