Presidential Impeachment – Take Two

By Elle Baker

January 28, 2021

Entering the new year after the debacle we all faced that was 2020, it is safe to say that we had pretty high expectations for a fresh start. Unfortunately, we seem to have a habit of living through major historical events every other day – this including a second impeachment of Donald Trump – the same time as last year. 

 Regardless, the second impeachment is just as controversial and essential as the last. Being that both have very valid reasons for being conducted in the first place, the impending impeachment cannot be disputed nor disagreed with more than saying the sky is blue or that global warming is real. 

  Here is a breakdown: At the Save America March on January 6th, Donald Trump essentially told his supporters to “fight harder” against the Democrats and falsely claimed repeatedly that the election was stolen and rigged. He urged his supporters to “show strength” at the Capitol later that day while the Electoral College’s votes were being counted. It is clear as to what he is saying, nothing to decipher or allude to. Following their president’s enthusiastic advice, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, broke in and more or less defaced Congress. The details at this moment in time are not important, however, the connection between the speech and the riots are essential to understand.

 Knowing this, the House of Representatives Democrats decided this was the last straw and Trump had to go, despite him only having two weeks left in office. Calls for impeachment and the enactment of the 25th amendment were voiced and heard across both sides of the political spectrum (mainly Democratic). An “ultimatum” was created for Vice President Pence either to enact the 25th Amendment within a set amount of time or the House would continue with the impeachment process. 

  Time for a mini history lesson! The 25th Amendment was created following the assasination of JFK, where the Vice President becomes acting President in the event of presidential death, removal, resignation, or incapacitation. The amendment has been enacted six times in history, and only for short periods of time, mostly for health related reasons that caused the President to be incapactiated for a surgery or under anesthesia. In other words, if the President, for any reason, is unable to fulfill his duty to the American people, Congress has the power to remove him from office.

  On January 12th, 2021, the House of Representatives met to approve a resolution urging Vice President Pence and the Cabinet to use their powers under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump immediately. Following this, Pence still denied their urges, prompting the House to move forward themselves with impeachment. The push for the second impeachment took a dramatic bipartisan turn as several senior House Republicans joined the Democratic effort to remove the president before his term expires. Throughout this entire process, Trump has yet to disapprove of and apologize for inciting the violence at the Capitol, claiming what he said at the March was appropriate, according to NPR. 

 Following Pence’s refusal to enact the 25th Amendment, the House met on January 13th to debate impeachment on a single article charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the Capitol riot. Trump will become the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. On top of the impeachment, lawmakers are also looking at a provision in the Constitution’s impeachment clauses that could allow them to deny Trump from ever holding federal office again. Quite a feat with just a week left in his presidency. Here is how it may work:

The Constitution allows Congress to remove presidents, or other officers of the executive branch, before their terms are completed if lawmakers believe they have committed “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to NY Times. 

The impeachment itself is difficult, being that it is a two-part process. First, the House votes on whether to impeach. The charges are clearly written in articles of impeachment detailing the allegations of offenses against the nation. If a majority of the House votes in favor of pressing charges, the Senate must then consider them at a trial. The House prosecutes the case, appointing impeachment managers to argue before senators, who act as the jury, and the president is traditionally allowed to create a defense. The Chief Justice of the United States oversees the trial.

  In regards to withholding Trump from ever having a federal position again, a majority of senators must vote in favor of removing him from the presidential race in 2024. Seems easy enough and might be just that as many Republican senators are in favor – some even because they want a shot at running themselves. 

  With the short amount of time left of Trump’s presidency, it seems difficult or even impossible to conduct a trial for impeachment. This is true, however, given the severity of the situation, some steps can be passed. If Democrats and some Republicans are in agreement they must act, they can move in a matter of days, bypassing the House Judiciary Committee, to draw up charges, introduce and proceed directly to a debate and vote on the floor of the House.

 One theory being discussed mentions the House could impeach Trump and hold onto the articles for a few days to wait until Democrats take over control of the Senate, which will occur after President-Elect Biden is sworn in. The length of a trial, and the rules governing it, are determined by the members of the Senate.

 To clarify, Trump can still be impeached after he leaves office. It has happened once before in 1876, where the House impeached President Ulysses S. Grant’s war secretary for graft, even after he resigned from his post. The Senate at the time considered whether it still had jurisdiction to hear the case of a former official, and determined that it did. Ultimately, the secretary was acquitted. 

While everything is still up in the air, we can only hope that once January 20th comes to pass that we can begin a new presidency with an open mindset, positivity for what is to come, and to leave the past four years where they belong: in the past.

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