What’s the point of a Senate impeachment trial now Trump has left office? This is the answer

The former president could face some important consequences even though he’s no longer in the White House

Tonya Russell
Tuesday 09 February 2021 18:49
Donald Trump es el único presidente de Estados Unidos en ser acusado dos veces
Donald Trump es el único presidente de Estados Unidos en ser acusado dos veces

For the last four years, Donald Trump has boasted about his accomplishments as president in extremes, saying that nobody could do what he’s done. He has proved that by not only being impeached while the moving trucks pulled up to the White House, but by being the only president to be impeached twice.

Stripping his legacy of any leftover high marks seems like the makings of a politically motivated power play, but after the events of January 6th, Congress took a bipartisan stance. The House of Representatives impeached Trump for inciting the violent attempt to overthrow the Capitol, a riot that led to the death of six people. Constitutional expert Sandra Seder says that Trump may have been able to leave office without the door hitting him on the way, if not for the insurrection. “I don’t think impeachment would have been brought up, despite his behaviors surrounding the Georgia election. Trump’s behavior falls under the “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors'' category. The people at the Capitol were lied to and led to believe that the Electoral College process could be stopped,” Seder says.

“That was the last straw after trying to tamper with the US election results in Georgia,” she continues. “He led his followers to believe that they had the power to change the Electoral College votes, after literally asking an official in Georgia to do something that he did not have the authority to do, and could cost jobs.”

People like Trump who behave like thugs need second impeachments, and his behavior was scary enough to compel members of his own party to vote against him. The articles of impeachment mentioned his call to a Georgia official asking for him to “find” more votes, as well as the 14th Amendment which says that no person can hold office if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” But now that he is out of office and has already been impeached a second time, is there any merit to bringing the charges before Senate for a vote? 

The answer is: Maybe. This is uncharted territory, so we don't fully know what comes next. However, now that Mitch McConnell is no longer at the helm, the vote could happen. Justice Roberts would preside over the impeachment proceedings if they made it to Senate, and two-thirds of — or 67 — Senators have to vote in favor. Seder believes that, for the sake of running in the future, some Republican Senators may vote with the Democrats. If the vote falls short, once again Trump will not have been “removed” from office. 

This happened with Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 — who were, of course, the only two other presidents impeached, hence all of the unknowns. Another likely scenario is that Trump could lose the lifelong benefits provided to him by the Former Presidents Act. These include a $1 million travel allowance for him and a $500,000 one for Melania. His lifelong pension and Secret Service detail may also go away.  He could lose the right to be buried with honors. 

Another possibility is that Trump being impeached could open the doors to a criminal investigation. This is not up to the Senate, but the “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” categorization does indicate criminal wrongdoing.  According to the Constitution,"The party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law."

Trump would not automatically be barred from running for office again, since another vote would have to be taken up. That one does not require a two-thirds vote, but simply a majority. We all know Trump’s style of “campaigning” by now — and that it doesn’t stop even when he’s in office. For that reason, the possibility of him returning to office could be disastrous.

Another round of impeachment votes could once and for all mean an end to the reign of Trump, as well as a necessary blow to the ego. I have no doubt that embarrassing Trump yet again would feel like another Pelosi victory against a well-known bully. The will is there — but there’s still a lot more to be worked out.

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