The impeachment of Donald Trump is expected to sail through the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, which will then send it to the Senate for a trial to decide whether to remove Trump from office. But with Republicans running the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that he will coordinate with the White House and will manage the trial in accordance with Trump’s own wishes.
But a top constitutional scholar who has been advising Democrats on how to manage the impeachment process said on Saturday that the Republican strategy may backfire and end up leaving Trump a legacy as “the O.J. Simpson of presidents.”
Former NFL star Simpson, who was charged with murdering his wife and her friend in 1994, was acquitted at trial in a verdict that was widely seen as mistaken. Simpson later lost a civil case over the murders and never recovered his reputation due to the popular perception that he was guilty of the crimes, despite the not guilty verdict.
While advocating for Democrats to “press hard to make this a real trial,” Tribe told MSNBC host Joy Reid on Saturday that if McConnell and the Republicans attempt to acquit Trump without such a trial, “making this president the O.J. Simpson of presidents, would be his fate.” Trump would always bear a “red asterisk” by his name, Tribe said, as seen in the video below.
The lack of a “real trial” would also make Trump, who appears certain to become the third U.S. president to be impeached, the first to be “not really acquitted but just given a pass,” according to Tribe.
Washington Post columnists Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman made a similar point in a Friday op-ed, saying that McConnell’s stated intention to “rig the process” in Trump’s favor “handed Democrats a big opening.”
Democrats, the columnists wrote, should attempt to recruit Republican senators from politically vulnerable seats to vote with Democrats on issues of how the process will be run. A simple majority of 51 is all that is required to pass procedural motions, meaning that Democrats would need just four GOP votes.
With those 51 votes, Democrats could require Trump to turn over the reams of documents demanded by the House in the impeachment inquiry, but refused by the White House.
“A lot is likely to come down to what a handful of Republican senators, including those up for reelection in swing states, want to see out of the process,” congressional expert Molly Reynolds of the Brookings Institute told The Post.
But according to an analysis by Jonathan Allen of NBC News, Trump appears to desire a lengthy, drawn-out trial, of the kind “befitting his reality-era presidency.”
According to NBC News, Trump has said he wants a trial in which he may call witnesses including the original, still unidentified whistleblower whose original report on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ignited the impeachment effort in September.