The penalty Donald Trump should get for Ukraine scandal if Senate acquits (opinion)

Finally, after the Senate Republicans voted against calling any witnesses, the defense of some GOP members was that, while Trump’s behavior was inappropriate, the President’s removal was not warranted. According to Sen. Lamar Alexander, the House managers proved their charges.

The underlying reasoning was that even with Trump’s bad behavior, the binary choice of acquittal versus removal made it impossible for Republicans to side with the Democrats.

But in those shifting rationales, the Republicans have raised a third option they may not have anticipated. The Senate on Thursday can and should move to censure the President and use the Republicans’ own public statements and floor speeches as the basis for the language condemning Trump’s behavior.

Now for those who say it would only be symbolic, I’d point out that only one President in our history, Andrew Jackson, has been censured, and it was so important to him he spent three years getting the censure overturned. A censure vote only takes a simple majority, not the two thirds needed for removal. It would put Republicans firmly on the record on the Senate floor on the question of whether the President abused his power and acted inappropriately.
While censure has only been used once against a president, it has been applied many times to members of Congress who behave inappropriately. Congress should now deal with the President the same way it would with one of their own who engaged in similar misconduct.

For Democrats, in addition to gaining a measure of revenge on the Republicans in the Senate, it also gives them an organizing moment to frame the narrative going into the election of a President who is corrupt and abuses his power.

You can just see the ads now with pictures of Trump with the word “impeached” and “censured” over him. The censure vote is also much easier for voters to understand, easier than a vote to block the testimony of witnesses and the production of documents.

For Republicans, especially those senators who oppose removal from office and are running in swing states this year, censure plausibly allows them to go on the record condemning the President’s misconduct — short of removal. Doing so would allow them to appeal to independents and the small number of persuadable Democrats who may accept the Republican argument of not overturning the 2016 election and allowing voters to render final judgment in November 2020.

Impeachment historians will remember censure being discussed at two points in the Clinton drama in 1998 and 1999. Democrats after winning the midterm elections in November 1998 floated the idea of censure both to avoid impeachment and to go on record as condemning the President’s behavior. Republicans, led by Rep. Tom DeLay, rejected the idea, arguing impeachment was the more appropriate political solution given their sense of the President’s alleged crimes.
Looks like the Donald Trump show is getting renewed for another season

When the articles of impeachment were delivered to the Senate, Democrats, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, drafted several versions of censure language as a companion to an impeachment acquittal. Ultimately the effort went nowhere because even among the Democratic senators, they could not agree on the appropriate language.

Some might ask if censure wasn’t appropriate for Bill Clinton, why is it appropriate for Trump. Democrats criticized the President from the moment the scandal broke and made clear throughout he had committed serious transgressions that could not be hidden by political talking points.

In 1999, Clinton repeatedly acknowledged the mistakes he’d made, apologized for those he had hurt and, on the day he was acquitted, spoke to the country and expressed sincere regret for what he’d put the country through. The impeachment plus the statements of personal responsibility obviated the need for any further steps.
The King Trump defense is terrifying

Trump is reacting in a completely different way. He still contends he did nothing wrong and that the call with Ukraine’s president was “perfect.” He has withheld every document Congress has requested and ordered senior aides with firsthand evidence of what happened to not testify in any Congressional setting.

He used his legal team, Alan Dershowitz most notably, to argue the President has absolute authority under Article 2 of the Constitution, something he’s said repeatedly in public. And the administration has continued stonewalling, withholding critical documents until just after the Senate voted on documents and witness testimony in the trial Friday night.

There is no reason to believe Trump will acknowledge any wrongdoing or take any personal responsibility. There is no reason to believe the Administration will become more cooperative with Congressional oversight even with the trial completed. In fact, the opposite is probably true.

Congress can take some measure of satisfaction by censuring a president who has trampled their Article One authority in multiple ways. Standards of conduct must be maintained and enforced given the President’s misconduct. Censure, although almost unprecedented against a President, is the only and best remedy for holding him to account and putting his wrongdoing on the record forever.

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