The Politics of Impeachment: Watching High Stakes Poker

 

Normal Americans not consumed with politics may understandably be confused about what’s happening with the impeachment of now-former President Donald Trump. Allow me to share with you the political machinations likely driving what is, or is not, transpiring.

First, the January 6th breach of the Capitol by a hundred or so extremists opened a political opportunity for Democrats – not just to blame President Trump for “inciting” violence, but to drive a wedge between establishment Republicans and Trump supporters. They rightly figured that House and Senate Republicans, among others, would recoil at the violence and damage done to the Capitol.

They were correct. And they responded with a hurried, even “emergency” impeachment of President Trump. No hearings, no investigation, no Judiciary Committee vote, no due process of any kind. And it passed on a largely party-line vote, with 10 Republicans joining in. Establishment Republicans, including reputed New York Times “conservative” columnist Bret Stephens, praised House Conference Lynn Cheney and 9 of her colleagues for their “courage.”

Where people may be confused is this: if it was such an “emergency,” why hasn’t the trial already been started? That’s because Speaker Pelosi has never sent the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. This is no constitutional or legal requirement for her to do so. Nevertheless, we are now told they will be solemnly marched over to the Senate on Monday. So, a trial, barring some intervention, will start Tuesday.

Senate rules require that an impeachment trial of a president must begin the next “legislative day.” They are very prescriptive. Meanwhile, new President Joe Biden has a Cabinet to confirm and an agenda to pursue. So there are some cross currents facing Democrats as well. Some believe the Senate can walk and chew gum at the same time, and conduct business between sessions of a trial, but that would require bipartisan cooperation, perhaps even unanimous consent, and that is very unlikely to happen.

Many establishment Republicans are now clamoring for Trump’s conviction to ensure he is not a candidate again in 2024 – the very reasons cited by now-Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer for his support as well. Unity! Healing! Some Republicans agree, believing that excising the Trump “cancer” would help the party rebuild. Some 74.2 million Americans who voted for Trump, the second-highest vote total for a presidential candidate in American history, might disagree.

This places Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell onto a difficult highwire act with all sorts of crosswinds. The Republican’s most astute political analyst, McConnell is surely on to the Democrats’ political strategy. This is about the 2022 midterm elections and keeping the House and Senate under Democratic control. By driving a wedge between Republicans, Schumer and his Democratic allies would love nothing more than Trump supporters to fade back into the woodwork, stay home on election day, 2022, or better yet, abandon the Republican party entirely.

That is a real possibility. By doing so, Schumer greatly tilts the playing field in his direction and forces Republicans to spend precious time and resources rebuilding their badly fractured base.

Some believe McConnell made a mistake by accusing Trump, in a Senate floor speech, of “provoking” the events of January 6th at the Capitol. He may have, but that may also be part of his highwire act to keep his 49 GOP colleagues as unified as possible, between those who might vote to convict Trump and those who believe the process is unconstitutional. McConnell has not signaled how he would vote. He is keeping his cards close to his vest. There are Republicans who see long-term value of excising Trump from politics. McConnell may be one of them. He’s not saying.

Reports are that GOP Senators – 17 of whom would be needed along with all 50 Democrats to convict Trump and deny him a future public office and other emoluments – are moving towards a consensus that the impeachment trial of a former President who has clearly left office is unconstitutional. Reportedly, Chief Justice John Roberts has signaled as much and does not want – and may refuse – to preside at the trial. That puts Democrats in charge of presiding over their own trial. They need to think about that.

Meanwhile, the business of the country (or, at least Democrats, who are busy destroying pipeline and energy jobs while revving up their regulatory engines), continues. And President Biden, who made a commendable appeal for unity and ending division, says nothing about a process that clearly is aimed not just at Trump, but Trump supporters, a process that clearly pits “red” versus “blue,” which he supposedly wants to end. The words ring hollow for many and may have contributed to almost the worst-ever honeymoon polling for the new President, as recorded by Rasmussen.

So, Schumer’s political machinations continue – whether a trial would really advantage Democrats, is genuinely permitted under the Constitution (we’re in unprecedented territory here – we’ve never tried a former President in an impeachment trial), as does McConnell’s. We’re watching the middle of a high-stakes poker game.

Best guess: the trial happens, because the Democratic base will insist, and Schumer will see more benefit than cost. He may calculate that he will lose on a conviction vote, but mission accomplished – he will get a divisive vote to use against some Republicans in the 2022 midterms (I can imagine the TV commercials now). Republicans will remain divided, and Trump voters angry. Republicans, ultimately, will object to a trial over constitutional concerns, with an assist from the Chief Justice. Schumer will try to expedite the trial. Biden will remain silent, sadly. Republicans wisely will boycott the trial but show up to defeat the motion to convict, which will require 67 votes. It will be defeated, but some Republicans, such as Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and possibly two or three others, will likely join with the Democrats.

