by Robert Romano
Does President-elect Joe Biden really want the first order of business when he is sworn into office to be the trial of outgoing President Donald Trump?
On Nov. 6, 2020, while votes were still being counted, Biden told the nation: “We may be opponents but we’re not enemies, we’re Americans. No matter who you voted for I’m certain of one thing, the vast majority of them, almost 150 million Americans who voted they want to get the vitriol out of our politics. We’re certainly not going to agree on a lot of issues but at least we can agree to be civil with one another. We have to put the anger and the demonization behind us. It’s time for us to come together as a nation to heal. It’s not going to be easy, we have to try. My responsibility as president will be to represent the whole nation.”
Biden added, “In America, we hold strong views, we have strong disagreements and that’s okay. Strong disagreements are inevitable in a democracy and strong disagreements are healthy, they’re a sign of a vigorous debate of deeply held views. But we have to remember the purpose of our politics isn’t total, unrelenting, unending warfare, no. The purpose of our politics, the work of the nation isn’t to fan the flames of conflict but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to get to improve the lives of our people.”
In that spirit, if Biden really wants national unity, he should immediately urge the Senate to move to immediate dismissal of the charges against Trump — which include “incitement of insurrection” for the speech he gave on Jan. 6 at the Save America Rally where he explicitly urged those protesting the certification of the election results by Congress to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Consider just a sampling of polls done on this topic compiled by FiveThirtyEight.com, which unsurprisingly find tens of millions of Americans extremely divided on the question of removing Trump before Jan. 20.
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted Jan. 15-17 found 54 percent in favor of impeaching Trump and 42 percent against, including 83 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of independents opposed.
A YouGov poll conducted Jan. 13-15 found 55 percent in favor of impeachment and 45 percent opposed, including 85 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents.
A Suffolk University poll conducted Jan. 12-15 found 52 percent in favor of removing Trump from office and 45 percent opposed, including 90 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of independents.
A Rasmussen Reports poll conducted Jan. 12-14 found 50 percent in favor of removal and 45 percent opposed, including 74 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents.
And an SSRS poll conducted Jan. 9-14 found 54 percent in favor of removal and 42 percent opposed, including 88 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of independents.
In other words, there is hardly a national consensus on this matter.
Biden and the new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) should carefully consider that the likelihood of conviction in the Senate would be quite low. Biden can and should end this with one phone call to Schumer.
With Republicans dead set opposed and about half of independents also in opposition, there would be enormous political pressure on Senate Republicans to acquit Trump. Less than 5 percent of House Republicans supported impeachment in the House on Jan. 13.
To convict Trump, 34 percent, or 17 GOP Senators would have to vote to convict — a very tall order.
That is to say nothing of the lack of evidence to support conviction, plus the constitutional problems with holding a trial for “removal” after President Trump’s term will have already expired. Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution states “The President… shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
And Article I, Section 3 states “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States…”
Those are all inclusive statements. In order to remove, there has to be impeachment and conviction. In order to disqualify there has to be removal, and there cannot be removal if Trump is already out of office. The question will be moot on Jan. 20.
Meaning, even if the Senate proceeded with the trial, Trump would in all likelihood be found not guilty, exonerating the President and giving he and his supporters a political win and the ability to say they were vindicated by the proceeding. How would it end any other way?
The real question for President-elect Biden is does he really want a failed trial of Trump to be the first thing his administration is remembered for? Will that help us “come together as a nation to heal,” as Biden said on Nov. 6?
As Biden warned that day, “the work of the nation isn’t to fan the flames of conflict…” and it is beyond obvious that a trial would do exactly that, imperiling the Union. This shouldn’t be a hard decision at all — and the future of America may very well depend on it. Choose wisely.
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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.