Watch Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, lend perspective to this week's historic impeachment proceedings.
Impeachment. President Trump became the first president ever to be impeached twice this week. And the question on everybody's mind is will he be convicted in the Senate? And I think the answer right now is we just don't know. I'd probably bet against it. There was a really strong Republican vote against impeaching him in the House, with only 10 of the over 100 Republicans breaking with the President and voting to impeach him. And the question now is in the Senate, is there more support for a conviction? Senate Majority Leader McConnell has indicated he's at least open to it and wants to hear some of the facts. And I expect you're going to hear a lot of other Republicans make the same statement, at least until the trial begins.
What are the reasons they wouldn't impeach? Well, Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas has argued that you can't impeach a president after he's already left office. And the trial would of course start after he leaves office. This probably isn't true because it's a question that would probably be up to the Senate to decide. The Supreme Court is usually loath to weigh in on issues of internal matters for the legislative branch, a co-equal branch of government. So, it's the Senate's decision. If they want to impeach a president after he leaves office, they can. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina has argued that this would be a bad precedent to set and could lead to some absurd examples, like impeaching George Washington years after he died. That's probably a slippery slope that you don't have to worry about too much, but it's an argument Republicans might make.
You're also going to hear some Republicans say that the President did something wrong, deserves to be censured, but shouldn't be impeached. This is something that some Republicans in the House side have said. Hasn't really caught on yet in the Senate but could be something that people turn to short of impeachment. I think you can easily see four to five votes already today being there to impeach the President among Republicans in the Senate, but you need 17. If McConnell goes, he probably brings along some other Republicans and that would get you closer to the threshold that you need. But there's a lot of facts that are still to come out. There will be a trial with fact finding in it. And the President's own behavior could dictate which way this goes. If he continues to indicate support for the riot in the coming weeks, if he continues to make controversial statements or make a problem of himself, he could get convicted.
The implications of him being convicted are that once he's impeached, even out of office, both Houses of Congress can vote with a simple majority to bar him from ever holding political office again, which might be helpful for Republicans looking to the 2024 presidential election. But on the other hand, President Trump isn't really one to follow precedent. He could decide to run anyway and let somebody sue him and then build up his political capital and attract attention and fundraising to himself in the process.
So the trial should start right around the 19th or the 20th. We don't actually know when that's going to happen yet. It may interfere with Senate business, but the Senators should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. I would expect them to be able to set up a process to confirm Biden's cabinet nominees at the same time they're running this impeachment trial. This does, however, give the opportunity to some Republican Senators who are opposed to Biden's cabinet to gum up the works. But I think Republicans are generally probably going to want to at least look cooperative in the early days of this administration. So I don't see this being too big of an impediment to Biden's agenda.