WASHINGTON, D.C. — On December 18, 2019, Donald J. Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, and while the commander in chief may want to hot foot it to a Senate impeachment trial, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying, not so fast!
That’s right, President Trump is indicted, and Pelosi is holding onto the articles of impeachment. You may ask why Pelosi is slow walking the articles to the Senate. The short answer is—pure strategy. But, could this tactic backfire on House Democrats?
Pelosi said she certainly hoped the impeachment trial process would be fair, making the point that the Founders envisioned a “rogue president” but perhaps not a “rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate” at the same time. Based on this perceived presumption of unfairness, Pelosi and the House Democrats have adopted the position that the Senate is not preparing to hold a fair trial.
Interestingly, some experts are arguing that Pelosi’s withholding of the articles of impeachment means President Trump hasn’t actually been impeached.
Trump’s lawyers are preparing to make this argument and his supporters who are holding fast to this belief got a huge boost Thursday when Harvard University professor Noah Feldman —one of the Democratic witnesses in the House impeachment proceedings —actually endorsed the idea.
In the meantime, Speaker Pelosi is buying time to consider her options. She is also seemingly attempting to ratchet up pressure on a president eager to be acquitted by a Republican-controlled Senate that will most likely not deliver on the U.S. Constitutional requirement of a 2/3 supermajority needed to convict and ultimately remove Mr. Trump from office.
Why is conviction and removal a long-shot for Trump? A 2/3 majority of the Senate’s 100 members would need to vote for the President to be removed from office before Trump could actually be removed. If the votes do not materialize, Trump, like former President Bill Clinton, would be impeached, but never actually removed from office.
So, why might the votes fail to materialize? A 2/3 majority will be a very tough get. A total of 67 Senators would need to vote to convict and remove Mr. Trump. There are 45 Democratic Senators and 53 Republican Senators, plus two Independents who typically vote Democratic. So to reach the 67 total needed to remove Trump, they would need at least 20 Republicans to join with Democrats in voting to remove Trump (plus the two Independents). It will likely be really tough to get 20 Republicans to agree to vote for removal of Trump.
Preliminary impeachment trial matters: Before the vote, there will be a trial with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, presiding. The House of Representatives would essentially act as the prosecutor. The President’s lawyers would be the defense. Witnesses will be deposed and live witness testimony may occur.
Where potential votes stand: The Hill reported that Sen. Chris Murphy has said that he only knows of a handful of Republicans who might vote to remove Trump. He wouldn’t name them, but he said some in the Senate were considering it. However, it remains a small list that could be counted on one hand.
· The latest: The House has impeached President Trump, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not committed to sending the articles of impeachment to the Republican-held Senate.
· What it means: President Trump is the third U.S. President in history to be impeached. The U.S. Constitution only allows impeachment on the grounds of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Articles of impeachment are essentially formal allegations against the President. The House passed both articles of impeachment on: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. You can read all the laws on impeachment proceedings here: https://www.senate.gov/reference/Index/Impeachment.htm
· What happens next: The U.S. Senate will eventually hold a trial to determine if Trump should be removed from office, but can’t take up the issue until the House formally transmits the articles.
(Tracey Martin is an attorney and free-lance political writer based in Detroit, Michigan.)