It Would Only Take Three GOP Senators To Secure Secret Impeachment Vote
Publicly, Republican senators asked about the inevitable impeachment trial of President Donald Trump express near undying support for absolving the Commander in Chief — but privately, many reportedly say they would vote to convict if the ballots were secret.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough discussed this reality with panelist Mike Barnicle last month on Morning Joe, and both men indicated Republicans might actually be relieved by a secret vote.
“We all know that privately in the cloakroom they speak very disparagingly of him," Barnicle said of Republican senators’ feelings about the president. "And if there was a secret ballot in the United States Senate, I think Trump would lose 90-10 maybe."
Scarborough agreed, saying, "If there were a secret ballot in the Senate this morning, Mike Pence would be president by noon."
"It is that clear,” he continued. “They want Trump out, they want Mike Pence in, they want to return to conservative principles, they want a return to conservative issues."
But how likely is it that Republicans could pull off a secret vote?
Juleanna Glover wrote in Politico magazine this week that just three Republican senators would be needed to secure a secret ballot for the impeachment trial, which could take place within the next couple of months.
Glover noted that “Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution does not set many parameters for the trial, except to say that ‘the Chief Justice shall preside,’ and ‘no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.’”
This leaves the entirety of the rule-making process up to the Senate, with no oversight from the executive or judicial branches. That process was bipartisan during former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, but Glover noted that the political atmosphere is far too polarized to make that a likelihood this time around.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will still need a simple majority to pass whatever rules Republicans dictate, and with just 53 GOP senators, only three would be needed to block any given rule.
“Those three senators, in turn, could demand a secret ballot and condition their approval of the rest of the rules on getting one,” Glover wrote. And imagining that three senators would be willing to do this is not too much of a stretch, she said.
“Five sitting Republican senators have already announced their retirements; four of those are in their mid-70s or older and will never run for office again,” Glover noted. “They might well be willing to demand secrecy in order to give cover to their colleagues who would like to convict Trump but are afraid to do so because of politics in their home districts.”
In fact, a secret ballot could work out to everyone’s benefit, including the president himself, who faces potential charges at the federal, state and local levels once leaving office — federal charges being the only ones a President Mike Pence could pardon him for:
“The sooner any three Republican senators make clear that they will support nothing short of a secret ballot, the sooner Trump realizes his best course could be to cut a deal, trading his office for a get-out-of-jail-free card—a clean slate from prosecutors—just as Vice President Spiro Agnew did.”