Tag Archives: Senate

Impeachment journey set to take another historic turn

(Photo by Jeff Malet)

It is becoming distressingly clear to me that the impeachment of Donald Trump is going to produce the Mother of All Partisan Battles on Capitol Hill.

Congressional Democrats have sought to make the case that the president has committed impeachable offenses. I happen to believe the evidence that I have seen — and I’ve seen only the portion of it that has gone public!

I need no more convincing that Trump needs to be impeached, convicted of high crimes and misdemeanors in the Senate and then shown the door out of the Oval Office. Sayonara, Mr. President.

It won’t end that way.

Congressional Republicans have fortified their defense of the president with diversions, accusations and vilification of the accusers’ motives. They have ignored publicly the evidence that shows how the president solicited a foreign government for dirt on a domestic political foe, encouraged that government to interfere in the 2020 election, endangered our national security by buttressing the fortunes of a hostile power and violated the oath he took when he took office.

The Senate won’t budge, either.

Where does this leave us? We are left with the upcoming election, which curiously is where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said initially this battle should conclude. I do not believe the speaker overplayed her hand by launching the impeachment inquiry. Nor do I believe she erred in instructing relevant House committees to draft articles of impeachment.

Believing that the outcome will retain Trump in the White House at least through January 2021, I look forward to watching the trial unfold. I want the Senate trial to commence and conclude in short order. The Senate Democrats who seek to become president need to spend time on the campaign trail and any effort to prolong the trial plays into Trump’s hands.

It won’t end the way I want it to end. However, my own partisan bias persuades me that the 2020 presidential campaign will be just as relevant and spirited as we all knew it would be.

It is also going to be filthy, but millions of us knew that would be the case as well.

Expecting impeachment to drag this campaign into the ditch

If we try to project how this impeachment saga will play out, we ought to be left with a distressing prognosis.

It is that no matter how it ends, the upcoming 2020 presidential campaign is likely to be dragged into the deepest dietch you can imagine.

Donald Trump at this moment is likely to survive a trial in the U.S. Senate after the House of Representatives impeaches him for various high crimes and misdemeanors.

If you’re a Democratic challenger, you might want to talk about issues of the day. Things that ought to matter to Americans who will be voting for president of the United States. But then you’ll have to deal with Trump’s manic obsession with the impeachment.

He is unable to set impeachment into one cranial compartment while concentrating (more or less) fully on the upcoming issues debate. No way! He is obsessed with impeachment.

When the House impeaches him, my hope is that it is done soon. I also hope the Senate can dispense with the trial soon. I do not want the impeachment and trial to hang over the campaign. Alas, it will hang anyway, given Trump’s inability or unwillingness to put it into perspective in the event he survives the Senate trial.

I can imagine now that he is likely and quite willing to keep mentioning the impeachment as he campaigns for re-election. He will use the impeachment and trial as a sort of shield against legitimate criticism that could come from his political foe.

You know: his refusal to acknowledge climate change as the existential threat it has become; his continuing effort to pi** off our valued allies; Trump’s inability to cut the deficit as he promised he would do; the president’s poor choice of key aides and Cabinet members; the fact that so many top level positions remain vacant or are filled by “acting” Cabinet members or agency heads.

The president will ensure that we do not forget that the House impeached him and that the Senate “acquitted” him, although it might be on a technicality, given the high bar set by the Constitution for removal after a Senate trial.

Yep, the 2020 presidential campaign is heading for the ditch.

What if Senate provides a majority to convict Trump?

Let’s ponder for a moment the raw politics of impeaching the president of the United States.

It appears to be a near certainty that the House of Representatives is going to impeach Donald J. Trump on grounds that he violated his oath of office by seeking foreign government assistance for personal political gain.

I stood with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s initial reluctance to impeach Trump. Then came that phone call with the Ukrainian president that revealed a clear violation of the presidential oath. It has gotten even worse for Trump since then. Pelosi changed her mind, launching an impeachment inquiry.

I now endorse the inquiry. I also believe Trump has committed impeachable offenses.

