Democrats should consider dropping the second impeachment trial of ex-President Donald Trump and instead try to censure him, a key Democratic senator proposed Wednesday.
Virginia Sen. Time Kaine -- Hillary Clinton's running mate when she lost to Trump -- said he's been shopping his idea aground to Democrats and Republicans because he doesn't think the GOP will vote to convict Trump, making the process a waste of time.
"I have been talking with a number of my colleagues, a handful, for a couple of weeks about the likelihood that we would fall short on impeachment," Kaine told reporters on Capitol Hill. "And by doing that, not only will we fall short, but we would use time for something that we could be using for COVID relief, which I think is just so dire right now."
Kaine's remarks are in contrast to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who reaffirmed earlier that he intends to have a full airing of Trump's role inciting the insurrection against the Capitol on Jan. 6 that left five people dead, including a police officer.
"Make no mistake -- there will be a trial, and the evidence against the former president will be presented, in living color, for the nation and every one of us to see," Schumer said. "No one will be able to avert their gaze from what Mr. Trump said and did, and the consequences of his actions... We will pass judgment, as our solemn duty under the Constitution demands, and in turn, we will all be judged on how we respond."
Kaine said he began exploring the option of censuring Trump even before the House voted to impeach him, with 10 Republicans in agreement. But Kaine said that after 45 Republicans voted Tuesday in favor of a motion by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to declare the trial would be unconstitutional, it is highly unlikely Trump will be convicted by the required two-thirds of the Senate, regardless of how awful his incitement appears.
Just five Republicans opposed Paul's motion asserting that trial a former president is unconstitutional, while the other 45 voted for it.
"The vote on the Paul motion yesterday was completely clarifying that we're not going to get near 67 [votes]. So, I think there's maybe a little more interest now and then could this be an alternative," Kaine said.
He added that he has drafted a measure in case there is more interest, but that he probably wouldn't proceed unless there are at least 10 Republicans who will get on board.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who supported having a trial, is one lawmaker Kaine has worked with.
"It is still in process but I think yesterday's vote on the Senate floor shows that it is extremely unlikely that President Trump would be convicted, and that indeed the five votes to even proceed to a trial is probably the high mark on what you're going to see for Republican support," Collins told reporters. "I realize the two leaders have already locked in a schedule, but it seems to me there is benefit in looking at an alternative that might be able to garner bipartisan support."
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, agreed with Collins' assessment that Republicans probably will not convict Trump.
But he also doubted Democrats would embrace Kaine's idea.
"The Democrats are very intent on going through the impeachment process. That's the vote that matters to them," Thune said. "I've heard some rumblings but not serious discussions that had support from enough Democrats -- or Republicans, for that matter -- to make this a realistic option."
Trump's trial is due to start Feb. 9.