"It was not a perfect call": C'mon, let's censure Trump, says Joe Manchin

Not for a moment do I think Senate Republicans will allow a vote on a censure resolution if they can prevent one, knowing the headache it’ll create for their own vulnerable incumbents. What do you do with a censure resolution if you’re Susan Collins or Cory Gardner? The logical thing for a purple-state senator would be to vote yes and pair that with a vote for acquittal on the actual articles of impeachment, offering a little something to partisans on each side. Yes, Democratic voters, what Trump did was bad. But yes, Republican voters, you’re right that it’s not a high crime or misdemeanor.

But of course that won’t work in a hyperpartisan age. Trump would go berserk at the show of “disloyalty” in supporting a censure resolution. And Democrats would rage that censure is a meaningless fig leaf designed to give gutless Republicans political cover on their vote for acquittal. Trying to please both sides in 2020 means alienating both sides.

So GOPers will block this, or will try to. (Could they block it if Democrats offered it during the impeachment trial somehow?) But as I said earlier, it makes sense to me that Dems would want to force the issue in the press if only to make Republicans like Alexander and Murkowski have to answer uncomfortable questions about it. “You’ve said in interviews that what the president did was ‘inappropriate.’ So why then aren’t you willing to say that in a formal resolution? Do you fear that the president and his fans might put your heads on pikes, figuratively speaking, if you did?”

Because they should fear that, you know.

I’d take Manchin’s interest in a censure resolution as a very bad sign if I were Schumer, though. It’s a clue that he’s reluctant to vote for removal and is looking for a half-measure to try to satisfy West Virginia’s Democratic minority. Even if Schumer could force a censure vote, by doing so he’d be giving Manchin a way out of having to make a decision on removal. Manchin’s *likely* to acquit Trump as-is, but if he has censure to fall back on as an alternative then an acquittal vote is assured. In fact, although he claimed he’s still undecided, he did little to disguise how he intends to vote in his floor speech about this a few hours ago, as you’ll see below. We must stand for the proposition that the president isn’t above the law, he intones … before declaring that removing Trump would be poisonous to the country and that there’s no path to the 67 votes needed to make it happen in any case. I wonder which way he’ll go.

He already has a draft censure resolution in the works:

The legislation argues that Trump “used the office of the president of the United States to attempt to compel a foreign nation to interfere with domestic political affairs for his own personal benefit” and says Trump “wrongfully enlisted his personal lawyer to investigate a domestic political rival by meddling in formal diplomatic relations in a manner that is inconsistent with our established National Security Strategy.”

It adds that “Trump hindered the thorough investigation of related documents and prohibited Congress and the American people from hearing testimony by first-hand witnesses with direct knowledge of his conduct.”

That’d be a heavy lift for many Republicans. They’d be okay with wrist-slapping Trump for Giuliani’s involvement in this, I think, but accusing him of squeezing Ukraine “for his own personal benefit” would blow up the “fighting corruption” narrative that the president has been eager for Senate Republicans to stick to. And the bit about obstructing Congress might not fly because Trump’s claims of executive privilege remain untested in court. One could argue that it’s for the legislature, not the judiciary, to decide when the legislature’s work has been obstructed. But as a political matter, how can you get Republicans to censure the president for unlawfully blocking witnesses without a judge declaring it unlawful first?

Manchin also claims in his speech that censure would attract a bipartisan majority of the chamber. That may be true — emphasis on “may.”

Romney would vote for it. Collins probably would, aiming to appease Dems in Maine. Would Murkowski and Alexander and Rob Portman or would they just tremble and yammer that “the p-p-p-people should decide in November”? Who are the four Republicans willing to walk the plank on even an empty gesture of disapproval of His Majesty?

Here’s Manchin pleading his case.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on December 09, 2022