Paul Krishnamurty discusses former President Trump's imminent trial in the Senate for 'inciting insurrection' and the prospect of a conviction...
"No matter how low Trump sinks, Republican politicians will not dare risk his wrath."
Donald Trump's Senate Trial will begin on February 8, charged with 'incitement of insurrection', after files of impeachment were sent from the House of Representatives related to the insurrection and attack on the Capitol.
When he was first impeached last year, Republicans controlled the Senate and therefore the rules, enabling them to block witnesses and evidence. Only 48 of 100 Senators voted to convict him of 'abuse of power', 47 of 'obstruction of Congress', 67 are needed to convict.
Trump must face fairer trial this time
A key difference is that control has now switched to the Democrats, ensuring what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promises to be as a 'full, fair trial' but, to convict, they still need at least 17 Republicans to vote against their former leader.
Betfair's market strongly signals they will fall short. 'No' in 'Will the Senate Convict Trump' is rated 93% likely at odds of 1.071/14. The odds have collapsed from an earlier peak of 1.4840/85.
This despite a stream of shocking revelations from video footage and charge sheets of insurrectionists. There is little indication of Republicans turning against Trump, or even challenging his 'Big Lie' that the election was stolen.
House GOP rebellion fell well short
When the House voted to impeach, a paltry ten Republicans supported it. Not even half the number being mooted 24 hours earlier.
It was widely reported that Congressmen felt too intimidated to speak out. They'd seen the harassment and threats doled out to critics, or state officials merely doing their job after the election. A purge is already underway.
The GOP is actively trying to purge its pro-democracy, anti-coup members. We should wonder how much worse the last three months would have been without effective gatekeepers in the rank-and-file. A safe assumption for policymakers is that it will be a lot worse next time. https://t.co/0uY1KPOPr4? G. Elliott Morris (@gelliottmorris) January 24, 2021
GOP Senators have defied Trump before
A tiny degree of uncertainty persists, because most of these serving Republicans are far from died-in-the-wool Trumpites. They have opposed him occasionally, on huge issues. For instance they out-vetoed him on the recent Defense Bill - which includes a profoundly important clause banning dark money.
Likewise last summer the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee published the most damning, detailed report on Trump's connections to and probably compromised relationship with Russia.
Their unwillingness to publicly discuss their own report, however, illustrated their fear. Whereas that story was noticed by a tiny percentage of engaged commentators, this Senate trial is in full view of his supporters.
Patriot Party threat offers Trump leverage
Trump retains huge leverage over the party. It is widely reported that he's considering forming a new 'Patriot' or 'MAGA' party. Such a party would present an immediate, existential threat to the Republicans. I don't believe they could survive losing a third or more of their vote, perhaps permanently.
One critical difference with the first impeachment trial is the expectation of witnesses and evidence. The details emerging from January 6 are truly shocking.
Could grim evidence change minds?
The charge sheet for one member of the Oathkeepers militia reveals a plot to gas legislators, while receiving information via social media about their whereabouts. Another appears to have been given directions to find, steal and ultimately sell laptops from Nancy Pelosi's office to Russian intelligence.
Certain GOP legislators appear to have been involved in enabling, even co-ordinating the attack. There is a money trail and numerous inciteful comments at rallies. The 'Stop the Steal' campaign was run and financed by arch-Trumpites such as Steve Bannon and Roger Stone.
Also to be explored during the trial is Trump's attempts to remove the Acting Attorney General, so his replacement could demand Georgia overturn its result. Plus the infamous phone call pressuring their Secretary of State to find 11,780 votes.
Will any of this change the dynamics? Unlikely. No doubt, there will be outrage from commentators. Just as the previous impeachment, upon learning at the surveillance of US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch by Russian mafia connected figures tied to Rudy Giuliani. This after Trump threatened that "she's going to go through some things", prompting her superiors to demand she flee Ukraine immediately.
That incredible incident failed to even prompt further evidence, a fair trial or any Republican support for conviction beyond Mitt Romney.
Therein lies the inescapable truth.
No matter how low Trump sinks, Republican politicians will not dare risk his wrath.
His media will not report it accurately. Every time Fox News makes the tiniest step towards normality, they suffer a backlash.
Yes, there is a stack of footage, from tweets to speeches by the Trump family to Giuliani calling for 'trial by combat', to nail incitement charges. But the connection is loose enough to allow Senators to 'regret' his language while not directly blaming him. Most Republicans will declare removing an ex-president to be futile, attempting to turn the narrative against Democrats for 'playing politics'.
Secret ballot would change everything
February vote in Senate on whether to convict Trump should be a secret ballot in order to (1) protect safety of senators, and (2) allow them to vote their consciences. Pass it on.? Robert Reich (@RBReich) January 23, 2021
This is in my view the only way Trump can be convicted. Schumer would likely be able to establish a secret ballot without any GOP support. It would be a dramatic gamechanger, allowing frightened Senators to vote their conscience. It is unlikely, and controversial, but the situation and threat is unprecedented. Listen out for the rules to be confirmed.