I pleaded with my fellow conservatives to impeach Trump the first time round. Now I’m having to do it again

Even if it’s done after he leaves office, impeaching Trump a second time is worth it in order to prevent him from running for office again in 2024

Trump says impeachment moves causing anger, but 'I want no violence'

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article pleading with my fellow conservatives to support the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump as president. Republicans balked, and history has proved that vote had real consequences. Here we are a year later, and the impeachment of Donald Trump again takes center-stage.

Even before a year ago, talk of impeachment was nothing new. From the moment Donald Trump became President Trump, the potential for impeachment was floated nearly every month in some way or another. Much of that talk was specious, nothing more than political bluster from Democrats who knew that Trump was the best thing to happen to Democratic fundraising in decades.

But the impeachment one year ago was entirely justified. Ignoring all norms, Trump and his personal lawyer threatened to withhold national security funds to bully a foreign country into smearing his political opponent. For the first time in history, a member of the president’s own party voted to convict on that impeachment. But the prospect of the then-forthcoming 2020 election gave Republicans a convenient out. “Let the American people decide the fate of the president,” they reasoned. And so, countless Republicans let Trump stay in office.

Well, that election came and went, and the American people rejected Trump, making him the first one-term president in over a quarter-century. Unfortunately, he has also proved why Republicans never should have simply left a man unfit for the presidency in the White House.

Fresh from his Senate acquittal, Trump launched a national disinformation campaign to sow distrust in the American electoral system. He claimed that mail-in and absentee ballots were rife with fraud, despite no evidence suggesting so. Republicans in key swing states refused to change laws that required mailed ballots to be counted after election day was over. Unsurprisingly, that one-two punch meant that mail-in ballots largely favored Democrats and were counted late at night. Election experts, left and right, explained that would be the case before election night.

Despite these obvious circumstances, Trump used that and a bevy of other baseless bits to cry there were “overnight dumps” and that the election was fraudulent. State after state, court after court have rejected his claims, including states run by Republicans and judges appointed by the president himself.

But, as Trump’s devotees say, “He fights!”

And fight he did. Against facts. Against democracy. Against America. He filed lawsuits that would make even the most shameless ambulance-chasers look like St Thomas More. He pressured Republican state officials to “find” votes for him. And, in the nadir of presidential history, he gathered his followers at the seat of American government and told them, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Many of his followers —  perhaps inexperienced in the art of knowing whether to take the president seriously or literally — then stormed the United States Capitol at a crucial constitutional moment, when our elected representatives were finalizing the results confirming that Trump had lost the presidency.

If lying to the American people, pressuring state officials to throw elections his way, and fomenting violent uprisings is not impeachable, then what? What is? The brazen and bombastic behavior that has endeared him to wannabe fascists has been on display for all to see. There is no question about his conduct or his intent.  The only question that remains is whether Congress will protect our democracy from a man who has always been unfit for the presidency, but who somehow managed to accede to it nonetheless.

And already I can hear the echo of, “Let the American people decide the fate of the president.” This time it will be, “He’s going to leave office in just a couple weeks. Why impeach him? Let him slink away into the garbage can of history.”

Does anyone honestly believe that Donald Trump will slink away? “He fights!” He’ll continue to fight against facts, against democracy, against America. Trump’s most dangerous assaults on our future Constitutional character will not be led by thugs costuming as confederates and tribal warriors. They will be in how he asserts himself into elections. Those assertions may not always be from the sidelines. Reports are that Trump has already discussed a 2024 presidential run with advisors.

That is a core reason that he must be impeached. The consequences of an impeachment conviction are more than just removal from office. The consequences include “disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States,” which means that if he were impeached and convicted, he could never run for any federal office again. So the impeachment and conviction of Donald Trump would have tangible, meaningful consequences that will benefit America beyond January 20, 2021.

Indeed, Congress is unlikely to move quickly enough to impeach and convict before Trump leaves office.  But the Constitution does not require that impeached officials be convicted before they leave office. The English practice it came from did not require the individual to be in the office either. If all that can happen before January 20th is that Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives, then the Senate can still convict after he has already left office.  

Indeed, it is possible that Congress does not even need to impeach him before January 20th. In 1876, a United States official resigned as the House of Representatives debated whether to impeach him. The resignation did not stop the House from impeaching him, and the Senate agreed to hold a trial despite the resignation.

Even the president’s most adoring and aspiring fans have recognized this. During last year’s impeachment scandal, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida affirmed the fact that former officials can be impeached, which the House’s own practices acknowledge.

To be sure, impeachments should be done sparingly, and impeachments of former officials even more so. And, of course everyone knows that even impeachment and conviction cannot make Donald Trump disappear. Remember, “He fights!” He will hold rallies and sow distrust even if he isn’t on the ballot. But since Trump’s acquittal last year, he has proven that he is incapable of learning how to love, defend, or even leave be our constitutional system. He needs to be stopped from holding future office.

Even beyond disqualifying Trump, impeachment and conviction serve a higher purpose. They are the strongest statements possible that this is not OK; that no one, not even the president, can rile up rebellion and then simply slip out the back door. Future generations need to know that we fought to keep our republic. Not with misinformation or mob rule, but through the very means the founding fathers gave us to do so: the Constitution’s impeachment procedures.

Bryan Gividen is a lifelong conservative, a former officer of multiple chapters for the Federalist Society, and an attorney from Dallas, Texas

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