The House of Representatives will almost certainly vote against Donald Trump today. However, for these efforts to achieve the goal of condemning Trump in the Senate and excluding him from seeking office in the future, significant support from both parties is required. Even after the Senate moved to a 50:50 split and the Senators were elected in the Georgia runoff, the conviction still requires a minimum of 17 GOP Senator votes.
In order for the impeachment to have the desired effect of discrediting Trump and preventing similar misconduct by future presidents, it would also be helpful if it received broad public support from independents and Republicans. Here, too, it can be helpful to make the process non-partisan.
Some important advances in building the necessary bipartisan coalition have already been made. Several House Republicans plan to vote for impeachment, most notably Rep. Liz Cheney, the third largest member of the House of Representatives GOP leadership. Numerous conservative and libertarian legal scholars and political commentators also support the impeachment (I give examples here and here, and there are many others, such as Ramesh Ponnuru, Henry Olsen, and Steven Calabresi, co-founders of the Federalist Society). Perhaps most importantly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supports the impeachment and believes it could serve his party’s long-term interests.
Still, more can be done to build a broad coalition to condemn Trump and exclude him from future office. In a previous post, I mentioned that if Congressional Republicans resist impeachment because they fear it could lead to conflict or disagreement, they can resolve this issue by the simple means of assisting impeachment themselves. In this one, I outline a few steps that Congress Democrats can take.
First, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should realize she made a mistake by appointing an all-democratic team of impeachment managers to take the case to the Senate. She should replace at least one of them (preferably two or three) with Republicans of the House who voted for impeachment, like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. The reason is not that Cheney or Kinzinger would necessarily discuss the issues better than a Democrat. Rather, Pelosi should take this step because of its enormous potential symbolic value and convey the message that impeachment is not just another iteration of partisan politics as usual.
Second, the impeachment managers should ensure that one or two of the many conservative and libertarian jurists who have spoken out in favor of impeachment are called upon if the Senate trial includes witnesses to testify about the legal issues involved. This could also have significant symbolic value and would be contrary to the Democrats’ reliance on purely liberal experts during the last impeachment trial.
The legal scholars Noah Feldman, Michael Gerhardt and Pamela Karlan did a great job in my opinion last time. But the Democrats would have done well to call at least one non-liberal witness on these issues. That would have given their efforts more credibility if they had an informed opinion about the law and the middle of the political spectrum. If experts are called in this time, the Democrats would do well to correct this mistake.
To avoid misunderstandings, I should stress that I am not suggesting that you witness yourself. To the extent that Democratic leaders care (unlikely, I know) what I think, I would recommend Steve Calabresi, Michael Stokes Paulsen, and VC co-bloggers Jonathan Adler and Keith Whittington for their reflection. Any of them would clearly be a better choice than me. Calabresi in particular would be an excellent choice given his longstanding role as the leader of the conservative right-wing movement.
These are probably not the only ways Democrats can do more to include conservative and libertarian impeachment advocates in the process. I hope other commentators will make additional and perhaps better suggestions. The key is to build the broadest possible coalition and send a message of inclusion.