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Commentary: How Impeachment Could Be A Win For Both Dems and Republicans

J. Scott Applewhite
Activists rally for the impeachment of President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019.

The cry for an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump began with a relative handful of voices crying out in the wilderness, but, in short order, impeachment has turned into a runaway train.

Even the mighty Mitch McConnell – who, if pressed, might tell you that he is at least as powerful as Trump himself – concedes that there is nothing he can do to stop it. The Senate rules are, after all, rules. If the House brings articles of impeachment to the Senate, the Senate is bound to consider them.

McConnell, naturally, is not powerless, though – some sort of helpless bystander. With his Machiavellian set of political skills, he could certainly find ways of tapping the brakes on the rush to impeachment.

mitch mcconnell
Credit J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate chamber in July 2019.

But there could be a door marked exit in this that would allow both sides to walk away satisfied, if not exactly happy. It was suggested last week in an article on Politico by Edward B. Foley, a professor and director of election law at the Ohio State University's Moritz School of Law.

What many people don't understand, Foley wrote, is that both the Constitution and Senate rules treat removal from office and disqualification from holding office as separate punishments upon a conviction of impeachment.

In other words, Trump could be convicted by the Senate on impeachment charges, removed from office and then run for president as a non-incumbent in 2020. It would just take separate votes on removal and disqualification.

"As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are the ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment,'' Foley wrote. "In that case, what's the patriotic position for Republicans to take?"

Foley told WVXU this would be a fair compromise as long as the article or articles of impeachment are focused and about the impact on the 2020 election and beyond, not about Trump's previous alleged misdeeds.

"If Speaker Pelosi says to the Senate, we are sending over the Ukraine situation because that is about 2020; and that we, the Democrats, are not interested in re-litigating the 2016 election, she might be able to get enough Republicans on board,'' Foley said.

David Niven, professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, has seen the dual impeachment votes of removal from office and disqualification for future office in action.

Niven, a former professor at Florida Atlantic University, said that after the 1989 impeachment and removal from office of federal judge Alcee Hastings of Florida on bribery charges, there was no vote disqualifying Hastings from running for office again.

"So, Alcee Hastings, removed from the bench in an impeachment vote, turned around and ran for the (U.S.) House and won,'' Niven said. "The system worked."

Seems like a perfectly sensible solution to me.

But "sensible" and "Congress" are words rarely used together in the same sentence.

It is more likely that the two sides will choose political Armageddon over reasonable compromise.

The political posturing is already in full swing.

Trump has not been served well by his clown car of personal attorneys, beginning with Rudy Giuliani, who has been subpoenaed by the Democratic chairmen of three House committees for documents related to the president's request for an investigation by Ukraine officials into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Biden may (or may not) be the leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The committee chairs – Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and Elijah Cummings – say they want the documents because Giuliani has been on cable news shows flapping his gums saying that, acting as the president's personal attorney, he asked the government of Ukraine to target Biden.

Probably not the best use of billable hours.

Trump, for his part, has said that Schiff has "the smallest, thinnest neck I have ever seen."

Not surprisingly, the Ohio congressional delegation has much in common with Congress as a whole in that it is split largely on partisan lines on the impeachment investigation.

Ohio's senior senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, is in favor of moving forward.

"Hardworking people in Ohio don't get to pick and choose which laws they get to follow and neither does the president – no one is above the law,'' Brown said in a prepared statement last week.

"We know the president tried to get a foreign government to undermine American democracy,'' Brown said. "We have a responsibility to find out exactly what happened."

Ohio's Republican senator, Rob Portman, told Fox News that he doesn't see the "quid pro quo that the Democrats are claiming.

"In fact, I actually believe that if Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats had taken another 24 hours to make their decision and actually looked at the facts, which is the transcript itself, they might not have moved forward, because there is no quid pro quo."

U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, who represents Ohio's 2nd Congressional District, expressed his frustration with the impeachment talk in a recent Intelligence Committee hearing with Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence.

"Many Americans have seen this movie too many times and they're tired of it," Wenstrup said.

brad wenstrup
Credit Andrew Harnik / AP
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, questions Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019.

Wenstrup told Fox News Trump's call with the Ukrainian leader was nothing more than a conversation between "two leaders who were trying to clean up corruption in their countries."

Niven said the dilemma that many Republican and Democratic politicians find themselves in over the Trump impeachment question is that they have no idea what the impact of a Trump impeachment and removal from office would be on themselves and their political parties next year.

"This is one of those rare moments in history,'' Niven said. "Nobody knows if this is going to be a roaring success or an apocalyptic failure. But it's clear that this is going forward, and we are going to find out."

politically speaking 2
Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

Read more "Politically Speaking" here.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.