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Senate Democrat Pushes for Formal Rebuke of Trump: ‘What the President Did Was Wrong’

A Democratic U.S. Senator from West Virginia on Monday, knowing that Senate Republicans will acquit President Donald Trump in two days, hoped for a bipartisan rebuke of the president for his “wrong” conduct. Sen. Joe Manchin proposed censuring the president.

As you may know, House Managers and Trump lawyers made closing arguments on Monday. It was a mercifully short and to-the-point affair relative to the rest of the proceedings before and during Senate trial. Manchin–obviously aware of what some Senate Republicans have said publicly of late about the president’s actions regarding Ukraine, the Bidens and the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory–suggested that there be a vote to formally condemn the president.

The thinking goes that, in lieu of conviction on articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, a Senate majority should at least go on record acknowledging that Trump neither made a “perfect call” nor responded appropriately to the House impeachment inquiry.

“What the president did was wrong,” Manchin said Monday.

According to the Washington Post, a would-be censure resolution Manchin has prepared says that the president “used the office of the president of the United States to attempt to compel a foreign nation to interfere with domestic political affairs for his own personal benefit.”

The resolution also lays blame at the feet of the president for directing Rudy Giuliani to globe trot for dirt on the Bidens.

“[Trump] wrongfully enlisted his personal lawyer to investigate a domestic political rival by meddling in formal diplomatic relations in a manner that is inconsistent with our established National Security Strategy,” the excerpt of the resolution continued. “Trump hindered the thorough investigation of related documents and prohibited Congress and the American people from hearing testimony by first-hand witnesses with direct knowledge of his conduct.”

As Law&Crime reported earlier in the day, the prospect of censuring the president has started picking up steam over the past couple of days. A few Republicans Senators have called President Trump’s conduct wrong/improper/not right/inappropriate/not something they would do, but not impeachable (see: Lamar Alexander, Marco Rubio, Rob Portman, Joni Ernst).

A Senate censure of a president has only happened once in American history, and that was 186 years ago in the case of Andrew Jackson. You might see some similarities in the Senate’s telling of that historical event:

After the election, Jackson moved to withdraw federal deposits from the bank [of the United States] and, in doing so, set off a political firestorm. The bank’s charter gave the secretary of the treasury the power to move federal deposits out of the bank, but required him to report his reasons for such actions to Congress. Jackson instructed Treasury Secretary William J. Duane to remove the deposits but Duane refused. On September 23 Jackson dismissed Duane from his post and with a recess appointment named Attorney General Roger Taney as treasury secretary. Taney, who shared Jackson’s stance on the bank, carried out the orders to move federal deposits to a number of state banks and submitted his reasons to Congress in December.

When the new Congress convened in December 1833, Clay’s anti-administration coalition in the Senate held an eight-vote majority over Jackson’s fellow Democrats. Clay was determined to challenge Jackson on the bank.

Jackson had read a message to his cabinet in September explaining his decision regarding the federal deposits and later had it published in the Washington Globe, the mouthpiece of his administration. Clay’s first move was to introduce a resolution requesting a copy of that message, arguing that it ought to be submitted as an official document. When Jackson refused to provide it, Clay escalated the conflict.

On December 26, Clay introduced a two-part resolution. The first part stated that in firing Duane and installing Taney to remove the public deposits, Jackson had “assumed the exercise of a power over the Treasury of the United States not granted him by the Constitution and laws.” The second part, asserting Congress’s role in overseeing the handling of the nation’s deposits, stated that Taney’s explanation for the move was “unsatisfactory and insufficient.”

After a 10-week debate, the Senate voted 26 to 20 to adopt a revised resolution, which stated that “the President, in the late executive proceeding in relation to the public revenue, has assumed upon himself authority and power not conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of both,” effectively censuring the president. Jackson responded with a lengthy protest denying the validity of the Senate’s action. In another unprecedented move, the Senate responded by refusing to print the president’s message in its Journal.

[Image via Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.