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congress

House Passes Election Bill in Response to Jan. 6 Insurrection

The House of Representatives voted to reform the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act Wednesday. The legislative overhaul is to prevent events like the Jan. 6 insurrection from happening again.

The bill is the first legislative step taken by congress to address the assault on the Capitol in January 2020, with the House voting 229 to 203 in its favor. However, it is unlikely that the bill will pass in the Senate. House members mostly voted along party lines, with only nine Republicans supporting the bill.

The original Electoral Count Act was implemented to set deadlines for states to certify presidential election results, standardize the procedure to send electors to the Capitol, name the vice president as the overseer of the vote count, and create a process for lawmakers to challenge election results.

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Former President Donald Trump tried to use the Electoral Count Act to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election.

The Senate drafted its own bipartisan bill in July, sponsored by 10 GOP senators—the number needed to overcome any potential Senate filibuster. However, it is unclear if all Democrats will vote in favor of the legislation.

Both bills are similar in changing the number of lawmakers needed to object to electoral results procedurally. In the House’s bill, one-third of each chamber needs to object. In the Senate’s bill, only one-fifth need to object. Both restrictions are significantly more stringent than the original act’s, which only required one objector in each chamber.

The House bill also states that the president of the Senate, traditionally held by the vice president of the United States, will be “ministerial.”

“Except with respect to the procedures described in this section, the presiding officer shall not have any power to determine or otherwise resolve disputes concerning the proper list of electors for a State, the validity of electors for a State, or the votes of electors of a State.”

The bill also states that the vice president “shall not order any delay in counting or preside over any period of delay in counting electoral votes.” The Senate bill similarly states that the vice president “shall have no power to solely determine, accept, reject or otherwise adjudicate or resolve disputes over the proper list of electors, the validity of electors, or the votes of electors.”

The Senate bill included provisions related to presidential transition, while the House bill did not. The House bill also addresses “when states could declare a ‘failed election’ and substitute electors approved by voters.”

Democrats believe several issues will be on the ballot for voters in November. Protecting the transition of presidential power and abortion rights may rally more voters to support their party. It is becoming easier for Democrats to associate the GOP with the violent events of Jan. 6 in public spaces, given their dissatisfaction with the bill and continued support for the last administration. The GOP is focusing more on inflation and economic policy as driving motivators to bring voters to the poll.

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By and large, Republicans still do not support election reform legislation because many party members still follow Trump’s election narrative. After the insurrection, Republicans backed his election lies and opposed the creation of the Jan. 6 select committee and bipartisan commission proposal.

Prominent Republicans, like Representative Liz Cheney, rejected their party’s support of Trump. Cheney eventually became vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee. Republicans were especially reluctant to support the bill because she co-sponsored it.

When asked about Republican lack of support for the bill, Representative Liz Cheney told reporters about the importance of this legislation.

“Protecting future elections is something that we ought to all be able to agree upon, regardless of party.”

 

hulu

Following Backlash, Hulu Will Begin To Accept Political Advertisements

After facing political backlash from Democratic leaders following their rejection of advertisements on hotly contested topics like abortion, gun control, and the Jan. 6 insurrection, Hulu is now going back on their decision and announced they will allow the ads, effective immediately.

“After a thorough review of ad policies across its linear networks and streaming platforms over the last few months, Disney is now aligning Hulu’s political advertising policies to be consistent with the Company’s general entertainment and sports cable networks and ESPN+,” Disney, the owner of Hulu, told Axios on Wednesday.

With the acceptance, Hulu is now more aligned with other Disney properties like ESPN and FX Networks. However, Disney also stated they still reserve the right to ask clients for edits or alternative creative “in alignment with industry standards.”

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The ads, which run on other popular media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, NBCUniversal, and Roku, were originally rejected by the service back on July 15, according to The Washington Post. The Democratic campaign groups attempting to place the ads on Hulu, as well as ABC and ESPN, were told the rejection was for “content-related” issues.

