Davis: The key word is 'majority' on Trump impeachment vote

Davis: The key word is 'majority' on Trump impeachment vote
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Most of the media understandably is focused on the number 67 — a vote by two-thirds of the 100 U.S. senators required to convict and remove an impeached president under the U.S. Constitution.

The more important number, however, is whether Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE is repudiated by a majority of the U.S. Senate, meaning that some members of his own Republican Party have voted to convict him and then, potentially, to bar him forevermore from running again for president or any other public office. Since the Framers correctly regarded impeachment and conviction as a political decision, not a legal one, that makes sense: We are a democracy, and “majority” is the key word and principle in a democracy, not two-thirds.

We know that a majority of Republicans are committed to avoid voting on whether or not the president committed incitement to insurrection. If this vote were done by secret ballot, it seems likely a larger number of Republican senators would vote to convict the former president. Instead, they have used a change-the-subject argument that the Senate does not have jurisdiction to vote for impeachment once a president leaves office. No one can reasonably doubt that this is an excuse for many of these senators to avoid voting what is undeniable — that, but for Trump, there would have been no mob insurrection or deaths at the Capitol on Jan. 6.


Yet, if a majority of the Senate — some Republicans as well as all Democrats — finds that Trump incited an insurrection against the U.S. government to prevent ratification of the Electoral College’s 2020 election results on Jan. 6, then that is a significant political fact.

Here are three other facts that ought to be given primary attention by the media and by the American people as a way of assessing the results of the Senate’s vote on impeachment:

  1. In 1999, when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives presented two impeachment counts against then-President Clinton for a verdict by the Senate, the Senate had a majority of 55 Republicans. Then-Rep. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts McConnell backs Garland for attorney general MORE (R-S.C.), a key House impeachment manager, failed to convince even 51 of the 55 Republican senators — a Senate majority — to vote “guilty” on either of the two House counts of impeachment against Clinton. Five Republican senators voted “no” on perjury, leaving the vote 50-50 and, thus, no majority. And ten Republican senators voted “no” on obstruction, or against the House Republicans’ impeachment. Graham, now a U.S. senator, and his fellow House managers were humiliated then (and must still be embarrassed now). Their case was so weak that they couldn’t get a majority, even starting out with 55 fellow Republicans in the Senate.
  2. Most Americans in many polls today believe Trump is guilty of incitement of insurrection and should be barred from holding public office ever again. Never was there a majority of Americans in any major poll who supported convicting Clinton in 1999.
  3. When (almost certainly not “if”) a majority of the Senate votes to convict Trump — which, by definition, means at least some Republicans will vote against a former president from their own party — then that will contrast with House Republicans’ humiliating failure in 1999 to win an impeachment majority within their own party. If Trump is found guilty by a majority vote of the Senate, maybe as high as 56-44, that would represent an indelible shame for the rest of his life — an indelible, historic stain for all time.

If that happens, then it will be fact that a majority of the Senate, including members from his own party, have concluded that Donald Trump is:

  • Guilty of lying about fraud in the election.
  • Guilty of inciting mob violence resulting in five deaths which, if not for his lies and incitement, would not have occurred.
  • Guilty of inciting insurrection.

That is a shame which Trump cannot escape in the pages of U.S. history.

Lanny Davis is a partner and founder of the Washington law firm of Davis Goldberg & Galper and the strategic media firm of Trident DMG. He is a former special counsel to President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMellman: White working-class politics Judge rejects Biden request for delay in Trump environmental rollback case Considering impeachment's future MORE and a member of President George W. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. He is the author of several books on history, politics and crisis management.