Democrats could open a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences by going forward with impeachment and bringing former President Donald Trump back into the limelight.
The Senate is expected to move forward with their second impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump on Feb. 9 after House Democrats filed articles of impeachment that blame Trump for allegedly “inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” Trump, they say, “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in—lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”
Any chance of getting a conviction against Trump seemed to die when only five Republican Senators voted against Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s motion to dismiss the impeachment trial. However, Democratic impeachment managers still have to be clever in their arguments, or risk stepping on political landmines that could revitalize the Republican party.
WATCH: Senator Josh Hawley slams the Democrats’ sham impeachment of former President Donald Trump:
“I do believe that this is unconstitutional…The Senate just doesn’t have the authority to try and convict a private citizen.” pic.twitter.com/oXinKfYMtK
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) February 2, 2021
Some of Trump’s comments about the insistence that the election was stolen from him even after most avenues of legal recourse had disappeared garnered condemnation from Republicans, according to the Associated Press.
By pushing forward with impeachment, Democrats could hope to further divide elected Republicans. Certain moderate Republicans up for reelection in 2022 that supported Trump’s impeachment may be ostracized from the core of the Republican party, which could make their seats easy pickings in the 2022 election cycle, The Hill reported. (RELATED: Schumer Says Impeachment Trial Will Move Quickly, Won’t Need A Lot Of Witnesses)
However, moderate Republicans should not be the only ones fearful of having Trump’s base turn on them. Pro-Trump figures within the Republican party, including the former president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., have threatened that any Republican who fails to offer an adequate defense of Trump’s actions as president could face primary challenges next time they are up for re-election, as reported by Forbes. The ramifications could be much worse for the Republican party if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell fails to prevent a simple majority vote from barring Trump to hold office in the future, which TIME suggests is a Constitutional possibility. Some polls suggest Trump is the current frontrunner for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominee.
Democrats also included Trump’s call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump stated “hundreds of thousands” of votes in Georgia were tampered with in a variety of ways, but Georgia just needed “to find” just over 11,000 to change the results.
Trump’s call with Raffensperger has garnered the ire of certain Republicans such as Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, as reported by Bloomberg. If Democrats decide to focus on the Raffensperger call, they could possibly spin the destined-to-fail vote to convict Trump into a referendum on voter fraud and election integrity, and use it to increase their Senate majority in 2022.
However, by pursuing a strategy that turns impeachment into a voter-fraud referendum, Democrats are giving Trump the largest platform possible to continue re-litigating the results of the 2020 election. Some Democrats, like New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, cheered when tech companies decided to suspend or ban Trump from their social media platforms, the Daily Mail reported. Many Democrats have pushed for stricter policing of disinformation and hate speech online.
Trump’s new legal team, lawyers David Schoen and Bruce Castor, may include elements of Trump’s grievances with the electoral process in their defense of the former president during the impeachment trial, but have announced that they will primarily argue Trump’s impeachment is unconstitutional. Trump’s previous legal team disbanded over Trump’s reported insistence that the legal team focus on alleged election manipulation instead of a procedural argument.
If Democrats decide to shift the focus away from charges of insurrection, and argue over the totality of Trump’s claims about election fraud with a specific focus on the Raffensperger call, fissures could emerge within the Democratic caucus between moderates and progressives as to whether or not it is morally conscionable to give Trump a platform to air his grievances.
Senators were sworn in today for the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection. I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That is what I will do. pic.twitter.com/gFo0vgl2Ll
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) January 26, 2021
Finally, by pursuing impeachment, Democrats could table important items on the Biden administration’s agenda.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has struck a deal with McConnell to push the start of the impeachment trial to the week of Feb. 8 to get some of Biden’s nominees confirmed, the Associated Press reported. Upon announcing the agreement, Schumer said “During that period, the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as cabinet nominations and the Covid relief bill, which would provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering during this pandemic,” The New York Times reported. But, only six of Biden’s Cabinet nominees have been voted on and confirmed by the Senate.
If Democrats fail to confirm the number of other nominees before impeachment starts, it could further delay the Biden White House’s ability to become fully operational. However, Biden has requested that the Senate “bifurcate” its schedule to handle the business of impeachment while also working on passing his nominees, the Washington Post reported.