According to Hulu’s advertisement guidelines, advertisements that take “a position on a controversial issue of public importance (e.g. social issues)” are not allowed. The streamer’s guidelines also note that political ads are reviewed on a “case-by-case basis.”

Hulu had previously forced New York congressional candidate Suraj Patel to cut abortion and gun control topics from his advertisements earlier this month and replace them with “non-sensitive issues” like climate change and education.

“Our path to victory runs through making sure we can reach so many of these disaffected younger people,” Patel told Jezebel. “This ad is a very important part of that, and Hulu is an incredibly important part of reaching that audience.” Patel’s campaign team sent Hulu a letter demanding them to end their “unwritten policy” on “censoring” a campaign advertisement before it could be aired.

“We are at an absolutely critical time in our nation’s history. How are voters supposed to make informed choices if their candidates cannot talk about the most important issues of the day?”

Responses on social media aimed at Hulu’s latest rejection were particularly intense and widespread, with #BoycottHulu hitting the number one spot on Twitter Tuesday morning.

“Hulu’s censorship of the truth is outrageous and offensive. Voters have the right to know the facts about MAGA Republicans’ extreme agenda on abortion – Hulu is doing a huge disservice to the American people,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) tweeted.

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Unlike regular broadcast channels, which are bound by the FCC to run spots from candidates, streamers have more flexibility when it comes to both the issues at hand, as well as the candidates attempting to advertise.

Democrats Coping With Major Discrepancies Over Key Voting Bill 

Democrats are currently facing somewhat of a stress test over the filibuster which has been triggered by a high-priority bill that has been in the works to remake US election laws.  While Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have been some of the most vocal in their opposition of the rewriting of these voting laws, they’re definitely not alone. 

Several other Democrats have indicated in separate interviews that they would be reluctant to kill the filibuster or that they would prefer to make reforms to current laws instead of a total rewrite. 

Liberal Democrats have made it clear that they’re anti-filibuster, however, due to the 60-vote rule on the Senate floor, not much progress has been made. Senator Mark Kelly has claimed to be noncommittal on changing the rules and spoke with the press about these tensions.  

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“What I’m open to is considering and looking at any proposed changes in the rules. And I will ultimately make a decision based on: Do I feel — is this in the best interest of the state of Arizona and the country? And I’m not looking for something that is in the best interest of just Democrats.”

“I have talked about the importance of reforming it. I think it’s critically important that it not be abused and I think that we are having these discussions right now,” Senator Maggie Hassan said in support of reform. 

If the voting bill is passed it would undo restrictive voting laws that are in Republican-led states and instead establish universal requirements for all.

When Senator John Hickenlooper was asked if he’s supportive of preserving the filibuster he claimed: “I am still in that place. But I think, like a lot of people, I’m having frequent conversations. I get my advice from other governors, like former Governor Phil Bredesen, who was talking about how it hasn’t been a thing to help the minority get their voice heard, it’s become a tool just for obstruction.”

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“There are clearly a number of senators who are reluctant to change the rules but who have also made it clear in recent months that they are frustrated with the status quo and won’t accept inaction forever.”

“So we are very hopeful that once the caucus makes a decision and has Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema on board, that the rest of the caucus will be on board and make the changes necessary to make the Senate work,” said former Democratic leadership aide Eli Zupnick.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that “all Republicans will oppose the voting bill in its current form, even with changes Manchin has proposed seeking compromise. This would federalize elections and shift control of the process away from the states.

Democrats are continuing to fight to change these laws to allow for a more universal understanding of how elections should run. 

“What we are talking about isn’t just Senate procedure, it’s a complete takeover of our elections, which will ultimately destroy the American people’s confidence in fair elections,” said Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America.

Democrats Introduce Bill To Shift $1 Billion From Missile Funding To Vaccine Development

Democrats have introduced legislation that would transfer $1 billion in funding from a “controversial” new intercontinental ballistic missile to instead be used to develop a universal Covid-19 vaccine.

