Most say the Senate will not vote to remove President Donald Trump if Parliament accuses him. But what if senators could vote on the impeachment by secret ballot? If they were not exposed to the reactions of voters, the media, or the president himself, who knows how many Republican senators would vote for the impeachment?
A secret impeachment b This may sound crazy, but it is quite possible. In fact, only three senators would be required to allow this possibility.
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The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has announced that he will immediately initiate a lawsuit to decide the impeachment article if and when the Senate receives it from the House of Representatives. Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution does not set many parameters for the process, with the exception that "the Supreme Judge presides" and "no person is convicted without the consent of two-thirds of the members present" means that the Senate has the sole power to draw up its own rules on the impeachment without the judicial or executive having control.
During the recent impeachment of a president, Bill Clinton, the rules were drafted by Democrats and Republicans in a collaborative process as the then Senate leaders Trent Lott and Tom Daschle recently highlighted in a Washington Post op-ed. The rules were passed unanimously. Given the polarization that our policy now defines, this time is unlikely. McConnell and his Republican colleagues dictate the rules much more with little influence from the Democrats.
Under the current Senate trial, however, McConnell will continue to need a simple majority – 51 of the 53 Senate Republicans – to support a decision-making process. This means that if only three Republican senators broke out of the Caucus, they could block any rule they did not want. (Vice President Mike Pence can not break ties in impeachment cases.) These three senators could in turn demand a secret ballot and consent to the other rules for obtaining a secret ballot.
Some could say transparency in Congress Thoughts and votes are inviolable, and it is true that none of the Senate's previous indictments were conducted by secret ballot. The Senate's role in impeachment, however, is that of a US jury, where secret ballots are often held. When the electoral college was bogged down and the House of Representatives picked the president – the House of Representatives voted 1800 Thomas Jefferson and 1824 John Quincy Adams – this vote was secret. And of course, if citizens vote for the president, they do so privately.
Trump and his entourage seem confident that he will not lose the 20 Republican senators required to block a guilty verdict. However, it is not hard to imagine that three senators support a secret ballot. Five seated Republican senators have already announced their resignation; Four of them are in their mid-70s or older and will never again run for office. They may well be willing to demand secrecy to cover their colleagues who want to condemn Trump, but fear this for political reasons in their home districts. There are also 10 Republican senators who can not be re-elected until 2024 and who might assume that Trumpism will be irrelevant by then. Senators Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski were the loudest Republicans, expressing concern over Trump's behavior towards Ukraine. Other GOP Senators have also recently slackened to defend him – all before the house has held public hearings.
There has been some public speculation that the Senate should conduct a secret ballot. Trump would be found guilty. GOP strategist Mike Murphy recently said a seated Republican senator told him that 30 of his colleagues would vote for Trump's conviction if the ballot was secret. Earlier Senator Jeff Flake topped this by saying he thought that 35 Republican senators would vote in this manner.
Although Trump is unlikely to support a secret ballot, it is possible that he will actually benefit from one in the long run. If a secret ballot is agreed and Trump knows that the prospect of impeachment is near, he could focus his efforts on his post-presidency. As soon as he leaves office, Trump faces several possible criminal investigations at federal, state and local levels. He almost certainly knows that a President Pence could only apologize for federal crimes. To avoid the prospect of extradition, Trump could – as the Sackler family did in the OxyContin affair – negotiate a collective agreement, with all jurisdictions now conducting independent investigations of its activities. Trump's impeachment, followed by a speedy resignation, could quench the thirst for justice of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James, making them more likely to agree.
Even McConnell could privately welcome the prospect of a secret ballot. He has always sought to uphold his Republican majority in the Senate. Trump's approval ratings remain low and support for the impeachment has increased. McConnell himself, to be re-elected next year, has an approval rate of only 18 percent in Kentucky, not to mention that the Republican governor has suffered an astonishing surprise in last week's elections. All this suggests that McConnell might be willing to accept the possibility that he and his caucus could avoid a public ups and downs in defense of the president's behavior, which is increasingly unsustainable.
A secret ballot could bring Trump out of office sooner than anyone expected: the sooner three Republican senators make it clear that they are only supporting a secret ballot, the sooner Trump realizes that his best way is to make a deal and to replace his office for a card without deprivation – a clean sheet before the prosecutor – as well as Vice President Spiro Agnew. And if Trump were to resign before the end of the year, Republicans could even have enough time to lead a lively primary struggle, resulting in a Republican with principles as a nominee.