Plan B: Schumer comments on next steps to punish Trump if impeachment fails

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has publicly confirmed that he’s aware of and possibly willing to consider a backup plan that would prevent former President Donald Trump from running for office again even if he isn’t convicted in his ongoing impeachment trial.

During a Democrat press conference ahead of Thursday’s impeachment proceedings, he was asked specifically about the plan, which calls for using an obscure provision in the 14th Amendment to prevent Trump’s potential reelection.

“Leader Schumer, it seems that it might not be the votes to convict President Trump. And so then you might not be able to pull up the vote to bar him from office. Is there support for bringing forward a 14th Amendment measure?” a reporter asked.

The Senate leader replied, “We’re first going to finish the impeachment trial and then Democrats will get together and discuss where we go next. Thank you everybody. And thank my colleagues.”

Listen:

The plan first emerged late last month courtesy of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican.

“Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are crafting a resolution to censure Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 riot that left five dead, including a Capitol police officer. But it is not just any censure resolution,” ABC News reported on Jan. 27th.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told reporters Tuesday that what Kaine and Collins are looking to do is ‘include the elements of the 14th Amendment that lead to disqualification from future office.'”

The 14th Amendment contains a provision that essentially states that anybody who’s “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the government may not “hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or any any state.”

The trick to making it work would have been using the censure to affirm that the former president had indeed “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.”

“It declares that the attack on the Capitol was an insurrection against the Constitution of the United States. It was an effort to stop Congress from undertaking its constitutional duty to count electoral votes,” Kaine reportedly said at the time.

“It then finds that President Trump gave aid and comfort to those who carried out the insurrection by repeatedly lying about the election, slandering election officials, pressuring others to come to Washington for a wild event and encouraging them to come up to Congress,” he added.

Collins had been hopeful that the censure resolution could be used as an alternative to a trial that she knew would ultimately end in an acquittal.

“I think yesterday’s vote on the Senate floor shows that it is extremely unlikely that President Trump would be convicted and that indeed the five votes to even proceed to a trial is probably the high mark on what you’re going to see for Republican support,” she reportedly said.

“So, it seems to me that there is some value in looking at an alternative to proceeding with the trial. It’s obviously not my call, and I realize the two leaders have already locked in a schedule. But it seems to me there is benefit in looking at an alternative that might be able to garner bipartisan support,” Collins added.

The plan lasted only about a week. On Feb. 2, Kaine confirmed that the duo had dropped the “bipartisan effort” because of a lack of support from both Republicans and Democrats.

“We don’t have enough support on the Republican side because they don’t want to bar Trump from running from office. I don’t have enough support on the Democratic side because for most of my colleagues, it’s impeachment or nothing,” he explained.

Listen:

Schumer’s remarks Thursday suggest Democrats may be interested in attempting a go at it alone, though whether it’d be successful remains unclear.

Fox News notes that “Democrats … almost certainly would not be able to remove the legislative filibuster in the Senate for this vote, as multiple Senate Democrats reiterated that they are committed to leaving the minority rights safeguard in place.”

The problem is that a majority of Senate Republicans have made it clear they have no interest in going after the former president.

It’s also not clear whether the move would even be constitutional given the stipulations that go along with the 14th Amendment, according to University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy associate professor Chad Westerland.

“It is very specific about insurrection and rebellion and direct line. Again, legally that would probably require the Trump administration, or President Trump himself, to have been fairly directly involved in the actual planning of the attack,”  he said in remarks this week to Arizona station KOLD.

“We don’t have evidence of that, and I’m certainly not suggesting there is, I just think that would probably have to be more visible for the section 3 of the 14th amendment to be invoked,” he said.

Westerland was equally doubtful that the Democrats would be able to convict Trump.

“Mitch McConnell is somebody who has come out and explicitly blamed former President Trump for January 6th, yet he did not vote to say this was constitutional. Which I think tells us a lot about where this Senate is,” said Westerland. “I just don’t see that there’s 67 votes to convict. I would be genuinely shocked.”

Vivek Saxena

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