Impeachment

Lawyer Reviews Democrats’ Arguments in Impeachment Trial

Devin J. Stone is a practicing lawyer whose YouTube channel looks at various elements in popular culture from the perspective of the law. In his latest video, he examined the arguments that have been presented in the trial so far, which includes those expressed by impeachment managers from the House of Representatives, led by Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, that the president abused his office by soliciting campaign interference from Ukraine and obstructed Congress by trying to cover up their investigation into his alleged wrongdoing. In the video, Stone accuses the Republicans of arguing contradictory points; that it’s simultaneously too late and too early to call witnesses in the trial, and also that the Democrats should wait for the courts to decide whether White House officials are allowed to ignore congressional subpoenas and that the courts have no right to decide this type of question.

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Republicans voted along strict party lines to block 11 amendments proposed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that would have ensured witnesses be called during the trial and additional subpoenas issued, but also complained that Democrats presented nothing new at the trial, as if they weren’t directly responsible for that being the case. Stone also commented on the marathon nature of the proceedings, as arguments were heard for hours on end and went long into the night, which is likely to fatigue both the senators trying the case and the American people, likely an intentional move on the Republicans’ part, as they were the party who set the rules for the impeachment trial and also the party most interested in preventing the facts about the case from becoming known among the general public.

Stone also observed the various ways the impeachment of Trump differs from the impeachments of past presidents, most notably how the investigation of Trump was by necessity conducted by Democrats instead of by an independent counsel, and that the investigation was not exhaustively concluded before the articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate. As Attorney General William Barr was unwilling to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Trump, Democrats had to do it themselves, raising separation-of-powers questions and potentially causing legal problems for the Democrats later on.

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Additionally, Stone also discussed the theory floating around the Internet that Chief Justice John Roberts can intervene more heavily in the trial, forcing witnesses to be called and documents to be produced. As expected, however, Roberts intervened very little in the trial, with his only extemporaneous comment being an admonishment of the hostile tone of both the prosecution and the defense during the first day of the trial. Stone said that he expected Roberts to do more of the same, fading into the background as arguments were heard, as presiding justices in past impeachment trials have taken a similarly passive role and “both sides-ing” the issues.

Finally, Stone pointed out the ridiculousness of the fact that Trump, in Davos, commenting about how the fact that the administration withheld evidence from the trial gives him an advantage in the trial, seemingly bragging about his obstruction of congress, one of the offenses he was impeached for. Truly, we live in interesting times.

CNN News

Bernie Sanders Reaches Frontrunner Status in CNN Poll

According to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has dramatically improved his standing in the 2020 Democratic primary race, as for the first time in CNN’s history of polling this race he has eclipsed Joe Biden. According to the poll, 27% of registered Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents support Sanders, whereas 24% prefer Biden. Though Sanders’ support is impressive, particularly considering his radically progressive policy agenda, the difference between Sanders and Biden is within the margin of error, meaning that this poll shows no clear frontrunner at the moment. That being said, Sanders and Biden are clearly in the lead compared to the other candidates; Warren ranked in 3rd place at 14% whereas Buttigieg is at 11%, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg receiving 5% support. Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar each received 4% support among those included in the poll.

It’s important to note that while Sanders has made significant progress in the race so far, it’s still early in the primary season, as the first votes have not yet been cast. While Biden has consistently remained among the most popular choices for the Democratic candidate, last year he was briefly overtaken by Elizabeth Warren, though Warren has since fallen behind in the polls amid criticism of her Medicare-for-All plan and a personal dispute with Sanders over whether he told her a woman could not be elected president in a meeting between the two in 2018.

