It seems clear that President Donald Trump is likely to be impeached by the Democrats in the House of Representatives. An impeachment requires a majority vote of those present and voting after a quorum has been established. Once the vote has been taken on the floor of the House, managers are chosen to present the bill of impeachment to the Senate for trial. These managers will report back to the House that they have informed the Senate of the charges and they will serve as prosecutors in the Senate trial. (The person charged, the respondent, will hire his own attorney).
The trial of a president in the Senate is a separate process with the Chief Justice serving as the president judge. Each Senator is considered a juror and Senate rules require a public vote. It takes a two-thirds vote to convict. The conviction of the President on any of the charges is sufficient to remove him from office. There is a separate vote taken on whether to prohibit the person from ever holding an office of public trust again. Removal from office is immediate. There is no appeal.
The Republican Party is the majority party in the Senate. President Trump cannot be removed from office without some Republicans voting to convict. The Democratic Party is assuming no Republican will vote to convict. I think they are wrong, not because of any greater morality in the Republican Party, but because it is in the party’s best interest for the 2020 election.
Let’s start with examining some of the petty politics surrounding the coming trial. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not like President Trump. His main goal is to get Republicans elected. He does not want to lose the majority and some of his party are vulnerable because they represent “purple” districts. Sen. McConnell also carries grudges and he has been embarrassed by President Trump more than once. Here is his opportunity to get even. All he has to do is say that each Republican is free to vote his/her own conscience. There may not be enough to vote the President out, but what if he actively worked to remove the president?
The 2020 election by all current measurements looks to be a very, very close race. If Trump is removed from the presidency, Vice President Pence will be President. He is smart enough to choose Niki Hailey, former U.N. Ambassador, as his running mate. Pence would hold the evangelicals that any Republican needs to get elected and Hailey would bring the white suburban woman back to the fold.
Trump’s removal from office would rouse his base and their enthusiasm could tip the balance in any race against Biden and Kamala Harris. If Elizabeth Warren is the Democratic nominee, the Democrats would have a very hard time winning against Pence/Hailey. In fact, the only thing that would ensure a Democratic win would be if Donald Trump started a third party, thus splitting the Republican vote.
There are 45 Democrats and 53 Republicans currently in the Senate. The two independents are split one Democrat and one Republican. It takes 66 votes to remove a President from office. Nineteen Republican votes will be necessary to convict. Of these, eight are from purple states. That leaves 11 to swing the vote. Why would these 11 Republican Senators vote to remove the President?
Because of the seriousness of the charge. The president solicited help from a foreign government to manipulate an American election in his favor. It doesn’t get any more serious than that. The Democrats had no choice but to launch an impeachment investigation against the president, even though Nancy Pelosi knows it will hurt her party in the long run.
Because it would help them get elected in 2020. It is President Trump personally who is rousing the Democratic opposition. A guaranteed fired up Republican base against an emotionally spent Democratic base would make it a lot easier for Republicans to win close races.
Neither previously impeached president was removed from office. It is possible that President Donald Trump could become the first and only president to be impeached and removed from office.
Dr. Jane Elza is a resident of Valdosta.