Accuracy in Media

The mainstream media’s zealous coverage of impeachment-related news has not only ignored presidential succession possibilities, but also whether the U.S. Senate would take up an impeachment vote. The Republican Party, of which President Donald Trump is a member, holds a majority in the Senate.

The media neglected to report that not only Republican senators are reluctant to hold a vote to impeach Trump as it could jeopardize re-election prospects in 2020, as well as upset their voting base. Additionally, some senators have told the press that the president is not guilty of a crime worthy of impeachment. And, despite “Never Trump” Republican and former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake’s insistence that at least thirty Republican senators would privately vote for Trump’s impeachment, it is unlikely that the Senate would take up an impeachment vote to impeach a member of their party in the White House.

Politico is the only major media outlet that has published a piece describing the politics behind an impeachment vote in the Senate. Politico’s article, headlined, “How Mitch McConnell could give impeachment the Merrick Garland treatment,” presented the option that the Senate could refuse to take up an impeachment vote to begin with.

The media outlet invoked Merrick Garland, who was President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, but whose nomination was stalled in the Senate by Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as McConnell claimed that no Supreme Court justice was ever confirmed in an election year. Garland was in nomination limbo and was replaced by Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Politico correctly reported that the Constitution empowers the Senate to try an impeachment vote when it comes from the House of Representatives, but the Constitution apparently does not say that an impeachment trial is mandatory for the Senate.

Although McConnell told the press that the Senate would have “no choice” to hold an impeachment trial if the House voted to impeach Trump, Politico said that it would not surprise their sources if McConnell did not hold an impeachment trial or a vote.

Politico quoted former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter, who e-mailed Politico and said, “Up to the Senate. No way to force them to act.” Retired Senate historian Don Ritchie echoed Gingrich’s response and said, “The Senate makes the decision.”

In short, McConnell has the power to not hold an impeachment trial or vote even if the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump. And, despite the mainstream media’s wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment-related news, this possibility is not being mentioned at all. It would better serve the mainstream media to remind its viewers and audiences of this possible outcome and not get caught up in the maelstrom of impeachment news and instead temper its political rhetoric.

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