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As the primary process continues, the Democratic candidates have intensified their criticisms of one another; a recent Sanders ad questions Biden’s record on protecting Social Security, and Biden rebuked these claims with an attack ad of his own, accusing the Sanders campaign of lying about his record. These attacks have led Democrats to fear that the political damage that the candidates are inflicting on one another will hurt whoever ends up as the Democratic nominee, and these fears are magnified by the intense focus Democrats have on defeating Donald Trump in 2020. 

One of the key factors that influences voter turnout is enthusiasm, and fortunately for Sanders, 38% of Democratic voters say they would be enthusiastic about voting for Sanders in the general election if he wins the nomination, even though enthusiasm towards all of the other candidates has decreased in recent months. Sanders is also seen as the candidate who most often agrees with voters on the issues they consider to be the most important, and he also is considered to be the candidate who best understands the issues facing the American voter.

The current election cycle is a unique one in American history, as it represents an opportunity for Democrats to radically shift the direction of the country

However, at the forefront of most voters’ minds is the issue of electability, as Democrats across the board are most interested in nominating the candidate who stands the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in the general election. According to the poll, Joe Biden is still considered to be the most electable candidate by a significant margin; 45% of Democrats say that Biden has the best chance of defeating Trump, whereas just 24% say the same of Sanders. That being said, Sanders has made progress in this field as well, as increasing numbers of Democrats feel that he can defeat Trump, and indeed Sanders consistently ranks more favorably than Trump by several percentage points among voters generally, as do several of the other Democratic candidates. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Republican voters report being more enthusiastic about voting in the general election than Democratic voters do, a likely result of political fatigue after Democrats witness headline after headline of what they consider to be profoundly negative news generated by the White House and Congress.

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When it comes to the issue of which candidate has the best chance of uniting the Democratic party, though, Biden substantially outperforms Sanders; 41% of voters name Biden as having the best shot of uniting the party whereas just 16% say the same of Sanders. This is unsurprising considering Sanders’ record as an independent senator and a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” and considering his ambitious policy proposals, Sanders will have to get Democrats on his side one way or another in order to pass promised legislation such as Medicare-for-All, which is sure to be an uphill battle for him if he wins the presidency. 

That being said, the current election cycle is a unique one in American history, as it represents an opportunity for Democrats to radically shift the direction of the country, as the party is likely to embrace a radical set of policies in order to energize voters to defeat Trump in November. At this stage in the process, no one can say with certainty what will happen several months from now; however, recent polls give renewed enthusiasm to Sanders supporters, many of whom are still bitter about how the Democratic primary unfolded in 2016 amid accusations that the DNC was biased towards Hillary Clinton.

Impeachment Trial

Impeachment Trial Begins in Earnest as Senators Clash Over Rules

Although the president’s impeachment trial technically began last Thursday, when House impeachment managers delivered articles of impeachment to the Senate and senators swore an oath of impartiality, the actual substance of the trial did not begin until today at one o’clock, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer delivered opening statements and began debating the rules of the trial. McConnell’s resolution, released late last night, infuriated Democrats as they perceived the proposed rules to be tremendously unfair, as they only give the prosecution and the defense 24 hours to present their arguments over the course of 2 days, do not allow for the production of documents and witnesses, and call for the proceedings to run late into the night, at a time when Americans are likely not to watch the trial.

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Despite these restrictions, McConnell argued that the trial would be fair, raising objections from TV pundits as well as Democratic politicians. In response, Schumer decried the rules, pointing out McConnell’s hypocrisy as he previously said that he wanted the rules of the trial to resemble the ones that governed the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial. Additionally, reporters are complaining about the strict rules that limit journalistic access to the proceedings; while reporters are allowed to sit in the Senate gallery and observe the trial, they are not allowed to bring any electronic devices, including cameras, into the room. Instead, the camera that will film the trial is controlled by the government, and will only record the person who is speaking at the moment. What’s more, reporters are not allowed to ask questions of the senators as they walk through the halls of the Senate, which is a time-honored tradition on Capitol Hill. As such, cable networks are limited in their capacity to broadcast the event, and journalists have expressed fears that such rules prevent reporters from doing the job of recording momentous political occasions for the historical record.

