2019年12月18日 星期三

On Politics: Trump Is Impeached. What’s Next?

Many questions remain about a potential Senate trial. Also, we preview Thursday’s Democratic debate.
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By Lisa Lerer

Politics Newsletter Writer

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

Above, a preview of tomorrow’s front page of the newspaper.

The House of Representatives voted tonight to impeach President Trump, a truly historic moment in what has been an unconventional and polarizing presidency. During an epic debate today, Democrats and Republicans clashed on the House floor, delivering hours of speeches before casting largely party-line votes on two articles of impeachment.

To get some perspective on this remarkable day, we turned to Nicholas Fandos, our indefatigable congressional reporter, to explain the significance of what we just watched and give us a preview of what’s coming next.

Hi, Nick. So, talk to us about what you just witnessed. How big a moment is this?

This is a moment that can only be described in historical terms. President Trump is now only the third American president ever to be impeached by the House of Representatives. In terms of the three-year struggle between this unconventional president and the Democrats, who view him as nothing short of a threat to democracy, this will certainly go down as one of the most consequential inflection points.

Yes, this is a moment historians will be writing about for a long time. But the process is far from over. Where do we go from here?


Somewhat anticlimactically, the House and Senate will now go home for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. But we expect, early in the new year, the Senate to reconvene and start sitting basically as a jury in a trial of the president. We don’t know how long that trial will last. We don’t know how expansive it will be. The outcome seems most likely to be the president’s acquittal and continuation in office — not a conviction and removal from office. But that is the next unpredictable phase in this whole saga.

Democrats had a lot of control in the House, but they’re the minority in the Senate. Do they have any control in the next phase?

Democrats will appoint a group of a half-dozen lawmakers to serve as “impeachment managers,” or prosecutors in the Senate trial. And they can recommend that the Senate call witnesses. They’ll be able to orally present their case to the Senate and potentially question any witnesses who do come up. But, by and large, they will now be at the mercy of the (Republican) senators who control the process.

How closely is Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, coordinating with the president and his office?


McConnell said last week that he would closely coordinate the parameters of the trial. Now, whether he decides to take it upon himself to be an advocate for the president’s position in the trial, that remains to be seen. But as of right now, it’s not entirely clear where he will fall, except he’s made clear he thinks the Democratic case is a weak one and that it will lead to acquittal.

Which senators, beyond the leadership, should we keep a close eye on?

There are a couple of groups who are most worth watching. There are the centrist Republicans who tend to stick up for the institution. And there are the retiring Republicans who care a lot about their legacy. Both of those groups have reasons to want to show the American public that whatever outcome they reach, they had a fair trial. So watch those two groups, plus an overlapping third one: Republicans who are up for re-election in swing states next year.

If you take those three groups and you assume that Democrats more or less hold together, at least in terms of how the Senate ought to operate a trial and carry it out, there’s a potential for a kind of coalition that could overpower the majority leader and go a long way in setting the terms of what this process looks like and whether they call witnesses, whether they get additional evidence, how long it lasts, all of that.


In the Democratic primary, a trial presents a big logistical problem because it’s coming right up against the Iowa caucuses. How much are Republicans gaming out the politics of that?

I don’t think it’s that much on their radar because it’s just hard to game out, frankly. The issue is that when the Senate is sitting in trial, it does so six days a week, meaning a number of the Democratic presidential candidates aren’t going to be on the ground in Iowa stumping. They’re going to be sitting at their desks in the Senate chamber.

I don’t know that Republicans feel at this point that they know which candidate would be the easiest for them to beat or what different trial outcomes might do to that process. It’s probably inconvenient for the senators who are running for the nomination but beyond that, there’s not a whole lot of gamesmanship that seems to be happening at this point.

And the senators can’t even bring their cellphones into the chamber, right? Or speak? Seems like it’s going to be quite a challenging few weeks for them.

