In a column for the Daily Beast, longtime political observer Jonathan Alter laid out the case that Democrats should proceed immediately with impeachment hearings on Donald Trump that would have the added benefit of putting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the position of having to defend the president.
With the Democratic House Judiciary Committee expected to vote this week on how to proceed forward with impeaching the president, Alter suggested McConnell could be collateral damage in an inquiry into Trump's crimes and corruption.
Admitting that it was unlikely that the GOP-controlled Senate would vote for impeachment if it passed out of the House, Alter suggested that there is still a benefit that could help the Democrats take down McConnell who is facing re-election.
"I could also mean something else: attacking Trump and McConnell at the same time. It may be that a winning Democratic impeachment strategy is coming into view, one that simultaneously upholds the rule of law and yields political dividends," he wrote. "I call it 'Stain and Blame' —stain Trump by impeaching him, and blame McConnell when he is acquitted in the Senate. "
To make his case, Alter used the impeachment hearings of former President Bill Clinton as a case study in post-impeachment fall-out.
"The Clinton trial took place in a Republican-controlled Senate and was presided over by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who wore a special robe embroidered with ribbons he adopted from a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. The prosecutors in the case were 12 'House Managers' (including then-Rep. Lindsey Graham); the defense was handled by Clinton’s private lawyers—including a brilliant, wheelchair-bound litigator named Charles Ruff—and one Democratic senator, Dale Bumpers," he explained before noting the proceeding were "humiliating" for Clinton.
"This time, the trial in the well of the Senate would be presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts, who, like Rehnquist, would run it like a quasi-trial, with evidence, witnesses (who would likely appear in person) and summations. Nadler and others from the House Judiciary Committee would serve as prosecutors. Trump would have private lawyers defending him. The senators would be the jury," he continued as he once again conceded the GOP controlled Senate would likely not impeach Trump.
"If the Clinton case is any indication, a week-long Senate trial would wrap up only a month or so after impeachment. That means the whole thing would be over in January or February. The Democrats could shower blame on McConnell for the acquittal and move on," he wrote. "By summer, Democratic members would have had plenty of time to refocus their attention on constituent concerns. No Republican challenger can credibly argue in October of 2020 that the incumbent Democrat ignored constituents for a brief period 10 months earlier while he or she voted for impeachment. People can’t remember what happened two weeks ago, much less 10 months ago."
"With one exception: The impeachment of the President. The memories of that are long. Despite his acquittal, impeachment—a convenient shorthand for all of his despicable qualities—would hang around Donald Trump’s neck all the way to Election Day. And he would be stained forever in history, his just deserts," Alter concluded.
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