Impeachment, Trump's response, and what happens next

Donald Trump's place in history is secure

A lot has happened in the past week. The House voted to impeach President Trump for an unprecedented second time this afternoon. The vote was the most bipartisan impeachment of a US president in history, which is to say that 10 Republicans, about five percent of the GOP caucus, thought that Trump’s role in the riot was worthy of impeachment.

The 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment were Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Rep. John Katko of New York, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington, Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, and Rep. David Valadao of California. These Republicans, who may well face the danger of physical violence, should be commended for their courage.

The consensus among most Republicans was that the attack was horrible but that Trump’s provocations were not impeachable because Democrats have done bad things too.

The impeachment came as armed National Guard soldiers descended on the District of Columbia to keep the peace. Pictures of Washington streets packed with armed troops and soldiers sleeping of the floor of the Capitol are scenes that seem not to have been seen in the American capital since the Civil War.

Later this afternoon, the president addressed the nation without mentioning impeachment. The president also did not express contrition for his role in last week’s violence but did call on his supporters to remain peaceful. Trump also did not recant his false claims that the election was stolen.

"No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement or our great American flag," the president said, adding "Now I am asking everyone who has ever believed in our agenda to be thinking of ways to ease tensions, calm tempers and help to promote peace in our country.”

Last Wednesday, President Trump told his rioting supporters, “We love you.”

Although, he did not mention the impeachment or election fraud, the president did attack social media companies for what he called the "unprecedented assault on free speech we have seen in recent days."

The president’s statement was too little too late. If Mr. Trump had made a similar statement immediately after last week’s attack he might have headed off impeachment. Instead, the president waffled and failed to take action to stop the rioters.

The next step in the process will be for the House to refer the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. Mitch McConnell where the Majority Leader has said that he thinks that Trump committed impeachable offenses but has not yet decided how he will vote. McConnell also said that the Senate will not reconvene until Joe Biden takes office on January 20.

It is too early to tell whether the Senate will vote to convict the president. The president is in a worse position than he was in his first impeachment, but it will be an uphill battle to get the 17 Republican votes that will be needed. As more disturbing information comes out about the attack, it is possible that more Republicans will break with Trump.

The impeachment process is necessary and important because the Senate can disqualify Trump from holding office in the future. To do so would be good for both the country and the Republican Party. At this point, it seems likely that Trump could once again win the Republican nomination, although probably not the general election.

There are some questions about holding an impeachment trial after the president leaves office, but there is precedent in US history. William Belknap, Secretary of War under President Grant, resigned just before the House impeached him in 1876. Over the next few months, the Senate agreed that it had jurisdiction even though Belknap was no longer in office and then voted to acquit him.

Despite the short time until Donald Trump leaves office, the House made the right decision in its vote to impeach. Trump spent two months undermining the election results and trying to overturn the election despite the lack of evidence for fraud. That, including the telephone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, should have been enough to justify impeachment.

Once Trump’s role in the riot is added into the mix, the president’s behavior is beyond the pale. Congress simply could not afford to ignore the repeated threats to the Constitution and American democracy.

Even if the Senate fails to convict Trump, hopefully the prospect of impeachment will be a deterrent against future presidents who might follow his lead. Donald Trump has secured a shameful place in American history as the only person to ever be impeached twice.