That is not a good scenario for the nation. Or for President Biden.

This is Biden’s first test of his lofty inaugural address. If he is serious about unity and healing the nation’s division, he should call Speaker Pelosi and tell her never to send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. He should tell Sen. Schumer that there are more important things to do. Biden and Vice President Harris, who is likely to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2024 (if not the incumbent President by then), probably is salivating at a chance to run against then-78-year-old Donald Trump after another bruising GOP primary. She’s making calculations of her own about a trial, and if conviction looks possible, she may get cold feet.

Biden could do the nation a big favor by calling on his congressional leaders to let this go. Americans of all stripes (except the most partisan) would applaud. Is he up to it? We’re about to find out.

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  1. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    John Roberts is now front and center.  Who knows where that will lead?

    • #1
  2. Bucknelldad Coolidge
    Bucknelldad
    @SoupGuy

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    John Roberts is now front and center. Who knows where that will lead?

    I’m betting Roberts will refuse to show since he is only required to preside over the trial of a sitting President. That will not stop Schumer. We’ll see if Kamala Harris decides to be the presiding officer, or lets the Senate President Pro Tempore, Pat Leahy, run the show with his colleagues. That will not be a good optic, IMHO. 

    • #2
  3. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Bucknelldad (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    John Roberts is now front and center. Who knows where that will lead?

    I’m betting Roberts will refuse to show since he is only required to preside over the trial of a sitting President. That will not stop Schumer. We’ll see if Kamala Harris decides to be the presiding officer, or lets the Senate President Pro Tempore, Pat Leahy, run the show with his colleagues. That will not be a good optic, IMHO.

    A no-show would be Robertsian. He might have to decide something.

    I’m baffled by what seems to be the prevailing view that, even if the impeachment is unconstitutional, SCOTUS should “stay out of it” because . . . the Senate.  Unconstitutional is unconstitutional.

    • #3
  4. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    Meanwhile, there are folks saying that if the GOP takes the House they should install Trump as Speaker.  (The Speaker doesn’t need to be a Rep.)   This talk might influence the Senate vote, because if convicted, Trump would likely be banned from future office. 

    I hear half of the GOP Reps have signed on to removing Cheney from a leadership position.

    • #4
  5. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    It’s an interesting and apt analogy, the Poker one. 

    The Democrats would have folded right away if the ‘Weak Sisters’ that are the GOP Senate hadn’t acted like they had a pair of 2’s since Jan 6. 

    Since so many here still love that Regan and Bush porn, they invite aggression by appearing weak and divided. Remember ‘Peace through Strength’ & ‘Don’t go wobbly on us George’?

    The Dems push you around because you give every indication that you’ll accept being pushed around!

    • #5
  6. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    The man is already out of the White House in FL. This is nothing more than punative vindictiveness and seriously divisive. Where is mild-mannered, purple state Uniter, Slow Joe Biden weighing in on this? He should be called on to tell Chucky and Nancy to call it off. This is third world dictatorship stuff. He is the self-proclaimed Democrat Party now, right? Right?

     

    • #6
  7. Captain French Moderator
    Captain French
    @AlFrench

    What you wrote makes sense.

    Now, if the Dems decline to follow your advice. I hope that McConnell uses the impeachment to slow down the Senate in everything else. If the Dems want impeachment, give it to them good and hard. Use the opportunity to delay at least the awful legislation they will try to push through. @resist,, to the extent it can be done honestly, lawfully and to good ends.

    • #7
  8. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Bucknelldad: That is not a good scenario for the nation.

    It is edifying, hence I don’t agree.

    • #8
  9. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Bucknelldad (View Comment):
    I’m betting Roberts will refuse to show since he is only required to preside over the trial of a sitting President.

    ” When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: “

    If Trump is impeachable, it is only if the definition of “the President” is expanded to include “a former President”.  So Roberts would have to preside over Trump’s trial.

    Clearly, this is BS.  “The” is a singular article when applied to a singular noun.  Impeaching a private Citizen is unconstitutional.

    • #9
  10. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Bucknelldad: First, the January 6th breach of the Capitol by a hundred or so extremists opened a political opportunity for Democrats – not just to blame President Trump for “inciting” violence, but to drive a wedge between establishment Republicans and Trump supporters. They rightly figured that House and Senate Republicans, among others, would recoil at the violence and damage done to the Capitol. 

    I sincerely believe most of the Capitol assault was the work of leftists, possibly egging on the more radical Trump supporters.

