alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.

GOP senators have 2 very different options for acquitting Trump — and they're both damning: legal writers

GOP senators have 2 very different options for acquitting Trump — and they're both damning: legal writers
doe-oakridge [Public domain]

During President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Senate Republicans have offered a variety of arguments against removing him from office. Legal writers Ryan Goodman and Danielle Schulkin examine the different strains of anti-impeachment thought among Senate Republicans in a February 3 article for Just Security, noting the ways in which they are problematic and short-sighted.

Senate Republicans, Goodman and Schulkin write, “can acquit the president claiming they believe what he did was wrong but not impeachable. Or they can acquit claiming they believe there’s insufficient evidence to prove the allegations against the president.”

Goodman and Schulkin offer two anti-impeachment options. Option 1: “claim that allegations against Trump are proven, but his conduct is not impeachable.” And Option 2: “claim that allegations against Trump are not proven.”

The legal writers cite Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as the most prominent example of Option 1. When Alexander announced that he would be voting against featuring witnesses in the trial, he acknowledged that Democrats have proved their Ukraine-related allegations against Trump — yet maintained that the president’s actions, although deserving of criticism, weren’t impeachable.

“The first path — most prominently adopted by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) — concludes that the president is guilty on the facts: President Trump withheld military aid in exchange for an investigation into a political rival,”  Goodman and Schulkin  explain. “The House managers’ case, in that important respect, is proven. But to Sen. Alexander and others, such proof is not enough.”

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Alexander said of Trump’s actions with Ukraine, “I think it was wrong, (but) what (Trump) did is a long way from treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors.”

For Republicans, the problem with Option 1, Goodman and Schulkin write, is that “President Trump’s expected exclamation — exoneration! — will ring hollow given the bipartisan conclusion on the factual record: he did it.”

Goodman and Schulkin point to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana as examples of Option 2: those GOP senators, the writers explain, claim that with Ukraine, “the president acted for wholly legitimate purposes unconnected to the 2020 election.”

“There are costs to this approach when new information emerges about the Ukraine scheme,” Goodman and Schulkin note. “Such information will have salience because it contradicts the conclusions reached by these Senators. While Sen. Alexander can proclaim that the case is closed and that new evidence doesn’t affect his bottom line, it won’t be so easy for Cruz, Kennedy and others. Damning revelations will bring further ill repute to their decision to shut down the trial without hearing from first-hand witnesses and documents within reach of a subpoena.”

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.