Democrats consider alternatives to impeachment
A bipartisan censure of Trump could short-circuit a trial
WASHINGTON — The prospect of likely acquittal for Donald Trump at his Senate trial has some Democrats contemplating an off-ramp that would condemn the former president, but stop short of impeachment and a ban from future office.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Wednesday he has been exploring a bipartisan censure of Trump that would short-circuit a potentially lengthy trial that could impede other Democratic priorities.
“It could be an alternative,” he told reporters, saying he wanted the Senate to focus on responding to the coronavirus pandemic and confirming President Joe Biden’s Cabinet. “To do a trial knowing you’ll get 55 votes at the max seems to me to be not the right prioritization of our time.”
Kaine’s focus on an alternative, which has been brewing since the House impeached Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, came a day after most Republican senators signaled doubts about a constitutional basis for trying an ex-president on impeachment charges.
Forty-five of 50 Republican senators voted Tuesday to back Trump. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who pushed the vote, said it showed impeachment was “dead on arrival” in the Senate. Convicting Trump would require the support of 67 of 100 senators.
But top Democratic leaders said Wednesday that they intended to proceed with Trump’s trial for “incitement of insurrection” and that nine House managers are preparing to begin arguments for Trump’s removal on Feb. 9.
“Make no mistake, there will be a trial, and the evidence against the former president will be presented in living color for the nation and every one of us to see once again.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday. “We will all watch what happened. We will listen to what happened, and then we will vote. We will pass judgment as our solemn duty under the Constitution demands. And, in turn, we will all be judged on how we respond.”
The format of the trial remains in flux and Tuesday’s procedural vote could bolster Democrats pushing for an abbreviated trial that recounts Trump’s public actions after the November election and in the moments surrounding the riot without pursuing investigation of what Trump did behind the scenes.