As the impeachment of President Donald Trump moves to trial in the Senate, Cornell professors shared their views on the significance of the House charges –– and their predictions for how America’s historic impeachment trial will play out.
On Tuesday afternoon, as the Senate began trial proceedings, bitter partisanship was on full display, with Senators sticking to party-lines in several key votes, The New York Times reported.
By the end of Tuesday night, multiple attempts by Senate Democrats to subpoena documents from the White House had failed –– reflecting a so far intense battle on what process the impeachment trial will follow. While Democratic leaders in the chamber have insisted that additional witnesses and evidence be subpoenaed by the Senate, many Republicans have resisted such plans.
“If witnesses are, in fact, called, they might have some very significant things to say, and the trial would be much longer,” Prof. Richard Bensel, government, said in an email to The Sun, who said that House Democrats’ decision to impeach Trump was the “one ethical choice.”
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) has thus far stuck to a limit on the time for arguments: three days.
Bensel also predicted that Trump will not be convicted by the GOP-controlled Senate, adding that Republican senators who might otherwise want to vote to convict the President will not do so, as “it is just too costly for them.”
“It seems, at present, a good bet that the Senate won’t convict Trump unless more information is allowed to come to light,” Prof. Emeritus Elizabeth Sanders, government, said.
On Dec. 18, the House of Representatives impeached Trump on two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress; but Bensel thinks the former carries a stronger case.
“While many presidents have allowed domestic politics to influence their foreign policy decisions, no president, to my knowledge, has used presidential authority in international politics to manipulate a foreign government for the purposes of shaping domestic politics, particularly at attack on a potential rival in a presidential election,” Bensel said.
Bensel continued, calling Trump’s repeated defiance of House subpoenas a “tacit admission of guilt;” Congress has the constitutional authority to issue subpoenas for items pertaining to a valid legislative purpose.
But not all professors, however, see the House’s actions as warranted. Prof. William Jacobson, law, sees the impeachment process as an effort to “unwind the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election.”
For Jacobson, impeachment represents a Democratic vendetta against Trump, pointing to the ways in which party members have previously tried to oust the current President. These include attempting to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows for a process to remove the president outside of impeachment, and encouraging “faithless electors” after the 2016 election, according to Jacobson.
“Since the day Trump was elected, Democrats have vowed to find a way to remove Trump from office,” Jacobson said.
While Sanders acknowledged that “early discussions of impeachment based on Trump’s obnoxious behavior and possible collusion with Russia may have had political motives,” in the present case, she called Trump’s actions “dangerously illegal.”
Regardless, Jacobson anticipates Republican Senators to vote in Trump’s favor.
“Republicans in the Senate recognize the upcoming trial as an attempted political decapitation,” Jacobson said.
Bensel, despite supporting the House charges against Trump, believes the President will ultimately benefit from impeachment in the end: “He will simply declare that he had never done anything wrong and it was all a fraudulent hoax.”