President Donald Trump is cruising toward history as the first president to be impeached twice. And no matter what you may hear about “unity” or “fanning the flames” from his somehow still loyal party members, there is no principled argument against impeaching Trump again; there’s only self-serving reluctance to accept the truth.
There is no principled argument against impeaching Trump again; there’s only self-serving reluctance to accept the truth.
The reality is that the case for Trump’s removal from office is the same as it was a year ago as the Senate was preparing for its first impeachment trial since 1999. It’s only the particulars that have changed in the intervening 52 weeks.
It’s a direct line from Trump bullying Ukraine to help him defeat President-elect Joe Biden to the president’s abject lies about the election’s results. Any chaos in Washington this week is the offspring of all but one member of the Senate’s Republican caucus pretending that there was something beyond their own political interests guiding their votes to acquit the president last February.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was prescient in his arguments during the impeachment trial as lead House manager, directing the case against Trump before a silent Senate chamber. Together, he and his fellow managers walked the senators through what evidence they’d managed to gather despite Trump’s best stonewalling, proof that he’d tried to use the authority vested in him to remove a rival from the running.
It was overwhelmingly obvious that even though the plan had failed, Trump was willing to do whatever it took in order to gain a second term, whether legitimately or not. "He has compromised our elections, and he will do so again,” Schiff warned in his closing arguments. “You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is. Truth matters little to him. What's right matters even less, and decency matters not at all."
Even though the plan had failed, Trump was willing to do whatever it took in order to gain a second term, whether legitimately or not.
Schiff was right, because here’s the tea: Nothing that we saw from Trump last week goes against what we’ve always known about him. No aspect of his performance before or during the insurrection he fomented and directed against Congress is a surprise, no matter how many officials resigned in disgust. Nor was anything suddenly revealed as the dust settled and the Capitol was finally recovered from rioters directed to disrupt the democratic process.
And anyone who’s still holding out hope that Vice President Mike Pence and the remaining Cabinet members will invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from power that way is deluding themselves at this point. Worse, even if Pence were to declare the president unfit, it would be both a temporary measure and one that would cement the executive branch as the sole arbiter of the presidency’s limits.
Because this isn’t just about Trump. His term of office will end on Jan. 20, if not sooner. This is about tying his hands in the future and those of other would-be tyrants who would follow in his footsteps. Trump remains popular within is party, even after losing them control of the House, Senate and White House.
Quotes from The New York Times’ coverage of the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee show a party whose insiders are devoted to one man and no principles. There will be no internal reckoning from the GOP anytime soon, not when Trump’s allies remain at the top, and no moves coming that would preclude him from making good on his threats to run again in 2024.
The only question at this point is when a trial will take place in the Senate if the House passes the article introduced on the floor on Monday, charging the president with “incitement of insurrection.” Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent around a memo to the Republican caucus on Jan. 8, in effect dumping the problem into the Senate Democrats’ laps. But in doing so, he confirmed that a trial will happen regardless of the timing.
Democrats have to call the bluff. Schiff, for his part, pushed on Monday for kicking off a Senate trial as soon as possible. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the House majority whip, on Sunday floated the idea of holding the articles for Biden’s first 100 days, leaving the Senate floor clear to handle the work of confirming his Cabinet officials and passing the first legislation of his administration. It would follow a precedent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set in 2019 when she delayed transmitting the articles the House had passed to the Senate for weeks, in hopes of influencing the structure of the trial.
That bid failed — McConnell still forced a process where no witnesses were called, and no doubt was left about the outcome. A new trial could start tomorrow, it could be in 100 days — it honestly doesn’t matter at this point. Whatever it takes for Trump to be permanently disqualified from holding office, as I argued he should be earlier this month, then so be it.
What’s important in the immediate future is filing the charges against him — and in doing so, documenting who believes that this behavior from the president is acceptable. That includes Republicans like Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, who said that impeachment would be “unnecessary and inflammatory,” and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who had the gall to say of impeachment, “I do not see how that unifies the country.” Even after last week’s attack, he still voted to reject electoral votes for Biden based on nothing but Trump’s lies.
Until Republicans like Buck and Jordan can stand up and say, firmly and loudly, that Trump will not change and cannot be the leader of their party, they cannot be trusted to have the country’s best interests in mind. If anything, it’s unfortunate that they remain willing to keep pretending like this is about partisan hatred of Trump and not about protecting them — and the country — from the forces they’ve unleashed.