To quash or not to quash

Many years ago, I was defending a case in which, had it gone to trial, a major figure (who was not the defendant) would publicly have been accused of serious, indeed criminal, wrongdoing. Fortunately, on the brink of trial, I was able to uncover evidence that led to the case being dismissed on a technicality.

I called the public figure to give him the good news. Trying to be polite, I said that the only drawback was we wouldn’t be able to clear him of alleged wrongdoing.

His response was: “Son, you take them any way you can get them.”

I thought of this anecdote when I read that Senate Republicans are considering the possibility of dismissing impeachment proceedings against President Trump — or voting not to remove him — as soon as the matter reaches the Senate, on the grounds that the House’s impeachment of Trump was procedurally defective. In other words, the Senate would quash the matter because it’s a sham.

Is this a good idea? Unlike in my case described above, the outcome of a trial of Trump is not (as things stand) in doubt. The Senate will not remove him.

Thus, this isn’t really a case of “taking them anyway you can get them.” Rather, it’s a question of what’s the best way to “take” this one.

The advantages of immediate dismissal are clear. The Senate expresses its disgust with the House in the most forceful terns. The impeachment circus is terminated promptly. The House doesn’t get to make its case, thus sparing the president from a recitation, with the nation watching, of facts that for many will cast him in a bad light.

Republicans like Susan Collins won’t have to make a tough vote on the merits (opposing dismissal is an easier vote for her than voting either to remove or not to remove). Trump will be spared the prospect of having a few Republicans vote to remove him from office.

There are also disadvantages to quashing. Evidence favorable to Trump that didn’t see the light of day in the House won’t see it in the Senate either. Trump will be denied the bragging rights that would come from an “acquittal” on the merits. Depending on how the public feels about impeachment after the House gets through impeaching him, Senate Republicans might suffer for being viewed as ducking the merits and kowtowing to Trump.

It’s impossible to know now whether the disadvantages would outweigh the advantages. We don’t know the extent to which, at the end of the day, the House will be viewed as having held a kangaroo court. We don’t know how substantial, at the end of the day, the Democrats’ case against the president will seem to the public.

We also don’t know whether, when the time comes, Republicans will have enough votes to dismiss the impeachment case summarily. That probably depends on the “unknowns” I’ve just described.

My guess is that Republicans won’t quash impeachment immediately. But we’ll see.

Responses