Democrats made a bold move with regard to their decision to proceed with an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate against Donald Trump even after he had departed the White House.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) warned on Friday that the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump could set a precedent for other former officials, like Hillary Clinton, to be impeached and tried.
On Saturday, Trump escaped a Senate conviction in a 57-43 vote, with a majority of Republicans citing Constitutional issues that would prevent a private citizen from being convicted by Senate jurors.
The precedent is set
Rubio raised the issue during the questioning phase of Trump’s trial, suggesting that since now we know a former president can be tried in the Senate, there’s no reason why Republicans — who might face increased pressure from their constituents — won’t attempt to impeach former high-ranking officials like Clinton, who served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of state.
“Voting to convict the former president would create a new precedent that a former official can be convicted and disqualified by the Senate. Therefore, is it not true that under this new precedent a future House facing partisan pressure to ‘lock her up’ could impeach a former Secretary of State and a future Senate be forced to put her on trial and potentially disqualify from any future office?” Rubio asked, according to Mediaite.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the lead House impeachment manager, tackled the question and claimed that the Senate had already settled any jurisdictional issues that were raised, arguing that Trump committed their perceived crime of “incitement of an insurrection” while he was still in the White House.
“First of all, I don’t know how many times I can say it,” Raskin said. “The Senate settled it.”
It’s not so open-and-shut
Rubio isn’t the first Republican — or lawyer — to suggest that Republicans could exact revenge on former Democrat officials now that Trump has been impeached and tried while he’s technically a private citizen.
As a matter of fact, Michael van der Veen, an attorney on Trump’s impeachment defense legal team, agreed with Rubio’s assessment of the situation. He explained that a similar situation could happen “to a lot of people and that’s not the way this is supposed to work and not only could it happen to a lot of people, it would become much more regular, too.”
The impeachment precedent concern appears to be an extremely partisan debate, as one would be hard-pressed to find a Republican who doesn’t agree and a Democrat who does.
As CNBC reported, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) recently warned of the same potential scenario in the future. Should Republicans win back majority control of the House, there’s not much stopping them now from — at the very least — passing articles of impeachment against virtually any current or former Democrat they choose to hamstring.
Of course, should a situation ever evolve where the tables are turned by Republicans and they decide to go after a former official, Democrats will likely flip their argument to protect whichever Democrat might be caught in the crosshairs of a retaliatory impeachment. You can take that to the bank.