The Mayorkas impeachment trial could be very short

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In today’s edition … Inside Trump’s small-dollar donor struggles … Democrats spar over voter registration … but first …

On the Hill

Mayorkas impeachment trial looms when the Senate returns next week

The Senate will take up the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas next week, with senators sworn in for the first impeachment trial of a Cabinet member since 1876.

It might be over almost as soon as it starts.

House Republicans led by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) will make the case on April 10 for removing Mayorkas from office, nearly two months after the House voted to impeach Mayorkas by a single vote for failing to enforce immigration laws.

Senators will be sworn in as jurors the next day with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) presiding, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.

There’s no chance that two-thirds of the Democratic-controlled Senate will vote to remove Mayorkas. But it’s unclear whether the Senate will hold a full trial or instead move to dismiss the charges — a decision that will dictate how much precious Senate floor time impeachment consumes.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), aware the trial could be over almost before it starts, urged Schumer last week not to go that route.

  • “To table articles of impeachment without ever hearing a single argument or reviewing a piece of evidence would be a violation of our constitutional order and an affront to the American people who we all serve,” Johnson and the 11 Republican impeachment managers wrote in a letter to Schumer.

Senators could also vote to refer the charges to a special impeachment committee. That’s what they did during the impeachment of several federal judges, including U.S. District Court Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr., who was impeached in 2010 on bribery and perjury charges.

Many Democratic senators have said they’re open to voting to dismiss the case, which they describe as baseless. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also told reporters in February that he “would be inclined to dismiss” the charges.

The case for dismissal

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who was the lead impeachment manager during the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, said he would defer to senators on what to do but that they would be “well within their rights to dispose of this on a motion to dismiss, because the article of impeachment itself is flawed.”

The flaw, Raskin said, is that the charges against Mayorkas are accusations of “maladministration” rather than the high crimes or misdemeanors that the Constitution describes as grounds for impeachment. The Constitution’s drafters didn’t make maladministration impeachable because, as James Madison put it, it would “be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate.”

  • “It would be dangerous to entertain this as the real matter of a Senate trial, because it will then invite an unlimited number of impeachments based on policy criticism and critique of someone’s managerial or administrative effectiveness,” Raskin said.

House Republicans have argued that Mayorkas’s failure to enforce border laws went beyond maladministration.

Dismissing the charges against Mayorkas would be unprecedented in one sense.

The Senate has never voted to dismiss impeachment charges against a sitting officeholder before conducting a trial, although it has dismissed charges against at least two federal judges who resigned after they were impeached: George W. English in 1926 and Samuel B. Kent in 2009.

But Raskin said he wasn’t worried that dismissing the charges would make it easier for the Senate to skip trials in the future. 

“It would be no more prejudicial against actual high crimes and misdemeanors than a motion to dismiss a criminal or civil prosecution in court which is granted would somehow prejudice the court of future against hearing valid causes of action,” Raskin said. “This is what courts do.”

Fears of normalization

Mayorkas is the first cabinet member to be impeached since Secretary of War William W. Belknap, who in 1876 resigned hours before the House impeached him on bribery charges. The Senate tried him anyway — but he was acquitted.

The push to remove Mayorkas has sparked concerns that such impeachments will become more common. 

  • “I fear that other attempts to impeach Cabinet officers will now follow,” Jeh Johnson, who served as homeland security secretary during the Obama administration, wrote in an email to the Early. “Like Supreme Court confirmation hearings, history teaches that once we lower the bar, the whole process is permanently degraded. My other concern is that, given all this, no future President will be able to recruit a serious and capable person to protect homeland security.”

Those worries echo the ones voiced by many Republicans during the Trump administration — including Mike Johnson, who warned in 2019 that the founders feared partisan impeachment “would bitterly and perhaps irreparably divide our nation.”

  • “I hope and pray that future Congresses can and will exercise greater restraint,” he said at the time.

Asked about those comments by Fox News’s Bret Baier in December as House Republicans prepared to formalize an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, Johnson said he stood by them and that Republicans have “shown great restraint” in that impeachment effort.

“There’s a big distinction between what’s happening now and what the Democrats do,” Johnson said.