But what will happen when Trump gets impeached, where Democrats hold a significant majority in the House? It goes to trial in the Senate, where Republicans command a narrow 53-47 majority. The House needs a simple majority to impeach; the Senate needs a two-thirds super majority to convict the president.

Do I believe the Senate will kick the president out of office? No.

However, consider this: Three GOP senators are bowing out after 2020. They won’t seek re-election. They are Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mike Enzi of Utah and Pat Roberts of Kansas. What happens to these men’s conscience when they are freed from the pressure of seeking re-election in states that voted for Trump in 2016? Is it possible they could decide that Trump has committed an impeachable offense? These men flip and we have a 50-50 split in the Senate. But wait a second!

There are other senators who are expressing grave concern about Trump’s conduct. Enzi’s junior partner in Utah, Mitt Romney, is one. How about Susan Collins of Maine, who has spoken critically of the president from time to time? Might there be one or maybe two GOP senators willing to vote to convict, knowing that their votes won’t result in Trump’s removal?

Yes, there is a chance — although it’s still small, but it could be growing — that a majority of senators vote to convict the president of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but he remains in office by virtue of the high bar the founders set when they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

Furthermore, what about the House vote? A significant number of Republican House members have decided to step aside after 2020. They, too, might be motivated to vote their conscience rather than worry about retribution from a president who is known to retaliate against those who cross him.

The number of Republicans set to leave both congressional chambers very well might provide Democrats some measure of cover as they prepare to impeach Donald Trump.

If he is impeached, he will go down in history as an impeached president. If he clears the Senate trial, there might be a qualifier if more senators vote to convict him than acquit him. And how in the world is Donald Trump going to spin such an event?

Hey, strange things can — and do — happen atop Capitol Hill.

This impeachment thing appears to be growing more tentacles

As I seek to follow the ongoing impeachment crisis threatening the presidency of Donald Trump, I am getting a sense that the story is getting bigger than many Americans would prefer.

Just three weeks ago we learned about a phone call that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodormyr Zellenskiy in which he sought a favor from Ukraine in exchange for releasing money to help Ukrainians fight Russian aggressors.

The phone call prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch an impeachment inquiry. The thought as I understood at the time was that the House would move rapidly toward an impeachment vote by Thanksgiving. It would be a narrowly focused matter: whether the president violated his oath by seeking foreign government help in his re-election and seeking foreign help in digging up dirt on Joe Biden, a potential foe in the 2020 presidential election.

Now it seems as if this story is getting many more tentacles.

Trump appeared to suggest that the vice president, Mike Pence, had conversations with Ukrainians as well; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at first denied knowledge of the Trump-Zellenskiy phone conversation, then acknowledged he was “on the call”; questions have now arisen about Turkey and whether the president’s decision to abandon our allies in Kurdistan in the fight against ISIS is somehow related to a Trump Towers deal in Istanbul.

My head is spinning, man.

Does all of this come together quickly? Can there be an impeachment vote by Thanksgiving? Can the Senate commence a trial and make a decision by, say, spring 2020? Is all of this getting so muddy that we won’t have a resolution until after the 2020 presidential election?

As if it needed to get more complicated. The juxtaposition of a re-election fight and an impeachment muddies matters beyond anything the nation has experienced. President Clinton was a lame-duck second-term president when the House impeached him in 1998; President Nixon was in the same boat when the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment in 1974. Neither man faced re-election.

This whole scenario is vastly different. Moreover, it keeps growing in its complexity as more Cabinet officials get sucked into the debate over what they knew and when they knew it.

I need something to settle my nerves.

I also want this saga to end — either through impeachment and Senate conviction, or at the ballot box — with Donald Trump vacating the Oval Office for a final time.

Memo to AOC: You’re playing with fire

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is beginning to get on my nerves. As in really getting on my nerves.

The rookie New York City congresswoman is seeking to disrupt the political power structure within the Democratic Party by challenging one of her fellow Democrats, who also happens to one of the more skilled politicians ever to lead the U.S. House of Representatives.

AOC needs to mind her manners. I don’t mean to suggest that she sits silently on the back bench of the House. I do mean to suggest that Ocasio-Cortez is getting far more attention than she deserves this early in her congressional career.

