Déjà Vu on the Hill | Izzy Ster
President Donald Trump was impeached for the first time by the House of Representatives on December 18, 2019, under the premise of two articles of impeachment: obstruction of Congress and abuse of power after knowledge of the president instigated the Ukrainian president to undergo an investigation into the Biden family. On February 5, 2020, the Senate acquitted President Trump of both charges. This was a top headline this time last, as two former presidents have been impeached (Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998).
On January 13, 2021, President Trump became the only president to be impeached twice, under articles citing his “incitement of insurrection” and his efforts to “subvert and obstruct the certification of [election] results” (a direct reference to Trump’s call with Georgia election officials in which he urged they to “find” votes). However, the impeachment is also a direct response to the events that transpired last Wednesday, in which Trump urged a large crowd of his supporters “to fight like hell.” The final vote in the House of Representatives was tallied to be 232-197; more notably, ten Republicans (most notably, Liz Cheney, the House Republican Conference Chair) joined the Democrats to move forward with impeachment. With the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden less than a week away, it is unlikely that a second impeachment trial will occur before January 20. Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel struck down requests of starting the trial on Wednesday.
In case you’ve forgotten how this process works, impeachment is a constitutional instrument at Congress’s disposal to punish the president for treason, bribery, or “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” As we have seen, the House can impeach a president if majority of the vote is reached–the matter then moves to the Senate, where a trial is held. Ultimately, the process concludes with a vote on a verdict; two-thirds majority of the Senate is needed to convict the president. Hypothetically, if the president is removed, the vice president comes into power. The president would also be unable from holding “any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.”
Now, the conviction in the Senate will be more difficult, as Democrats will need to gain the support of 17 Republican senators. Even so, it’s widely speculated that the trial will not occur until after President Trump has left office. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that there isn’t a precedent for impeaching someone who will be a former president (in case you needed the reminder of how historical the times we are living in are). Although impeachments aren’t intended for private citizens, who would be charged in the regular legal system, the notion of being banned from future office still is ever present.
No matter the outcome of the future trial, in my opinion, this impeachment is setting the correct precedent: no one should be held exempt from the law, even if they are a former president, and our country will not crumble as a result of intimidation.