    And why has Ashli Babbit’s murder been swept out of the media spotlight?  Maybe she doesn’t fit the narrative of a violent, weapon-wielding, right-wing anarchist . . .

    • #10
  11. LaChatelaine Member
    LaChatelaine
    @LaChatelaine

    This is Achilles dragging the dead Hector behind his chariot around the walls of Troy. It is a mean spirited, vicious thing to do, at a time when the whole country is in desperate need of leadership that can demonstrate nobility and generosity. 

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    LaChatelaine (View Comment):

    This is Achilles dragging the dead Hector behind his chariot around the walls of Troy. It is a mean spirited, vicious thing to do, at a time when the whole country is in desperate need of leadership that can demonstrate nobility and generosity.

    Well stated . . .

    • #12
  13. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    Interesting to see what Robert’s decides. He’s not exactly a profile in courage. Still, as the Chief interpreter of the Constitution, he’s on firm ground going with “you are trying A President not The President”.

    My own suggestion would be for Biden to “suggest” a censure as an alternative.* Then they only need 51 votes. I think most of the politicians have the most to gain from that. On the other hand, I don’t think the Democrats have enough common sense to avoid a trial. The Democrats have chosen to ride the tiger, even at the risk of being mauled.

    * You know who could do it and get away with it? Obama.

    • #13
  14. Hugh Member
    Hugh
    @Hugh

    Very good post.  Lots to think about.

    • #14
  15. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I suppose that I respect Giuliani’s loyalty to Trump (and perhaps vice versa), but, if this comes to a Senate trial, I hope he’s nowhere near the defense.

    • #15
  16. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    I hope the Republicans drag out the impeachment through the end of the 2026 mid terms.  Biden’s executive orders are bad enough.  I don’t want him to be able have a cabinett or be able to sign bills into law.,

    • #16
  17. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Doctor Robert (View Comment): If Trump is impeachable, it is only if the definition of “the President” is expanded to include “a former President”. So Roberts would have to preside over Trump’s trial.

    Clearly, this is BS. “The” is a singular article when applied to a singular noun. Impeaching a private Citizen is unconstitutional.

    Of course, you are talking abut the spineless twit lingual contortionist who famously used the following to get out of doing the right thing:

    “In this instance, the context and structure of the Act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.”

    So don’t expect a measly “the” to prevent him form pleasuring Pelosi and Schumer yet again. 

    • #17
  18. Richard Easton Member
    Richard Easton
    @RichardEaston

    I’ve heard that the Dims rushed impeachment to distract from the Russiagate files which were released just before Trump left office. They showed that there was never any evidence of collusion. Rather, it was created to distract from HRC’s scandals. So the report that Obama rushed out in December 2016/January 2017 was a fabrication as was the whole Mueller investigation. In the US, the Dim losers are allowed to persecute the R winners. Once Mueller fell apart, the Dims created another false scandal in the Trump Ukraine call. It’s interesting that the NT attacks on Trump were largely based on lies. Another example occurred on January 6th. It’s interesting how the Conservative base is much smarter than the pundits.

    • #18
  19. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    I don’t see a down side for the Democrats, whether the Senate votes to convict or not.

    From a Reuters/Ipsos poll:

    …about six in 10 Republicans still believe the 2020 election was the result of “illegal voting or election rigging,” about the same number who felt that way in a poll that ran shortly after the election.

    Republicans are split, however, on the question of whether their representatives in Congress should work with Biden on common goals.

    Among those respondents who identify as Republican, nearly half said they wanted their congressional representatives to work with the new president “even if that means compromising on issues that are important to me,” while four in 10 want them to oppose Biden at every turn “even if it means government can’t respond to urgent issues.”

    If anything, opposing Biden at every turn will be a justification for the Democrats getting rid of the filibuster in the Senate without wearing the blame.

    • #19
  20. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Zafar (View Comment):

    I don’t see a down side for the Democrats, whether the Senate votes to convict or not.

    If Harris presides and botches it, there’s a pretty big downside.  She is not the sharpest knife in the drawer–her brief time in the primaries is evidence of that–and the Democrats are likely hoping that we won’t notice.  If she messes up the impeachment trial, well, we’ll see.

    The Dems don’t trust Harris to handle this.  Instead, Patrick Leahy of Vermont–once dubbed “the nastiest Democrat”–will preside as President Pro Tempore of the Senate.  A vote of no confidence in Harris, who at least has never endangered the country by leaking to the extent Leahy has.

    • #20
  21. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    I don’t see a down side for the Democrats, whether the Senate votes to convict or not.