Pelosi vs. AOC heats up

The freshman lawmaker is re-igniting her feud with Pelosi by hitting back at the speaker, who criticized Ocasio-Cortez and other far-left pols in the House for their outspokenness. She said all they have is “social media” and added that there’s no outright support among the rank and file to back them up.

AOC, of course, said she does have “public sentiment” on her side, which is to demand immediate impeachment of Donald Trump. Pelosi is digging in against that idea, saying it is too early and that she wants significant Republican buy-in were she to initiate impeachment proceedings against the GOP president.

I tend to side with Pelosi, although the evidence does seem to be mounting that the president has committed impeachable offenses. Pelosi, the shrewd pol that she is, understands that to impeach the president in the House cannot guarantee removal from office, given the Republicans’ control of the Senate, which must put the president on trial. Moreover, the bar for conviction is much higher than it is for impeachment; the Senate needs 67 votes to convict, while the House only needs a simple majority to impeach.

Pelosi is the veteran here. She is the politician with lots of wisdom and knowledge of how the system works. She also is every bit as ideologically progressive as AOC and her other congressional newbie allies.

The only difference is that Speaker Pelosi knows better than to rush headlong into a confrontation that she well could lose.

Sen. McConnell: partisan hack supreme

There could be little, if any doubt, about Mitch McConnell’s partisan credentials.

The U.S. Senate majority leader, though, has just removed any possible benefit of the doubt. The man plays pure, raw, partisan politics better (or worse) than anyone else in Washington, D.C.

Consider his answer to this question recently: If a seat on the Supreme Court came open in 2020, the final full year of Donald Trump’s term as president, would he seek to confirm the nominee?

McConnell’s answer: “Oh, I’d fill it.”

Just four years ago, he had the chance to “fill” a seat on the high court upon the sudden and unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia. His response in 2016, the final full year of President Obama’s tenure in the White House, was markedly different from what he said to the crowd in Paducah, Ky.

McConnell said immediately upon Scalia’s death that Obama would not fill the vacancy. McConnell would block any attempt for a Democratic president to replace a conservative justice appointed by a Republican president; in this case, it was President Reagan who nominated Scalia.

Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS. The Senate didn’t give him a hearing. Key Republican senators never even met the fellow. His nomination withered and died. We elected a new president in November 2016 — and it happened to be Donald Trump!

Oh, but now we have a GOP president in office. If a vacancy were to develop on the court, McConnell — also a Republican — would move to fill the vacancy.

Just think that this partisan hack has the gall, the stones, the chutzpah to suggest Democrats are “playing politics.”

This guy, McConnell, plays the political game with the best of ’em.

Sen. McConnell’s thinly disguised contempt for fairness — to my way of thinking — is what gives politics and politicians a bad name.

Veto likely will hold up, but then what?

Donald Trump’s first veto of his presidency is likely to withstand congressional efforts to overturn it.

It’s good to ask, though: What happens next?

The president vetoed House and Senate bills that sought to toss aside his national emergency declaration that he sought to build The Wall along our southern border. Congress based its action on a couple of key issues: there is no national emergency, the president’s action sets the stage for future presidents to do the same thing and it usurps congressional authority to appropriate money for specific projects.

Trump wants to divert funds allocated for various programs to build The Wall.

Twelve Senate Republicans voted with Democrats to wipe out the declaration. Democrats control the House, so that vote was a done deal from the get-go. Neither vote was veto-proof, however.

Trump is messing with fire with this veto. Sure, the Constitution grants him the authority to do what he did. However, it’s not yet clear whether his action will withstand a legal challenge if it comes from congressional Democrats.

Never mind that Attorney General William Barr said when Trump signed the veto document that he was within his right legally; we all expected the AG to stand with the president.

The animosity between the legislative and executive branches of government is as vivid as ever. Trump’s veto is likely to stand. However, the fight over The Wall is far from over.

Trump ‘leadership’ takes a huge hit

Donald J. Trump has spared little effort in disparaging the leadership of his immediate presidential predecessors.

He actually has praised dictators such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un as being “strong leaders” who govern with iron fists while denigrating the leadership of our own president at the time, Barack Obama.

