- The leaked story on the White House defense strategy;
- Moderate Republicans demanding answers;
- Ever-cautious big name Democrats like Kerry mulling about a "solid case for impeachment" (even though he tried to claim it was in jest afterward);
- The RNC response to Kerry, showing that the issue has traction and cannot be ignored;
- The slew of Op-Ed pieces by wingnuts dismissing the charges with tortured logic;
- The conclusion of any sane, unbiased observer with a minumum of legal knowledge that George W. Bush knowingly and unequivocally violated the FISA law.
A supermajority of Senators, 67 votes assuming all are present, must vote guilty for the President to be removed from office. Interestingly, this applies to the Veep too. President BigMac / Tantrum Ted is not outside the realm of possibility.
The Constitution empowers the House of Representatives to impeach federal officials for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" and empowers the Senate to try such impeachments. If the sitting President of the United States is being tried, the Chief Justice of the United States must preside over the trial. During any impeachment trial, senators are constitutionally required to sit on oath or affirmation. Conviction requires a two-thirds majority of the senators present. A convicted official is automatically removed from office; in addition, the Senate may stipulate that the defendant be banned from holding office in the future. No further punishment is permitted during the impeachment proceedings; however, the party may face criminal penalties in a normal court of law.
In the history of the United States, the House of Representatives has impeached sixteen officials, of whom seven were convicted. (One resigned before the Senate could complete the trial.) Only two Presidents of the United States have ever been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. Both trials ended in acquittal; in Johnson's case, the Senate fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction.
Under the Twelfth Amendment, the Senate has the power to elect the Vice President if no vice presidential candidate receives a majority of votes in the electoral college. The Twelfth Amendment requires the Senate to choose from the two candidates with the highest numbers of electoral votes. Electoral college deadlocks are very rare; in the history of the United States, the Senate has only had to break a deadlock once, in 1837, when it elected Richard Mentor Johnson. The power to elect the President in the case of an electoral college deadlock belongs to the House of Representatives.
There are currently 44 Democrats and 1 independant in the US Senate. All of these would presumably have to vote guilty for there to be any chance of success. As conservative as Joementum and Ben Nelson might be, they are not on the right third of the Senate spectrum.
Base votes: 45
Twenty-two Republican Senators must therefore vote guilty. In order of likelyhood:
- Lincoln Chafee
- Olympia Snowe
- Susan Collins
- John McCain
- Chuck Hagel
- Lindsey Graham
- Mike DeWine
- Larry Craig. Hails from the second-reddest state in the nation, but Idaho has libertarian leanings and he joined the filibuster against renewing the PATRIOT act.
- Arlen Specter
- Geore Voinovich. Showed some spine on Bolton and tax cuts, at least.
- John Warner. Old-school conservative who may not want to side with the neocons.
- John Sununu. The only Arab-American in the Senate may have qualms about his ethnic group being targeted.
- Judd Gregg. Another low-profile New England Repub that may be influenced by his constituents in a state that is now trending blue.
- Richard Lugar. Has managed to criticize Bushco once or twice.
- Chuck Grassley
- Norm Coleman
- Conrad Burns. The Need To Be Reelected may supercede party loyalty if there is strong support for conviction.
- Trent Lott. OK, this is getting pretty far out, but Trent may want a little revenge after the Frist putch.
- Rick Santorum. Also wants to be reelected and has shown the ability to switch sides on a dime if convenient.
- Lisa Murkowski
- Orrin Hatch. The biggest stretch of all. But Hatch is more of a Paleoconservative and his tenure as judiciary chairman may have given him a little respect for the rule of law.
22. Jon Kyl. I couldn't find anyone more likely to turn. Sigh.
These numbers are also unlikely to change during the next congressional session. The four most vulnerable Rs (Santorum, Chafee, DeWine and Burns) are already on the list.
What I conclude is that conviction is pretty unlikely unless a rock-solid case that superseeds ideology can be made. It's an uphill climb.