Though McConnell characterized his proposed rules as “fair,” they break with Senate tradition and precedent as they seem to be engineered to prevent the discovery of new information and to limit the American people’s exposure to evidence in the case against Trump. Unfortunately for Democrats, McConnell’s resolution is likely to pass, as Republican senators are known for falling in line under McConnell’s direction. A simple majority of 51 votes is required to pass trial resolutions in the Senate, and as there are 53 Republican US Senators, it’s likely that the resolution will pass with few, if any, amendments. While Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial, if he chooses to keep with precedent, he will do virtually nothing. In the Clinton trial, Chief Justice Rehnquist made almost no contributions to the trial, later commenting that he did very little and did it very well. However, the situation in the Clinton trial was very different, as senators agreed in a 100-0 vote on the rules that would govern the trial.

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American public sentiment does not match the proposed rules in the trial. According to a poll conducted by the Washington Post, more than 70% of Americans want the impeachment trial to include witnesses, and a slim majority, 51%, believe the evidence that has been unearthed in advance of the trial is sufficient to warrant the president’s removal from office. Republican senators have already signalled that they will vote to acquit the president, and virtually nobody believes that Trump will be removed from office via the impeachment process; however, many are disappointed by the restrictive and precedent-shattering nature of the rules that will likely govern the trial.

Notably, some of the senators who will act as jurors in the trial are also running for president, meaning that they are unable to campaign during the duration of the trial. These senators include two of the Democratic frontrunners, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Senators Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennett. According to the rules of the trial, senators are not allowed to speak at all throughout the duration of the proceedings, which may prove difficult for some. Additionally, senators will not be allowed to leave the room to use the bathroom or eat, which may prove difficult for some as the proceedings are expected to start at one PM and continue well past one o’clock in the morning.

Update: After this article was written, Republican senators changed their proposed rules to allow arguments to be held over three days, not two, reducing the logistical challenge for participants in the trial.

Vote Pins

FiveThirtyEight Model Gives Biden 40% Chance of Winning Nomination

As the first votes in the 2020 Democratic nomination process have not yet been cast, it’s impossible to predict with certainty who will emerge as the democratic nominee to face Trump in the general election, particularly considering the historically large field of candidates running for president this year. That being said, pollsters have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the primary season to measure voters’ preferences towards each of the candidates, generating a tremendous amount of data for analysts at organizations like FiveThirtyEight to sift through. Accordingly, FiveThirtyEight just published the first iteration of its forecast simulating the outcome of the primary season, which claims that Biden has a 2 in 5 chance of winning the nomination and Sanders has a 1 in 5 chance of winning, whereas Warren has a 1 in 8 chance and Buttigieg has a 1 in 10 chance, with all other candidates having just a 1 in 40 chance of winning the nomination.

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The results of the study, which are based on computer simulations of the primary season that are run thousands of times based on data collected from polling organizations and models generated from an analysis of previous presidential nominations, were published in an interactive format that allows users to view the calculated probability of victory for each candidate in each state. Though FiveThirtyEight has analyzed political polls for more than ten years, this year marks the first time the ABC News-owned organization has published a “complete back-to-front model of the presidential primaries.” Despite the number of complexities involved, such as the difficult-to-predict impact of the winner of one state primary or caucus on future ones, the organization feels confident enough in the accuracy of its simulations to publish its findings even at this early stage in the process. One of the factors that led to the organization’s confidence this year is the amount of data collected on the primary processes of 2008 and 2016, which helps analysts understand the nuances of how presidential primaries tend to play out. The outcome of the Iowa caucuses, for instance, has historically had a tremendous impact on voters in the other 49 states.

