There’s no requirement — or need — for an actual trial in the Senate
When the Senate gets the two articles of impeachment from the House, it will have no choice but to deal with both. The question is how they should do it. The Senate has options.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already stated that President Trump will not be removed for the threadbare, inadequate articles of impeachment passed by the House. So, here are a few ways that it could turn out:
- The Senate could entertain a motion by the president’s counsel to dismiss — before the start of a trial — both articles of impeachment, for failure to meet the constitutional threshold for stating a cause of action. Such a decision would require a simple majority of 51 votes because this would be a procedural motion;
- The Senate could begin a trial and, thereafter, could end it whenever the Senate majority deems it has heard enough and calls for a vote. Such a vote would be called when the Senate majority is confident that a supermajority of 67 senators — two-thirds of the Senate — would not vote to convict;
- The Senate could conduct a full-blown trial, and it could drag on for as long as the Senate majority feels doing so is in its interests. It has a wide berth for calling or subpoenaing witnesses as it feels is germane. This would cause a circus-like atmosphere that would require the Supreme Court’s chief justice, the presiding officer in a Senate trial, to make numerous rulings, some of which would be unpredictable in their outcomes.
- The Senate, after the conclusion of a trial, could once again entertain a motion to dismiss, alleging that House Democrats had failed to prove their case. This is a procedural motion that would require a simple majority to make deliberations by the full Senate moot if passed.
- And then there is a “nuclear option.” The Senate majority could make a procedural motion to adjourn the start of a trial until Nov. 4, 2020. That would allow the American people to decide the president’s fate at the ballot box. The Constitution is silent as to when a trial should occur, timewise. A simple majority of 51 votes would be necessary to pass such a motion.
No matter how the Senate deals with its “trial” obligations, the outcome does not change. The president either will be cleared by the impeachment articles being dismissed without the necessity of a trial or acquitted after a trial.
In my opinion, a trial is unnecessary. The House articles, on their face, are defective. Both fail to meet the constitutional threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” This would negate a trial but does not give the president any formal “acquittal,” after a trial on the merits of the articles, which would prove the president’s innocence. While this would be true in a traditional criminal judicial proceeding, it is not the case in a political trial. No matter how the Senate deals with the articles of impeachment, Democrats and Republicans will put their own political spin on the outcome. Since the House articles of impeachment were voted strictly on party lines, and the country is so divided on the whole impeachment process, in my opinion, a trial is less important.
I believe the Senate can have its cake and eat it too. The Senate can dismiss the articles of impeachment on a procedural motion. Then, when the dust settles, the Senate Judiciary Committee through its chairman, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), could hold hearings to show what a “witch-hunt” the House process was. He can, in effect, conduct his own trial to “acquit” the president through Senate hearings. This would allow hearings to be conducted at the exact time that Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination for president — one of whom could be called to testify.
Democrats have “cried wolf” once too often when it came to allegations of “high crimes and misdemeanors” against the president. First it was alleged Russian collusion that supposedly influenced the 2016 presidential election’s outcome. When that was debunked by a special counsel, Democrats pivoted to a phone call with a foreign leader that was supposedly proof of Trump’s alleged crimes of bribery and extortion — yet, neither those nor any other defined crimes were charged in their articles of impeachment.
Americans are sickened by what they are seeing. A majority of people do not want the president removed; they do not want their votes usurped and canceled by purely partisan maneuvers. There is no crisis other than the one that Democrats have created. You cannot “hate” a president out of office; you must vote him out.
Democrats will rue the day that they went down the impeachment path. It is a lose-lose scenario.
Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. A principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm, he is an adjunct professor of public policy and international affairs at Georgetown University and a frequent guest on Fox News and Fox Business.