Senate acquittal would be nothing but a stay of execution for Trump

Last week House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE called for articles of impeachment against President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security,” Pelosi said.

Trump’s removal from office is really a three-step process. The House of Representatives will impeach or indict the president, the Senate will try him and voters, acting as the court of last resort, will hear Trump’s case on appeal and decide whether or not he will remain in the White House.

For easy reference, think of the process as an episode of “Law and Order.” Let’s call this show “Law and Order: Quid Pro Quo.”

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Donald Trump is the defendant and Nancy Pelosi is the district attorney. The assistant district attorney who will be the lead prosecutor is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE. The members of the House of Representatives are the grand jurors who will decide whether to indict the president for abuse of power and bribery.

The trial will take place in the Senate, where Chief Justice John Roberts will preside. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE is the foreman of the jury, which is made up of the 100 members of the Senate.

Act III in this drama will have a cast of millions. The appellate court judges are the American voters. This is the court of public opinion, which will ultimately decide whether Trump continues to serve as president after January 20, 2021.

Before Christmas, the House will indict Trump on one or more of the articles of impeachment and then the Senate will acquit him. The real fun starts in 2020, when the legal proceedings in Washington are over and Democrats make their case against the president’s abuse of power to the entire nation.

Impeachment has been a foregone conclusion since the unidentified whistleblower complained about the president’s September 24 quid pro quo phone call with the president of Ukraine. Trump’s willingness to stop American arms sales to the country that is the object of Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIs Ukraine Putin's Taiwan? Democrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE’s imperial designs was a sure sign that he cared more about his own political hide than he did about American or Ukrainian national security. Once the call become public, Democratic opposition in the House to impeachment cooled and Trump’s fate in the lower chamber was frozen.

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Sadly, Senate acquittal is also a done deal. Republican House members on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees have made it quite clear during the impeachment inquiry that the GOP is in the tank for the president. The obstinacy of House Republicans makes it crystal clear that House Democrats can’t secure the 20 Senate Republican votes needed to remove the president from office.

If the Senate fails to remove the president, Trump will use the acquittal as vindication. But Senate acquittal may be nothing more than a stay of execution for Trump. The evidence and public testimony may not have convinced House and Senate Republicans, but it has moved the public, which has the final say on Trump’s tenure.

Pelosi deserves a lot of credit for her handling of the impeachment process. A CNN national survey conducted in May indicated that a clear majority opposed impeaching and removing the president (41 percent yes, 51 percent no).

But the impeachment inquiry turned the public around. A follow up survey by the network in late November showed that most people (50 percent yes, 43 percent no) had decided it was time for the president to go. In the November poll, a majority of Americans (56 percent) rejected the president’s defense that his only concern was corruption in the Eastern European country. Six in ten Americans (62 percent) don’t think Trump is honest and trustworthy.  

Trump will claim the Senate acquittal absolves him of guilt. But the impeachment process will pay off for Democrats in 2020. House Democrats have presented a compelling case to voters about the president’s guilt.

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Pelosi has already convinced Americans that Trump has abused his power as president by trying to trade arms for campaign favors. She has cleared the way for the Democratic presidential nominee to make the case that Trump has abused his power in other areas.

The Democratic advocate will argue that the president abused his power when he deprived millions of Americans of affordable health insurance and threw thousands of people, including women and children, into detainment facilities on the Mexican border. People died because they couldn’t afford health insurance and people died in those camps, including a 16-year-old boy, Carlos Hernandez Vasquez.

The next Democratic president will use his or her power to work with Congress to extend health care coverage to the millions of Americans who desperately need it and to enact a rational immigration policy that provides a path to citizenship and ramps up border security.

The Senate may not convict Trump, but he faces big trouble in the court of public opinion. American voters will render their own verdict in November, and the fruits of the House impeachment inquiry will provide the evidence that moves voters to remove Trump from office themselves.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.