By Kelby D. Fletcher
I wonder whether impeaching the President and trying him in the Senate is wise. It may be better for the country and for Democrats to vote to censure him for endangering the security of an ally, Ukraine, and the United States, and for obstruction of justice. Allow me to explain.
1. There is no doubt the votes to impeach are there in the House. But the vote will be along party lines although there could be some Democrats who vote against articles of impeachment.
2. There can be no doubt that the Senate will not vote to remove the President from office. The Senate failed, by one vote, to remove Andrew Johnson for his efforts to hamper Reconstruction and to remove cabinet officers favoring a strong Reconstruction after the Civil War. The Senate refused to remove President Clinton from office for perjury. While it was about sex, it is certainly the case that he perjured himself.
3. The Senate Republicans will want a trial which will have witnesses. And those may include the Bidens and anyone they can find to corroborate President Trump’s fantasies about Ukraine. The Chief Justice will preside and will rule on evidentiary and procedural issues. The Republicans will clamor for transparency and due process and they likely will muck things up so much that the issues will appear to be partisan and not criminal or impeachable.
4. If the vote to convict is largely along party lines, which is very likely, what does the country get at the end of that process? More partisan finger pointing and an even uglier election year. And all of this will be exploited by what we now know to be efforts by Russia to divide us and other democratic nations.
The managers of the impeachment will come from the House of Representatives and the President will have his own counsel. While it might be interesting to have the President testify, he will serve to rouse his base. And he will be successful. The Democrats will do the same thing. But, again, to what end?
5. If there is no impeachment, one might say the House of Representatives is forfeiting its Constitutional duty. I disagree. It is fulfilling its duty under the Constitution by investigating and exposing the President. And it did so on its terms with procedural fairness for the President’s supporters.
Wouldn’t it be better to have Chairman Schiff’s work be the work of the Congress rather than a trial in the Senate where Rep. Jim Jordan can collaborate with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and disparage the Bidens, President Obama and Ukrainians?
6. If the House censures the President, the motion may draw support from some Republicans. And, it shows to the American people that Democrats – and reasonable people – are willing to investigate and expose but not to engage in further Washington DC destructive partisanship.
7. While a Senate trial would put some senators in election contests in the hot seat, the same can occur when the vote to censure moves to the Senate, if Sen. McConnell allows it to go there. Either way, senators will be asked where they stand on the evidence disclosed in the impeachment inquiry.
In short, a report from the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee setting out the dangers President Trump presents to the American system and security followed by a vote to Censure may accomplish more than a vote to impeach followed by an acquittal in the Senate.
The work of the House committees in the televised hearings these past few weeks has done more than what could be accomplished in the Senate. Persuadable voters saw and heard how destructive President Trump is and has been.
Kelby D. Fletcher practices law in Seattle at the firm of Stokes Lawrence.