With Senate Republicans balking at convicting Trump, Democrats explore alternative censures

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Peter Weber
·2 min read
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There's growing skepticism that 17 Senate Republicans will vote with Democrats to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection, meaning his second impeachment trial would also end in acquittal. The GOP's legally dubious off-ramp — declaring it unconstitutional to try a former president — failed Tuesday, but 45 of the 50 Senate Republicans voted in favor of the motion. So Democrats are now looking for a Plan B to ensure that Trump is not let off essentially scot-free for the deadly Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters.

"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," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday. At the same time, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said he's talking with a "handful" of his GOP colleagues to see if they would support a censure resolution.

Tuesday's 55-45 vote was "completely clarifying that we're not going to get near 67," Kaine said Wednesday, adding that his resolution is "more than just a censure, saying, 'Hey, you did wrong.'" The proposal would state that the Jan. 6 attack "was an insurrection and that President Trump gave aid and comfort to the insurrectionists," language intended to invoke the 14th Amendment and bar Trump from holding federal office again.

Constitutional scholars are skeptical such a ban would be enforceable. "I worry about the cop-out of a condemnatory censure, which Senators shouldn't be led to think gets them off the hook of having to convict the former president under the Article of Impeachment," Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe told The Washington Post.

Kaine and other Democrats are also floating the option of a quick trial, as short as a week, so the Senate can focus on passing President Biden's COVID-19 legislation and other priorities. Some moderate Democrats don't want to rush it, though.

"We have an obligation to get the facts, it seems to me," especially concerning Trump's personal involvement in the insurrection, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) told The Associated Press. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) agreed. "This is much, much more serious than anything we've ever seen in our lifetime and it's really the purpose of having articles of impeachment in the Constitution," he said. "We want to make sure that no one ever does this again, never thinks about doing this again — sedition and insurrection."

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