Friday 15 December 2017

Donald Trump's 'looming' impeachment stops me voting for his Supreme Court pick, senator says

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Andrew Buncombe

A Democratic senator has said he will not vote for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee because of a constitutional crisis that may be “looming” and which could result in the president’s impeachment.

Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would vote against Neil Gorsuch, not only at Monday’s committee meeting - where an 11-9 vote along party lines sent Mr Gorsuch's nomination to the full Senate - but on Friday when that full Senate vote to confirm Mr Trump's nominee for the country’s top court will take place.

Democrats have revealed they have 41 senators who will vote against the 49-year-old judge on Friday, enough to filibuster the nomination.

Republicans have said they will trigger the so-called “nuclear option”, a procedural issue not used in recent history, to allow them to confirm Mr Gorsuch with a simple majority, rather than the 60-40 margin traditionally required for such an appointment.

Majority leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said on Tuesday that he would look to file a motion for a vote to end the right to filibuster the Democrats will use.

"Democrats are now being pushed by far-left interest groups into doing something truly detrimental to this body and to our country," Mr McConnell said on the Senate floor. "They seem to be hurtling toward the abyss this time, and trying to take the Senate with them. They need to reconsider."

Mr Blumenthal justified his decision by explaining that Democrats were still angry over the way Republicans had refused to even schedule a hearing for Merrick Garland, a middle of the road judge nominated by Barack Obama for the court.

Yet, he said the ongoing probe by the FBI and two congressional committees into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and possible links between Moscow and Mr Trump’s campaign, was another factor.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2017 North America’s Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference in Washington, U.S. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2017 North America’s Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference in Washington, U.S. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“I am still angry about the treatment of Merrick Garland. My Republican colleagues have said if the shoe were on the other foot, we would have done the same. It would have been as wrong if we had done so, as it was when they did,” he said as the televised hearing.

That view was backed by the Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, who said: “What the majority leader did to Merrick Garland by denying him even a hearing and a vote is even worse than a filibuster... For him to accuse Democrats of the first partisan filibuster on the Supreme Court belies the facts, belies the history, belies the basic truth.”

Mr Blumenthal, from Connecticut, also said FBI Director James Comey had testified that the agency was investigating possible ties between Mr Trump’s associates and Russia.

Mr Blumenthal referred in passing to what happened in 1974 when the House Judiciary Committee recommended Articles of Impeachment in regard to President Richard Nixon. Nixon resigned before the House could vote on the articles.

“The independence of our judicial branch has never been more threatened or more important,” he said. “The possibility of a Supreme Court needing to enforce a subpoena against the president of the United States is far from idle speculation. It has happened before in United States vs Nixon."

At this point, the likelihood of Mr Trump being impeached appears distant. All the statements that have to date been made in public by US intelligence officials, have said no evidence has been uncovered to show collusion between Mr Trump and Russia, something the New York tycoon has strongly denied.

Republicans would also need some motivation to go along with such a censure. At the moment, the party controls not only the White House, but the House and the Senate.

The party’s elected members and officials would need to be in a position where they felt that continuing to support Mr Trump would hurt their own electoral chances, either at the midterms of 2018, or in 2020.

Mr Blumenthal’s comments came as the Massachusetts city of Cambridge passed a resolution calling for an impeachment investigation into Mr Trump.

The Associated Press said Cambridge City Council passed the resolution on Monday evening by a 7-1 vote. One council member abstained from voting.

The resolution calls on the House to review whether Mr Trump's many business interests violate the foreign emoluments clause or the domestic emoluments clause of the US Constitution.

Independent News Service

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