NEWS AND OPINION:
Voters are now witnessing the Democratic Party racing to impeach President Trump for the second time, less than 10 days before his term is over, and he departs from the White House.
The optics of such a maneuver may not play well with the weary public, half of which now says Mr. Trump’s recent speech — perceived to be a concession speech and shared on Twitter — was “unifying” rather than divisive. See the poll that follows for the numbers.
Meanwhile, the impeachment process “will not go to trial,” according to Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz.
“All the Democrats can do is impeach the president in the House of Representatives. For that, all you need is a majority vote. You don’t have to take evidence. There are no lawyers involved. But the case cannot come to trial in the Senate, because the Senate has rules. And the rules would not allow the case to come to trial until 1 p.m. on Jan. 20, an hour after President Trump leaves office. And the Constitution specifically says, the president shall be removed from office upon impeachment, et cetera,” Mr. Dershowitz said.
“It doesn’t say the former president. Congress has no power to impeach or try a private citizen, whether it be a private citizen named Donald Trump or named Barack Obama or anyone else. The jurisdiction is limited to a sitting president. And so there won’t be a trial,” he advised.
‘MORE UNIFYING’: THE REVIEWS ARE IN
In the wake of the U.S. Capitol riot, President Trump offered a speech, shared online, that the majority of U.S. voters — 54% — think was a “concession speech,” according to a new YouGov poll of 1,000 registered U.S. voters conducted Jan. 8. That includes 68% of Republicans, 50% of independents and 44% of Democrats.
“Voters believe his words were more unifying (49%) than divisive (31%). Republicans were overwhelmingly more likely to consider his speech unifying (85%) while Democrats were less certain: about one-quarter (22%) say it was unifying, while about half (52%) say it was not,” the pollster said.
Did Mr. Trump mean what he said? Overall, 42% of voters said he was “sincere”; that included 82% of Republicans, 37% of independents and 11% of Democrats.
TAKE A LOOK AT SECTION 230
Conservatives are closely monitoring bans and freezes now underway at the nation’s largest social-media platforms.
“Americans have legitimate concerns about the role of Big Tech in shaping and influencing political speech. Time and again, social media companies have squandered the public’s trust and don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. Letting dictatorial regimes from China and Iran use their platform while banning the democratically elected leader of the United States shows the hypocrisy and political motivations of these companies,” says Kay C. James, president of The Heritage Foundation.
“Shutting off legitimate debate and intellectual diversity comes at a very high cost. Big Tech is not going to stop with the president of the United States. They can ban you next and everyone reading this,” she warns conservatives, as well as the general public.
“This is why it is time for Congress to reform Section 230 and Americans to exercise their power by continuing to put pressure on Big Tech,” Ms. James advises, referring to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
The Heritage Foundation is now calling on Congress to refine Section 230 “to ensure that markets and civil discourse remain free and fair,” reports Klon Kitchen, director of the organization’s Center for Technology Policy.
Major social media providers “have squandered the public trust with inconsistent and often political moderation and censorship of user content,” he writes.
“Section 230 must be carefully refined to better fit the statute’s original intent and to restrain potential abuses of its protections,” Mr. Kitchen says.
RECALLING LOTT AND DASCHLE
Has the possibility of compromise between dueling lawmakers on Capitol Hill been compromised?
The Democrats’ dual victories in Georgia’s Jan. 5 runoff elections created a rare 50-50 split in the Senate and will give majority power to the Democrats once Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris becomes the deciding vote when she is sworn into office Jan. 20.
Does a tied Senate mean gridlock? Maybe, maybe not. There’s always the “power-sharing agreement” says Steven Smith, a professor of social science at Washington University in St. Louis.
“While there are no formal rules about how the Senate should function in the event of an even split, there is a template,” he advises, noting a 2001 deal between then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
It included such measures as a “12-hour restriction on the offering of cloture motions on amendable matters” and “eligibility of senators from both parties to preside over the Senate.” General provisions seeking to “reiterate the equal interest of both parties in the scheduling of Senate chamber business” were also included.
Could such productive harmony happen again in 2021?
“The Lott-Daschle agreement may be difficult to replicate,” Mr. Smith says, suggesting that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell faces pushback from “uncompromising members” of his party conference.
“The events of Jan. 6 may encourage efforts on both sides to reduce partisanship, which would improve the odds of a power-sharing agreement,” the professor says.
“At the moment, I give them only a 60-40 chance of agreeing on a bipartisan power-sharing plan,” he adds.
POLL DU JOUR
• 41% of U.S. adults are following news about the COVID-19 pandemic “very closely”; 33% of Republicans, 34% of independents and 55% of Democrats agree.
• 40% overall are following the news “somewhat closely”; 46% of Republicans, 41% of independents and 34% of Democrats agree.
• 12% overall are following the news “not very closely”; 14% of Republicans, 15% of independents and 7% of Democrats agree.
• 7% are not following the COVID-19 news at all; 7% of Republicans, 10% of independents and 3% of Democrats agree.
Source: An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 3-5.
• Helpful information to jharper@HarperBulletin.