The race is still very much up in the air

That being said, FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver stresses that their model is a “forecast, … not an estimation of what would happen in an election held today” and that the forecast is “probabilistic” with a high degree of uncertainty. As more political events shape voters’ opinions on the candidates, more polls are conducted, and the first states begin to hold primaries and caucuses, the organization will continue to refine their predictions and update their forecast. Silver also stresses that FiveThirtyEight’s predictions should be taken literally, meaning that although Biden is currently calculated to have the best chance of any of the candidates of winning the nomination, the probability of his victory is only 40%, making it actually more likely than not that one of the other candidates will win instead.

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Although Trump’s surprise victory in 2016 led many observers to feel as though poll data is not to be trusted, as organizations like the New York Times had predicted with 85% certainty on the eve of the election that Clinton would win, FiveThirtyEight has a better track record than most organizations when it comes to the accuracy of its predictions. In 2016, FiveThirtyEight was far more pessimistic than most news outlets about the likelihood of a Clinton victory, giving the former First Lady a two-in-three chance of winning. As Nate Silver once commented, “one-in-three chances happen all the time;” when viewed from this perspective, it’s no surprise that Trump won in 2016, provided one has a realistic understanding of how to interpret the results of statistical models of probability. Accordingly, while Joe Biden has consistently led opinion polls since announcing his candidacy last year and has by far the highest probability of any candidate of winning the race for Democratic nominee, the race is still very much up in the air, as three other candidates stand a decent chance of victory as well.

The White House

Majority of Americans Believe Evidence Supports Removing Trump from Office, Poll Finds

A poll conducted by Ipsos and FiveThirtyEight, an organization that aggregates and analyzes opinion poll data, has found that 52% of Americans believe enough evidence exists with respect to Trump’s conduct with Ukraine and his refusal to cooperate with Congress to warrant his removal from office. An aggregate of polls conducted to determine whether Americans support impeaching Trump has found that roughly half of Americans have supported the impeachment inquiry since Pelosi announced it, whereas the other half oppose impeachment. Though the impeachment inquiry lasted several weeks and produced devastating evidence directly implicating the president in withholding aid money to Ukraine in exchange for campaign assistance, these revelations have not changed Americans’ minds about impeachment, as poll results have remained remarkably consistent throughout the process. However, this most recent poll suggests that some Americans are slowly beginning to realize the extent of the president’s misconduct, though Trump’s remarkably steady approval rating indicates that it is unlikely that an overwhelming majority of Americans will ever support removing the president while he remains in office.

Although a majority of Americans (57%) believe Trump engaged in impeachable conduct, just 47% of Americans favor removing him from office, apparently believing that the question of whether Trump should remain the president should be determined by American voters this November. This means that roughly 15 percent of Americans believe that Trump committed impeachable conduct that warrants his removal from office but do not support removing the president before the election. Predictably, public opinion is split along party lines; 82% of Democrats support removing Trump from office, whereas only 9.7% of Republicans hold the same opinion.

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One thing that both Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on, however, is that the upcoming Senate trial should feature witnesses who were not present during the phase of the process controlled by the House in order to expand on the evidence unearthed over the past few months. 57% of Americans want to see a Senate trial with new witnesses, whereas 39% believe the focus should be kept on the evidence presented by the House. That being said, Democrats and Republicans largely disagree on who should be called as witnesses—Democrats think that officials like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, who have direct knowledge of the conduct for which the president was impeached, should participate in the trial, whereas Republicans want senators to question people like Hunter Biden, who is the subject of Trump’s allegation of his opponent’s political corruption. 

When it comes to how lawmakers are handling the impeachment process, which is currently in a stalemate as Nancy Pelosi continues to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate as leverage to negotiate the terms of the trial, Americans are almost evenly split on their approval of this tactic as well. Pelosi’s tactic may end up backfiring on Democrats, depending on how long she continues to withhold the articles, as withholding them for too long could give credibility to allegations that the impeachment process was motivated by political concerns instead of by constitutional obligation as the Democrats claim. 

