On Jan. 30, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 to recommend unanimously that Republicans reopen the probe of former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a day after President Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey. Now the next step might be a Senate vote to acquit Trump of obstruction of justice in the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and other special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probes. As liberal Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) have all said, impeaching Trump would end “the spectacle” that has become the presidency. But Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) argued the opposite: “While I would not recommend impeaching this president, given his alleged non-stop misconduct, I would be more than willing to vote for impeachment proceedings if Republicans refuse to investigate the president.”
RELATED: Real history makes impeachment harder
Even if Democrats win the House of Representatives, there’s no way to impeach Trump. That requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, and Republicans would have plenty of reasons to reject any articles of impeachment. Two important reasons:
First, the reasons they would give for rejecting articles would hardly pass for frivolous, much less frivolous reasons. Republicans generally can’t use the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford to justify the imprisonment of a black person by a white person. They could, however, use the same rationale to discredit a claim by a lower-court judge that a deputy violated the First Amendment rights of a Democrat, Sarah Palin, with whom she disagreed. “Based on his well-known hostility toward Ms. Palin,” the judge concluded, “it is probable that Deputy Sheriff Terry Kupfer used force against Ms. Palin for political reasons.” That would support an indictment of Kupfer.
Second, even if Republicans agreed to consider articles of impeachment filed by Democrats, they would make them look like a political vendetta rather than the serious effort to hold a president accountable by the impeachment process. They’d have to determine whether there was enough evidence to convict the president of obstruction of justice, among other impeachable offenses. But they wouldn’t have to listen to a defense of Trump from his defenders in Congress, because they’d know they’d be acquitted by the jury. Durbin, who earlier asked that Trump be indicted for misusing the pardon power, told National Public Radio, “I’m willing to do that in impeachment.” This looks suspiciously like a political stunt, not an act of impeachment.