Republicans call the impeachment unconstitutional because Trump’s already out of office. They’re wrong. He was impeached while still president; and the Constitution prescribes two penalties: removal from office, and future disqualification from office. The former is now moot but the latter is not. And there is precedent for impeaching an official (William Belknap)who’s left office.
Note also that the 14th Amendment disqualifies from office anyone guilty of insurrection. That was aimed at ex-Confederates but should apply to Trump.
Some Republican senators say he didn’t really incite insurrection. Seriously? Maybe you can parse his words to argue they nuzzled the line without crossing it. Yet his mob was certainly incited. And when it stormed the Capitol — looking to hang his vice president — Trump watched on TV with glee, refusing to lift a finger. It was finally Pence who called in the national guard.
If Trump’s conduct wasn’t an impeachable offense, violating his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” nothing ever could be.
And his insurrection and attempt to overthrow the election, indeed the government itself, even while failing, did lasting damage. His big “stolen election” lie undermines public confidence in our election integrity and our government’s very legitimacy, exacerbating the partisan divisions tearing America apart. Very great crimes.
Yet Republicans denounce the impeachment itself as “partisan” and “divisive.” These dishonest hypocrites throw around such words to shirk responsibility for their own actions. As if it’s “partisan” to prosecute incitement to insurrection. As if their efforts to overturn a legitimate election weren’t the most divisive thing any party’s ever done.
With the first impeachment, I said that if Republican senators were smart, they’d band together and take the opportunity to be rid of Trump. They didn’t. That was, of course, cynicism and cowardice. But worse, most seemed to have actually drunk the Kool-Aid, becoming Trump cult true believers. Now they have a second chance. Will they take it? No.
Some expected, with Trump out of office (and off Twitter), a soul-searching among Republicans, a reckoning, a return to sanity. Especially after the January 6 insurrection, which you’d think finally made Trump insupportable. And that was a tipping point for a few Republicans. Most, however, are actually doubling down, tunneling deeper into their black hole.
If there’s a reckoning, it’s to purge those few (notably Liz Cheney) who aren’t totally gaga Trumpists. And the party is doing nothing to dissociate from its violent element, which the FBI now unsurprisingly warns is our biggest terrorism threat. Most Republicans may give lip service to condemning the January 6 insurrection — while continuing to pump the “stolen election” lie that provoked it. They won’t even dissociate from QAnon lunacy (now spouted by at least two GOP Congress members).
At the heart of it all is race. The party long exploited white racial anxiety, but under Trump that became its core raison d’etre. That’s what Trump represents, and it explains the fanatical devotion to him. The Capitol rioters weren’t actuated by abstract “conservative” principles. Those, if they even exist any more, are a transparent veneer upon today’s Republican white nationalist heart and soul. That’s also what their flaunted Confederate flag represents. January 6 was an attempted white putsch. And they’re not done; seeing it as the “Lexington and Concord” of their revolution.
THIS is what’s really tearing the country apart.
In a rational universe a Senate impeachment trial could help lance this boil. But that’s not the world we live in. There won’t be the needed 17 Republican votes to convict. Meantime, the House’s impeachment already gave Trump’s conduct the needed stamp of ignominy. That would only be negated by Senate acquittal. Enabling Trump to again crow vindication, as though wiping the slate clean. Re-empowering him. Bad for the country.
Instead, the Senate should simply not hold a trial and vote. Remember how McConnell specialized in not holding votes? Now Democrats control the Senate and should do likewise on impeachment. Never bring it to conclusion. Let it hang around Trump’s neck, unresolved, forever.
(Senator Kaine has proposed a deal with Republicans to censure Trump rather than vote on impeachment. A censure would need just a simple majority. It would do little or nothing to puncture Trump worship, but if that avoids an impeachment acquittal, then fine.)