John Colson: Signs that Trump may lose in the Senate
Hit & Run
Will today be the day that finally leads to the complete exit of Donald J. Trump from our national political/electoral stage?
Today marks the second time the former deranged occupant of the Oval Office in the White House will be tried for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the first president in our history to be impeached twice.
And despite the apparent belief among some observers that he will, as he did a year ago, evade the ax of conviction by the U.S. Senate, there are indications that he may finally be held to account.
But before I get into that, I feel I need to point out to readers that we, as political constituents of our federal government, need to be paying close attention to what happens over the course of the next couple of weeks, if it takes that long.
First off, there is the argument by Trump’s hastily assembled legal team that the very trial itself is unconstitutional, because Trump is no longer in office after clearly losing the 2020 election to the Democrats’ political war horse, President Joe Biden.
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The U.S. Constitution, according to this argument, specifically allows for impeaching and convicting a president while in office, but says nothing about impeaching and convicting a president after he has left office.
Because it is not mentioned in the founding document of our nation’s government, Trump’s apologists maintain, the trial cannot be held.
Hogwash, I say.
Trump’s move to egg on his followers Jan. 6, the day of the well-known insurrection at the Capitol building, were evident over the course of weeks as he desperately and fraudulently claimed the 2020 election had been “rigged” despite widespread conclusions from legal scholars and politicians that last year’s election was the best run election in years, and perhaps in the history of the republic.
Just as he did in 2016, the election that put him in office, he started crying foul even before the votes were cast or counted.
Specifically, his exhortations to protest and violence by his supporters, which I and many others believe were examples of impeachable conduct, started while he was still in office.
The mere fact that he did not succeed in overturning the election results, and that he ultimately was forced to turn the White House and the reins of government over to Biden, does not remove him from culpability for his acts, as some are now claiming.
To conclude otherwise would fly in the face of precedents set by more than two centuries of jurisprudence, in which a perpetrator of a criminal act remains liable to trial and punishment regardless of how long it takes law enforcement officials to catch him.
If it were otherwise, no criminals would ever be prosecuted for their crimes if they were not apprehended in the act. And Trump, by his own statements and actions before and during the insurrection, was in effect apprehended in the act.
This is precisely why his lawyers are trying to shift the focus away from what he did. They know that, because the whole nation was glued to their television sets Jan. 6, and saw for themselves what was going on. There is growing belief that he should be convicted and subsequently barred from ever holding elective office again.
Even Trump’s refusal to testify on his own behalf is a sign of his lawyers’ rock-bottom belief that he would lose if his actions were examined in the cold, hard light of hindsight — they undoubtedly have calculated that, by testifying, Trump would essentially legitimize the trial and its evidence, which they cannot permit.
As such, this legalistic slight-of-hand should be dismissed as cynical, fatuous and just another example of Trump’s lifelong belief that he is above the law and immune to consequences.
As for the lawyers’ reliance on Trump’s right of free speech, that is hogwash, as well. There are limits to using the First Amendment of the Constitution to avoid prosecution for one’s words, and the incitement to insurrection is one, along the lines of falsely yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater just to watch the ensuing chaos.
Now, regarding a conviction in the Senate, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
If all 100 Senators are present for the vote on conviction, Democrats will need 67 votes, meaning all Democrats and 17 Republicans, to convict and subsequently bar Trump from holding office in the future, which is seen as a tough climb for Democrats.
A New York Times analysis Sunday showed that there are 24 Senators currently “undecided” on the question, which makes predictions of the outcome a shaky proposition, at best.
There apparently is no rule that says all 100 Senators must be present, and some Republicans may opt to sit this one out to avoid angering Trump’s insane base by voting to convict, or the rest of the nation by voting to acquit, which could change the calculus of the proceedings.
Then there is the fact that, while 45 Republicans voted to kill a debate over the constitutionality of the impeachment proceedings, proposed by Sen. Rand Paul on Jan. 27 (Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania crossed party lines to vote with Democrats,) only 17 Republicans voted against a subsequent measure to define the structure of the trial.
As noted by political historian Heather Cox Richardson, that second tally of 33 Republicans voting with Democrats might be a sign of anti-Trump sentiment, leading her to write, “My guess is that neither vote is a definitive sign of what is to come.”
I agree, and it is my fervent hope that enough Republicans are as sick of Trump’s clown act as are Democrats, and that he will be convicted and consigned to the trash heap of political history.
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