    If Harris presides and botches it, there’s a pretty big downside. She is not the sharpest knife in the drawer–her brief time in the primaries is evidence of that–and the Democrats are likely hoping that we won’t notice. If she messes up the impeachment trial, well, we’ll see.

    I would be less sanguine about her ability to cross examine people.  In the last impeachment the Senate didn’t allow compelled testimony (by subpoenaing witnesses) and constrained what could be (further) introduced as evidence. These may be the first points of disagreement if/when the Senate approves an organising resolution.

    • #21
  22. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    I have to admit that unless and until I see our government thoroughly tackling the fraud issue (for starters, every person who voted in two jurisdictions should be offered a plea bargain before formal charges are levied, and then voter rolls and processes need to be audited…), I will not view future elections as free and fair.

    This election was cooked, and so was the Georgia runoff. Without reform, we’ll never win another important election in a corrupt state. 

    • #22
  23. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Among those respondents who identify as Republican, nearly half said they wanted their congressional representatives to work with the new president “even if that means compromising on issues that are important to me,” while four in 10 want them to oppose Biden at every turn “even if it means government can’t respond to urgent issues.”

    I don’t understand why those are the choices.  Why don’t the Republicans work with Biden on legislation they agree with, and oppose him on that which they don’t?

    • #23
  24. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Among those respondents who identify as Republican, nearly half said they wanted their congressional representatives to work with the new president “even if that means compromising on issues that are important to me,” while four in 10 want them to oppose Biden at every turn “even if it means government can’t respond to urgent issues.”

    I don’t understand why those are the choices. Why don’t the Republicans work with Biden on legislation they agree with, and oppose him on that which they don’t?

    Sounds good,  but I have a hard time imagining that there is much legislation where the Republicans and Biden agree.

    • #24
  25. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Among those respondents who identify as Republican, nearly half said they wanted their congressional representatives to work with the new president “even if that means compromising on issues that are important to me,” while four in 10 want them to oppose Biden at every turn “even if it means government can’t respond to urgent issues.”

    I don’t understand why those are the choices. Why don’t the Republicans work with Biden on legislation they agree with, and oppose him on that which they don’t?

    Sounds good, but I have a hard time imagining that there is much legislation where the Republicans and Biden agree.

    That’s OK.  If you support zero per cent of his initiatives, support zero per cent of them.  Deciding ahead of time that you’re going to oppose anything he propose is craziness.  It smacks of Democrat.

    • #25
  26. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Roberts will not proceed over the impeachment trial.

    Assuming it still goes forward, come on down Kamala.

    • #26
  27. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Kelly D Johnston: This is no constitutional or legal requirement for her to do so.

    Sure there is. Article 1, section 3 states, “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. ” You cannot try an impeachment without the Articles that told you there was an impeachment.

    Otherwise, Impeachment is moot.

    • #27
  28. Hank Reynolds Member
    Hank Reynolds
    @HankReynolds

    They impeached “the” president, therefore the trial is about that impeachment and Roberts should preside.

    They have no jurisdiction over a former president. They cannot remove him from office. Therefore Roberts should immediately grant the first motion to dismiss the whole proceeding.

    Roberts is clearly not a man capable of taking this kind of decisive step. 

    • #28
  29. Kelly D Johnston Coolidge
    Kelly D Johnston
    @SoupGuy

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    I’ve heard that the Dims rushed impeachment to distract from the Russiagate files which were released just before Trump left office. They showed that there was never any evidence of collusion. Rather, it was created to distract from HRC’s scandals. So the report that Obama rushed out in December 2016/January 2017 was a fabrication as was the whole Mueller investigation. In the US, the Dim losers are allowed to persecute the R winners. Once Mueller fell apart, the Dims created another false scandal in the Trump Ukraine call. It’s interesting that the NT attacks on Trump were largely based on lies. Another example occurred on January 6th. It’s interesting how the Conservative base is much smarter than the pundits.

    Possibly – the ‘distraction’ strategy isn’t necessary, though, when a compliant media is there to rescue you. 

    • #29
  30. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Stad (View Comment):

    Bucknelldad: First, the January 6th breach of the Capitol by a hundred or so extremists opened a political opportunity for Democrats – not just to blame President Trump for “inciting” violence, but to drive a wedge between establishment Republicans and Trump supporters. They rightly figured that House and Senate Republicans, among others, would recoil at the violence and damage done to the Capitol.

    I sincerely believe most of the Capitol assault was the work of leftists, possibly egging on the more radical Trump supporters.

    And why has Ashli Babbit’s murder been swept out of the media spotlight? Maybe she doesn’t fit the narrative of a violent, weapon-wielding, right-wing anarchist . . .

    Should there be a George Floyd-like movement for Ashli Babbit? The media would be AWOL.

    • #30