This is really unlike anything else that senators ever do. And, frankly, that we see in political life anymore. They’re being asked to take an oath to set aside party politics. I’m not sure anyone will completely do that. But that alone sets the stage for something that is at least on its face different than what we’re used to these days.

Drop us a line!

We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

Oh, and there’s a debate tomorrow

Tim Lahan

As the House voted, Democratic presidential candidates were making their way to Los Angeles for the sixth primary debate tomorrow night. This is a week that requires some serious political multitasking!

Here’s some of what we’ll be watching for on the debate stage. (And please join us tomorrow night on nytimes.com or in your NYTimes app for our live debate chat — I’ll be hosting.)

A smaller stage

Only seven candidates met the higher polling and fund-raising thresholds necessary to secure a spot in the debate, leaving us with a smaller lineup than in any of the previous face-offs.

The less crowded stage may offer an opportunity for lower-polling candidates — like Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer — to break out of the pack. Ms. Klobuchar is the one to watch most closely here: She’s been gaining steam in Iowa over the past month. Is this her last chance to make Klobmentum happen?

Mayor Pete under fire

Pete Buttigieg has become a leader in some polling of Iowa and New Hampshire. But with a great surge comes great scrutiny.

How will Mr. Buttigieg handle incoming fire on the debate stage? Already, after pressure from Elizabeth Warren, he’s released information about the identities of his fund-raising bundlers and his work for McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm that was his first post-college employer. In recent days, Ms. Warren and Bernie Sanders have attacked his health care plan, which they argue would not make coverage more affordable or widely available. Expect to see some of those arguments litigated tomorrow night.

Warren’s slump, Sanders’s surge

Over the past month or so, the two leading liberal candidates have swapped places in the race. After a summer rise in the polls that made her one of the national front-runners, Ms. Warren has seen her numbers slip. Mr. Sanders held onto his supporters even after his October heart attack, and has now claimed second place in our national polling average, behind Joe Biden.

The two have abided by a tacit nonaggression pact since the start of the race, often joining up on the debate stage to press the populist case. That loose alliance is unlikely to change.

But the stakes will be high for both of them, particularly as the liberal wing of the party increasingly recognizes that the two candidates’ biggest obstacle to winning the Democratic nomination is likely each other.

When you put it that way …

For the past two years, The New York Times has teamed up with SurveyMonkey to conduct a monthly survey on economic and policy issues. We checked in with our colleague Ben Casselman to get a sneak preview of the latest results.

One of the most consistent themes from the primary campaign has been that Democratic voters like progressive policies. Polls, including ones from The Times, have found that large majorities of Democrats — large as in 80 percent or more — favor ideas like “Medicare for all” and free college.

But it might not be quite that simple.

Our latest SurveyMonkey poll (full results out Thursday) finds that only one in four Democratic voters favor a full-fledged Medicare for all plan like the ones proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Only one in three favor making public colleges free for all Americans regardless of income.

Why such different results? Past surveys have mostly asked straight up-or-down questions: “Do you approve or disapprove” of various policy proposals? The new survey offered a wider range of options.

On health care, for example, respondents were asked to choose among several proposals, including a plan “in which all Americans get their insurance from a single government plan” (more or less what Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren are proposing); one in which the United States would “offer government-run insurance to anyone who wants it” but people could “keep their private insurance if they prefer it” (a plan more akin to Pete Buttigieg’s proposal); or more modest reforms. Only 25 percent of Democrats — and only 30 percent of self-described liberal Democrats — supported the Sanders/Warren approach.

After the survey, I followed up with several respondents to ask more about their thinking. Some said they were reluctant to give up their private insurance, or worried that progressive proposals were infeasible or too expensive. Others, not surprisingly, were more concerned about how the plans would play in a general election.

“I have a preferred idealistic position, which is Medicare for all,” Carla Silvey, a 50-year-old Elizabeth Warren supporter, told me. But, she said, “I don’t know whether to go bold or to try to be in the middle.”

… Seriously

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