Bracing for the prospect of a likely acquittal, Senate Democrats are eyeing a rapid-fire impeachment trial for former president Donald Trump — as short as one week — while also contemplating alternatives such as censure that could attract more support from Republicans.
The rethinking of the plan to try Trump on the charge that he incited the violent Jan. 6 Capitol riot reflects a growing desire among most Democrats to move forward with President Biden’s governing agenda in light of a test vote Tuesday that saw all but five Republican senators back Trump in a constitutional challenge to proceeding with the trial.
After the 55-to-45 tally fell short of the 67 votes needed to convict Trump and possibly bar him from holding office in the future, several Democratic senators said Wednesday that they were eager to move on to coronavirus pandemic relief, climate legislation, Cabinet confirmations and other items on the party’s to-do list….
Kaine is pitching his censure resolution to Republicans as a potentially more politically palatable alternative to convicting Trump and barring him from future office. But he is also making the case to Democrats that his resolution would have much the same effect as a conviction, by condemning the former president and laying the foundation to keep him from returning to the presidency under the terms of the 14th Amendment.
Section 3 of the amendment holds that no government official can hold office “who, having previously taken an oath . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
The provision, ratified in 1868, was written to keep avowed Confederates out of government office. It has been unevenly and infrequently applied since, and there is scant precedent or case law to determine who has the authority to disqualify a president or any other non-congressional official.
Kaine said his resolution would echo the amendment’s language, calling the Capitol attack “an insurrection against the Constitution of the United States” and finding that Trump “gave aid and comfort” to it.
“It’s more than just a censure, saying, ‘Hey, you did wrong,’ ” he said. “It makes a factual finding under the precise language of the 14th Amendment that would likely put an obstacle in Donald Trump’s path if he were to run for office again.”
Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law professor, said invoking the 14th Amendment provision is “much more complex than some people assume” and said simply passing a resolution as Kaine is proposing would not be sufficient to bar Trump from office.