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Commentary: U.S. Senate won’t remove President Trump

Algenon Cash

Commentary: U.S. Senate won’t remove President Trump
February 05
12:49 2020

By Algenon Cash

On Dec. 18, 2019, the House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment against the 45th president of the United States – charging Donald J. Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump, the third U.S. president in history to be impeached, joined a rare club with Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

Democrats control the House and passed the articles of impeachment along party lines with no bi-partisan support in committee or the full House vote.  

However. Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution gives the Senate the “sole Power to try all impeachments.”  Two-thirds majority of present members is required to convict the president on the charges alleged in the House and remove him from office.

Initially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in doubt Republican members would allow a fair impeachment trial to happen. The majority party in the Senate has total control over the rules and procedures governing the process in their chamber.

Republicans dominate the United States Senate with 53 seats and vowed early on to be highly critical of any evidence that was presented by House impeachment managers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the tone for a partisan fight when he declared that for the impeachment trial, he would be in “total coordination with the White House counsel’s office,” saying, “I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers.”

House impeachment managers argued Trump abused his power when he withheld an invitation to the White House to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and a $400 million military aid package in order to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Furthermore, Trump wanted to promote a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

This kind of back room “quid pro quo” is routine in foreign affairs – one foreign leader may use some type of aid to negotiate a better deal for their respective country. What’s not routine is coercing a foreign country to investigate a political rival in an attempt to shift the outcome of a democratic election.

During the formal impeachment inquiry, House members interviewed 17 witnesses and requested more documents and witness testimony to provide evidence supporting the articles of impeachment. Trump instructed administration officials to ignore subpoenas for testimony and documents. House Democrats charged him with obstruction of Congress as a result. 

McConnell agreed to hold a vote on whether to subpoena witnesses or documents after opening arguments and presentation of evidence in the Senate trial. Democrats grew hopeful they could persuade at least four Republican Senators to vote in favor of hearing witness testimony and require executive branch agencies and departments to turn over relevant documents.  

In a 51-49 vote, Democrats failed to win the resolution; they were unable to call key witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton and others with inside knowledge of the wrongdoing. The impeachment trial set a dangerous precedent, becoming the first not to hear witness testimony or review any documents.

“Refusing our request robs this country of a fair trial and sets a precedent that will be cited by future judges and presidents,” stated Representative Adam Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager.

Senator Lamar Alexander was one of the four swing votes that Democrats hoped to win over, but he dealt a crushing blow when he declared, “Trump’s conduct was inappropriate,” and that Democrats had proven the case against him – but additional witnesses would not change his view that Trump did not commit impeachable offenses.

You may recall the impeachment of Bill Clinton. On Dec. 19, 1998, the House of Representatives impeached Clinton when they passed articles of impeachment on two charges – lying under oath and obstruction of justice. However, on Feb. 12, 1999, Clinton was acquitted on both counts as neither received the necessary vote threshold required to convict and remove a sitting president from office.

Just a quick point of history: In 1999, then Senator Joe Biden argued strongly against the need to subpoena additional witnesses or seek documents to provide new evidence. Biden even went so far as to cite historical precedents from impeachment trials and asserted the idea “The Senate need not hold a full-blown trial.”

The Republican-driven Senate ultimately decided the charges brought against Trump did not warrant a removal from office. Several GOP Senators went on public record denouncing Trump’s behavior as wrong and improper, but still decided not to convict the POTUS or bar him from participating in the 2020 presidential election.

Ordinary citizens observing the process and those who don’t support Trump were dismayed with the outcome. But a political trial is not the same as a criminal trial. The U.S. Constitution does not require the Senate to hear witness testimony or review documented evidenced – they simply have to listen to House managers argue their grounds for impeachment.

The world’s most deliberative body has become mired in politics and the political whims of their own party. Perhaps that may be the reason framers of the Constitution did not intend for senators to be elected.  

Article 1, section 3 – “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.”  Our founding fathers recognized the importance of keeping politics out of the Senate, so the fiery bills originating from the House may be calmed in the upper chamber. Of course, this provision was reversed with a constitutional amendment passed in 1913.

Considering the divisive and partisan nature of the current POTUS, Trump’s impeachment trial was relatively quiet with around three dozen protesters arrested at one large organized demonstration. And only a single protester disrupted the proceedings over a three-week period.

Trump received more good news as the impeachment trial wound to an end – his public approval rating hit the highest level of his presidency – 49%. Undoubtedly, Speaker Pelosi feared Trump may get a boost from all the attention, but if you studied the Clinton impeachment, then you most certainly knew he would benefit from the aftermath.

Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm. Reach him at acash@nullalgenoncash.com.

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