So . . . how did the current president “lead” as it regarded the government shutdown?

He agreed with a Senate deal that he assured leaders he would sign, even though it didn’t contain money for “The Wall” he wants to build along our southern border.

Then right wing blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter blast him for “caving” to Democrats and sensible Republicans; they want the wall built, period! They made their displeasure known to Trump.

The president then caved to them! He reversed course! He took back his pledge to sign the bill. Then he blamed Democrats for failing to achieve a compromise.

Is that how we define leadership? Is that the mark of a strong leader? Is that how a committed statesman governs?

Donald Trump has demonstrated jaw-dropping weakness. In the face of political pressure, he kowtows to a radical right wing radio blabbermouth and a right wing commentator known for her intemperate utterances about anyone with whom she disagrees.

Take a look at how two PBS commentators, liberal columnist Mark Shields and conservative columnist Michael Gerson, characterize the president’s behavior this week:

Oh, and then we have the James Mattis resignation as secretary of defense as well.

Are you frightened yet? If so, you are part of a growing number of Americans.

Trump claims victory, but wait a minute!

Donald John Trump was right to declare victory (of a sort) in the wake of the 2018 midterm election.

His fellow Republicans gained a couple of seats in the U.S. Senate. The president did campaign on behalf of GOP candidates and most of them won their contests.

The Senate now has a bit of wiggle room for Republicans to operate. That wiggle room makes it a bit less critical when a GOP senator decides to bolt, as was the case when Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate.

But then … we have the House of Representatives.

Democrats didn’t ride home the “big blue wave” that many had predicted would occur. The “wave” turned out to be a success nevertheless. They got control of the House. Nancy Pelosi is likely to become the next speaker. The president did phone her Tuesday night to congratulate her.

Trump should have acknowledged the Democrats’ House victory today. He didn’t. He chose instead to ascribe a bit too much importance to the Senate victory. That’s fine. It’s the president’s call.

Just as George W. Bush learned quickly when he became Texas governor in 1995 with a Democratically controlled Legislature, Trump needs to learn now how to work with Democrats who control one legislative chamber of Congress. Gov. Bush learned how to develop alliances with Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney and Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.

Donald Trump needs to find a way to forge an alliance with a speaker of the other party, just as Bill Clinton did with Newt Gingrich, as Ronald Reagan did with Tip O’Neill and George H.W. Bush did with Tom Foley.

Sure, Trump won a victory. It wasn’t a total win. He took it on the chin in one house of Congress. He has some learning ahead of him. If he is capable.

GOP pols hedge their support for Trump … so far

It’s rare for politicians of the same party as the president to withhold their support for a president who declares his intention to seek re-election.

That is what is happening within the Republican Party.

Mitt Romney, who wants to represent Utah in the U.S. Senate, says he cannot commit to supporting Donald Trump, who Romney once described as a “phony” and a “fraud.” Same for Sen. John Cornyn of Texas; ditto for Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; also ditto for lame-duck House Speaker Paul Ryan, also of Wisconsin.

Hey, what’s going on here?

Is the president,  um, toxic to Republicans? Are his GOP brethren afraid to get too close to the guy who is the titular head of their political party?

Hmm. Maybe they’re looking at recent history.

Trump backed a sitting U.S. senator from Alabama, Luther Strange, only to watch him lose that state’s GOP primary to Roy Moore, the guy accused by several women of sexual assault; Trump then threw his backing behind Moore, who ended up losing to Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones in the special election.

Trump then backed a Republican candidate for the U.S. House in Pennsylvania. Oops! Then the GOP candidate lost to the Democrat.

I’m thinking the Republicans might be taking stock of the president’s actual political clout, looking past the braggadocio that flies out of the president’s mouth.

Trump boasts about all the “winning” he has brought to government and to public policy. The way I look at it, he isn’t winning nearly as much as he would like us all to believe.

The act of “winning” in Trump’s world bears no resemblance to the reality the president is facing as he confronts what is looking more and more like a difficult ride through the 2018 midterm election.

That, of course, presumes the president is able to discern the politically obvious. Of that I am not at all certain.