Democrat floats Trump censure as conviction grows unlikely

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In this image from video, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaks as the Senate reconvenes after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Senate Television via AP)

WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said Wednesday that he’s discussing with colleagues whether a censure resolution to condemn former President Donald Trump for his role in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol could be an alternative to impeachment, even as the Senate proceeds with a trial.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said the impeachment trial will move forward. But Kaine’s proposal is an acknowledgement that the Senate is unlikely to convict Trump of inciting the riot, a troubling prospect for many lawmakers who believe Trump must be held accountable in some way for the Capitol attack. If he were convicted, the Senate could then hold a second vote to ban him from office.

A censure would not hold the power of a conviction, but it would put the Senate on record as disapproving of Trump's role in the insurrection, which came as Congress was counting electoral votes to confirm Democrat Joe Biden's victory. Just before Trump's supporters broke through windows and busted through the Capitol's doors, he gave a fiery speech outside the White House urging them to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat.

Talk of finding a punishment that more senators could rally around flared a day after just five Republicans joined Democrats in a Senate test vote over the legitimacy of Trump’s trial. It was unclear, though, whether other Democrats, or any Republicans, would sign on to Kaine’s proposal. House Democrats are busy preparing their formal case against the former president for inciting an insurrection, with arguments starting the week of Feb. 8.

“Make no mistake — there will be a trial, and the evidence against the former president will be presented, in living color, for the nation and every one of us to see,” Schumer said Wednesday.

An angry mob of Trump supporters wanting to stop Congress' confirmation of Biden's victory invaded the Capitol, ransacking hallways and offices and attempting to break into the House chamber with lawmakers hiding inside. They rifled through desks on the empty Senate floor and hunted for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the Capitol overseeing the certification of Biden’s election victory.

A week later, on Jan. 13, the Democratic-led House impeached Trump with the backing of 10 Republicans. The case was sent to the Senate on Monday.

Kaine, a Virginia senator, told reporters Wednesday that he has been talking to a “handful” of his colleagues for the last two weeks about the likelihood that Democrats would fall short of convicting Trump. A conviction would need the support of two-thirds of the senators, or 67 votes. Getting there would require all Democrats and 17 Republicans.