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The poll also found that Americans are becoming increasingly unlikely to change their mind on the question of impeachment as time goes on. In mid-November, roughly 75% of respondents who believed Trump’s conduct was impeachable felt “absolutely” or “pretty” sure that they were right, whereas now 81 percent of respondents profess this degree of certainty. However, when it comes to Americans who think Trump’s conduct was not impeachable, this degree of certainty has not seen a similar increase, as 71% of this group reported being “absolutely” or “pretty” certain of their view in mid-November and 72% of this group reported being this certain in this latest poll.

Though the holiday season is officially over, the parameters of the Senate trial remain unclear, as lawmakers have made little progress in their negotiations over the rules of the trial. As such, at this unprecedented moment in history, it’s difficult to predict what, if any, effect the trial will have on public opinion, though trends over the past several years suggest any change will be minimal. 

Capitol Building

US Senators Clash Over Impeachment Trial Procedures

Right after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi surprised pundits everywhere by making a strategic move no one saw coming: instead of immediately deciding upon impeachment managers to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, she decided to withhold the transmission of articles as leverage to coerce Senate Republicans to vote for what she considers to be a fair trial, which includes the calling of witnesses and the production of documents. Currently, Congress is in recess for the holidays, but negotiations surrounding the trial proceed nevertheless, even as lawmakers visit their families and constituents at their homes. 

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called upon four Republicans to vote in favor of allowing documents and witnesses during the trial, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell starkly opposes. As the procedures for the trial will be determined by 51 votes, and Schumer already has all 47 Democratic Senators onboard, only four Republicans would have to defy McConnell to ensure a trial with witnesses and documents. Given the fact that the president himself has said that he’d like to see witnesses during the trial, and almost 2 in 3 Republicans also want top Trump aides to testify at the Senate trial, Schumer and the Democrats hope that pressure from constituents will be enough to convince the necessary four Republican senators to side with Democrats on this matter.

Given the dramatic and historic nature of this impeachment, people around the world are paying very close attention to the U.S. Congress during these critical next few weeks, as the rules of the trial will have to be determined soon for it to begin early next year as intended. Accordingly, U.S. senators, who ultimately will shortly decide whether the president is fit to remain in office for the rest of his first term, are using the media to amplify their message either for or against a fair trial as they try to build their cases. Today, The New York Times published an opinion piece written by Patrick Leahy, a Democratic senator from Vermont, who wrote of the historic implications of the Senate’s upcoming decision, as this impeachment trial, no matter how it ends up proceeding, will set precedent for future impeachments and forever define Congress’s role in checking the misconduct of a duly elected president.

The actions the Senate takes over the next several weeks will at least in part outline the shape of future impeachments and more clearly define the nature of Congress’s power to check the executive branch.

In the piece, Leahy argues that the outcome of the upcoming trial will determine the validity of the Senate itself, and more broadly the importance of truth in our government. Leahy, who has served as a juror on six impeachment trials of five judges and one president, notes that senators must swear an oath to carry out “impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws,” and fears that the Senate will shortly abandon the idea of taking this oath seriously. This is because several Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, have already said they’ve made up their minds and that they don’t expect to act as fair jurors during the trial.

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Impeachment trials are wholly separate from other types of trials, as they are conducted in the Senate, which briefly operates as a court of law during the proceedings. The Senate has the sole responsibility of setting the rules of its trial, and as the Senate is characterized by the presence of partisan politicians who are unflinchingly loyal to the president, Democrats fear that the trial will end up being fundamentally corrupt. Already, McConnell, who will act as one of 100 jurors, has pledged that “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this,” creating a rare case of a trial in which the jurors collaborate with the defendant to ensure the outcome favored by the defendant. Presidential impeachments are rare in American history, and as such there exists little precedent for how they should be carried out; as such, the actions the Senate takes over the next several weeks will at least in part outline the shape of future impeachments and more clearly define the nature of Congress’s power to check the executive branch.