A last minute effort by President Trump to overturn the election results has resulted into a strategic ‘check mate’ win for the Democrats. As the electoral certification process was under, a large group of violent protesters stormed the Capitol building with the aim to disrupt, delay and halt the certification process. Unsuccessful in their efforts, this allowed many politicians on both side of the aisle to strongly condemn the 45th President and move forward with impeachment and cast a dark cloud over his presidency.
The Democrats decided to move forward with articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives for ‘Incitement of insurrection’ and are looking to hit the last nail in President Trump coffin, ensuring any possibility of a political comeback is ruled out in the future. On Jan 25th, the House Democrats invoked the process and decided to deliver to the Senate an article of impeachment against President Trump. On January 26th, Senators will be sworn in as jurors and the trial will begin on Feb. 9. Moreover, the two Senate Majority Leaders have agreed to a two-week delay, thus allowing time for President Biden to install his cabinet and begin pursuing his legislative agenda in the meantime.
The next fourteen days will provide an opportunity for leader Chuck Schumer & Mitch McConnell and President Trump defense team to exchange legal briefs. The Democrats are hoping the delay would allow for more evidence to surface while the Republican are looking to craft a unified defense. This time around, Trump’s legal team in the Senate will be different as the President is unable to count on his personal attorney and long time friend, Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It is still unclear whether Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial. The constitution only stipulates that the Chief Justice must preside over the trial of a “current” president. If Chief Justice Roberts declines, the task would fall to the president of the Senate: Vice President Harris or Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate president pro tempore would take control, making impeachment very likely.
What many pro-Trump Republicans have failed to understand is that any efforts to dismiss the trial at this point would most certainly not succeed. Senators loyal to the 45th President of the United States have called the trial ‘’unnecessary’’ and ‘’will do more harm than good’’ and have made it clear that they would vote to acquit Trump. However, Leader Mitch McConnell’s public ambivalence has led to speculation that if he were to signal support for conviction, he could provide cover for more defections. After all, the Senate Majority leader decided to blame the President on his last day in office and called the storming of the Capitol a “failed insurrection” provoked by the president’s “lies’ and said that the Senate “will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation”. 1
The Democrats will most certainly have to provide a stronger case and provide evidence in order to illustrate that the President of the United States committed high crime and misdemeanor of inciting an insurrection against the government. Nonetheless, the Democrats would still need the support of 17 Republicans to convict President Trump in the Senate trial. Not an easy task.
Furthermore, in the first impeachment trial, Republican-held Senate refused to call witnesses. Now that the Senate is in Democratic hands, this could be a game changer and could provide the Democrats to invite key members of the Trump administration to testify. Many in the Democratic party are looking for accountability and hoping for a speedy process and a different outcome. Moreover, Rep. Raskin (D) a former constitutional law professor has been tapped to lead impeachment process and will be present on the floor during the trial.
The House Democrats are hoping that strong Republican denunciations of Trump will translate into a bi-partisan conviction. However, the GOP passions appear to have cooled since the insurrection. Republican Senators such as Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley who will serve as jurors in the trial are rallying to Trump’s legal defense. Moreover, what is interesting is the fact that this is by far the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in history. This was also the first time in which all majority caucus members voted unanimously for impeachment.
At the Senate trial, a 2/3 majority of senators is needed to convict Trump. A conviction would trigger a second vote in which a simple majority in the Senate could permanently disqualify Trump from holding public office in the United States. It is important to note that the Senate trial is not a court process and will not have legal implications for the President Trump. Evidently, an impeachment vote will only lead to more division and social unrest in the country. Legal scholars have argued that a trial is moot after a President leaves office but the democrats have cited past cases for their actions. Is it clear the Democrats have only one clear objective in mind and are looking to prevent any political comeback in 2024.
Consequently, this could set a dangerous precedent, provoke unnecessary divisive rhetoric and fuel more hatred across the country. Thus, a polarized society will only lead to political gridlock and less confidence in the executive branch. On the other hand, this could pave the way for the GOP to replicate and try to impeach former Presidents if they win a majority in 2022. As a precaution, the National Guard will remain in DC until the trial is over.
After insulting the American public with $600 stimulus checks, it would be wise for the Democrats and Congress to focus on bold COVID relief, instead of adding more fuel to the fire. They have a window of opportunity to reset and capitalize on the mistakes of the previous administration by choosing a different path forward instead of playing the same games that fuel partisanship across the country. To conclude, it is fair to say that the winners from these political shenanigans in Washington DC can only be China, Russia and the Iranian regime while the American worker is struggling to make ends meet after months of uncertainty and lack of political will.
The Institute of Capacity Building for Political Studies (ICBPS) is a non-governmental research institute focusing on political studies, international security, and international relations.