As evidence of restraint, a House Republican leadership aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid pointed out that while House Democrats voted twice to impeach Trump in 2019 and 2021 — the second time with the help of 10 Republicans — House Republicans so far haven’t voted to impeach Biden. Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into Biden has sputtered in recent weeks.

What we’re watching

At the White House

Biden and first lady Jill Biden will host the White House Easter Egg Roll today. We’re watching for rain.

On Wednesday, Biden will speak at the White House about reducing health care costs.

And on Thursday evening, Biden will host a reception marking Greek Independence Day.

In the courts

Trump must post a $175 million bond by Thursday to delay enforcement of an even larger judgment against him.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ordered Trump in February to pay more than $450 million in a civil fraud case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who accused Trump of inflating the value of his business assets. An appeals court panel allowed Trump to post the $175 million bond by Thursday to avoid paying the larger amount.

The Florida Supreme Court, meanwhile, could rule as soon as today on whether a proposed amendment adding abortion rights to the state constitution can appear on the ballot. Florida is one of a dozen states that could vote on abortion-related ballot measures this year.

On the Hill

The House and Senate are out this week.

On the campaign trail

The presidential primary race is effectively over, but the primaries go on. Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin will hold primaries on Tuesday.

The campaign

Inside Trump’s small-dollar donor struggles

Has Trump over-tapped his vaunted small-dollar donor base?

In the years after Trump lost the 2020 election, “Trump sent so many emails and text messages asking for money that Republican consultants warned his mailing lists could become useless,” our colleagues Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer and Clara Ence Morse report.

“The former president’s friends told him that they were being asked for too much, too often, and Trump himself ordered aides at one point to slow the solicitations. Some of his fans, pockets emptied, mailed handwritten letters apologizing for not being able to give more.”

Now Trump’s small-dollar fundraising operation isn’t bringing inasmuch as it once did.

  • “In 2020, Trump and his fundraising committees raised a record $626.6 million from small-dollar donors, 35 percent more than Biden took in from that group.”
  • “But last year, Trump raised just $51 million from small donors, way down from the $119 million he registered in 2019 and only 18 percent more than Biden’s total. His small-dollar haul — which includes donations of $200 or less — was not nearly enough to offset Biden’s lead among major donors.”

It’s not just Trump. The Republican National Committee also raised less from small-dollar donors in 2023 than it did in 2019.

“Trump advisers say that after a slow period, they are now raising $1 million a day online, and the campaign raised $10.6 million in donations last week from 280,000 digital donations,” Josh, Michael and Clara write. “The multiple prosecutions he faces have re-energized his base, and his team expects that their small-dollar fundraising numbers will spike ahead of his trial in New York next month.”

Democrats spar over voter registration

Democrats historically believe that the more voters they turn out, the more likely the party is to win elections.

“For decades, nonpartisan groups allied with the Democratic Party have run wide-ranging efforts aimed at increasing voter registration among people of color and young people — groups that tend to lean Democratic but have historically voted at lower rates than older and White people,” our colleagues Michael Scherer and Sabrina Rodriguez report.

“In recent years, however, there has been a marked shift among the roughly one in five citizens of voting age who are unregistered toward Republicans,” Michael and Sabrina write. Now a confidential memo that’s been circulating “among top Democratic donors has sparked a furious debate in Democratic circles about whether to narrow the focus of voter registration efforts to avoid signing up likely Republicans.”

Aaron Strauss, an influential data scientist who helps direct progressive spending at the firm OpenLabs, sparked private disagreements over this issue in January when he sent about a dozen major Democratic donors a confidential memo that challenged traditional nonpartisan registration.”

  • “’Indeed, if we were to blindly register nonvoters and get them on the rolls, we would be distinctly aiding Trump’s quest for a personal dictatorship,’ Strauss argued in the memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post and cited recent polling that showed Trump’s strength among unregistered voters.”
  • “He also warned that efforts to gain Democratic votes among younger and non-Black people of color were often expensive — costing more than $1,200 per net vote in 2020, by one estimate — because the groups now include so many non-Democrats.”
  • “Among voters of color, he wrote that “only African American registration is clearly a prime opportunity,” adding that netting Democratic voters among Black people costs approximately $575 per vote in 2020.”

Must reads from The Post:

From elsewhere:

Rest in peace, Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.)

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