Even in his wildest dreams, President Donald Trump would not have imagined that he will be going down in disgrace twice in American history—first for being only the third American President to be Impeached; and within a span of one year achieving the second ‘distinction’ of being the first American President to be Impeached twice.
After the scandalous events of January 6 when a mob clearly was invited to the nation’s capital and egged on to violence at Capitol Hill to prevent lawmakers from certifying the election results of President-elect Joseph Biden, Trump was essentially counting the days of his second impeachment at the hands of the House of Representatives.
In 2019, it was a strict party line vote in the House with all members of the Grand Old Party standing firmly behind the President; but this time around ten Republicans deserted their President, sided with the Democrats and basically agreeing with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s characterization that Trump was a “clear and present danger” to a country that all Americans loved. In the group was Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who said that there had “never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States”.
In making a case for “high crimes and misdemeanours”, the four-page impeachment resolution relied heavily on the President’s own toxic rhetoric at the White House rally prior to the mob setting foot on Capitol Hill for the rampage.
In the end, the final tally in the House was 232 to 197 to impeach Trump on a single charge of “incitement of insurrection” for the President’s role in the mob attack on Capitol Hill last week. With all his social media handles taken away, Trump apparently was forced to watch the proceedings from the private quarters of the White House unable to do the usual immediate response on Twitter other than putting out an earlier statement that he opposed any violence on the part of his supporters—NO violence, NO law breaking and NO vandalism of any kind, seems to be his new found mantra.
“I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers. Thank you,” Trump said in a prepared text that seemed to fall on deaf ears, especially on the small group of the Grand Old Party who joined the Democrats.
Nancy Pelosi is said to have signed off formally on the vote but it is not known if she has sent it across to the Senate to begin its trial that is mandated by the constitutional process. The current Republican Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has indicated that while his chamber will go through with the motions, it is not likely to happen prior to January 19 when the chamber is due to re-convene.
An one-time staunch ally of the President, who according to media reports now says that Trump has committed impeachable crimes, is of the view that under the current situation a “fair trial” is not possible and that the focus now should be on the “inauguration and an orderly transfer of power” to the incoming President.
Also politically with Senator Chuck Schumer soon to take charge of the Senate as Majority Leader in the wake of the runoff Georgia results, Senator McConnell perhaps is waiting for Democrats to formally take responsibility for Trump’s trial.
As mentioned in these columns before while sentiments on President Trump may have also shifted in the Senate, it is unlikely that a group of 17 Republicans will cross over and convict Trump. In 2020, a lone Senator, Mitt Romney, did the damage for the Grand Old Party; and it remains to be seen how many others will be joining their Utah colleague. But still there seems to be a desire even among Republicans to censure Trump, even if not fully going the conviction route, to make sure that he does not belong to the GOP mainstream leadership.
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There has been at least one precedent in 1876 when a war secretary had been impeached but acquitted after a President had stepped down from office; and hence a legal opinion is that the Senate can act on Trump after he has relinquished office. At the very least there is interest in seeing if Trump can be sanctioned by preventing him from holding public offices, which would then make him ineligible to run for the presidency in 2024 as he has promised or suggested.
The ignominy for Trump by way of the second impeachment would not have come about if one of two things had happened: either Trump himself had seen the writing on the wall as Richard Nixon did in 1974 and resigned; or if the Vice President, Mike Pence, had invoked the 25th Amendment and disqualified the President. In fact, the House of Representatives gave Pence this choice, only for him to decline. Pence may have argued this route was not the best for America under the current circumstances but he also had to face the ground realities: Cabinet Secretaries were not forthcoming in sending confidential letters questioning Trump’s capacity to continue with only three of them resigning. Pence also knew that Trump is not a quitter and that he will stay on and fight for a formal two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives and Senate maintaining that he is perfectly capable of running the country.
The curtains are coming down on the Trump Presidency, albeit slowly and painfully for America. Very few times in that nation’s history has it been witness to this scale of drama, especially in a post-election phase. Federal agencies have warned all state capitals of possible violence being unleashed by the President’s supporters including from the white supremists; and some tense moments are quite visible in Washington DC which is getting ready and prepped up for the inauguration of a new era on January 20 at noon.
(The writer is a former senior journalist in Washington D.C. covering North America and the United Nations)
(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Federal)