House of Representatives 2; Trump 0
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House of Representatives 2; Trump 0

The Loser-in-Chief Gets Himself Re-Impeached, Makes the History Books … and a Few Republicans Join in the Vote

Terry H. Schwadron

Terry H. Schwadron

With a lopsided, mostly Democratic vote in the House, America impeached Donald Trump for the second time. Our representatives decided 232-197 that, once again, Trump’s acts are criminal and abuse of office; that he acted for Trump, not us.

As we know, the double-impeachment is a first.

On its face, it is really quite a statement about where we find ourselves: A president tried to overturn elections, ripped the Constitution and “incited an insurrection” on Congress to get his way. And then he withheld National Guard protection of lawmakers and insisted he said or did nothing wrong. There has been no Trump contrition.

The drama in the House impeachment vote was how many Republicans would look at Trump inciting a coup attempt against the government … and call it all a crime.

Indeed, the drama in the House impeachment vote was how many Republicans would call criminal Trump’s incitement of a coup attempt against the government he heads and to sit on his hands as it was under way.

In practical terms, continuing political loyalty and support among the Republican majority in the Senate means the impeachment may just sit there. It will stain Trump’s name, but not convict him.

Without a conviction, Trump could seek election.

Trump will walk. He will finish his term. He will avoid any official sanction from the Congress against whom he launched armed insurgents. As things stand, he remains eligible to run again in four years.

Impeachment was required. Even as the FBI and acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen were asking the public to turn in Jan. 6 wrongdoers, Republicans were still trying to ignore Trump’s role.

But looking away remains wrong – despite voices calling impeachment ineffective since Trump is departing anyway. We live in a society in which we expect criminals and abusers to be held to account.

Of course, Trump faces more issues away from Congress. An incoming Justice Department can look at Trump’s acts in inciting a mob and find criminal responsibilities for someone no longer under presidential protection from investigation and charges. The Southern District of New York authorities and the state of New York can proceed with a passel of other criminal investigations, ranging from campaign fund violations to tax fraud.

Like in Al Capone’s case, the government may end up getting Trump on taxes rather than for crimes raised in a sedition conspiracy.

Living the Tragedy

“Boy, did Donald Trump blow it,” argued Molly Roberts in a Washington Post op-ed. “There he was, poised to gallop off into the sunset with his lost-cause mythology and his claims of a rigged election more or less intact.” Inciting an armed uprising at the Capitol changed that, far eclipsing any would-be achievements.

Trump only saw Trump stock rising and falling in the pandemic, in economics, in trade, in international relations and in election-related acts that neared and broke ethical and actual legal standards. But that shouldn’t have blinded the rest of us – including the Republicans in Congress who chose time after time to look away.

The Capitol attacks affirmed Trump as criminal. The failure to act to protect Congress made Trump unfit for office.

Insistence that he did nothing wrong, that impeachment was part of a long hoax and that he shouldn’t be impeached for inciting violence because doing so might prompt new violence were all absurd. These views prove he never cared about the fate of the nation, only himself.

Just how cockeyed things have become was epitomized by Republican attacks on Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). Head of the GOP House caucus, she broke with the orthodoxy to cite the obvious truth of Trump’s disqualifications.

Indeed her argument was concise and sharper than most: “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of attack.”

Still, her defection and the apparent signal from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) that he is open to impeachment brought 10 Republican votes, but not a flood, to an officially bipartisan vote.

That the impeachment widely was perceived as partisan was seen in Fox & Friends comments that similar actions by a Democratic president definitely would result in impeachment.

Consider remarks by Rep. Bonnie Winston Coleman (D-N.J.), who just tested positive for coronavirus. Republicans with whom she was kept in a Capitol bunker during the attack refused to wear proffered masks.

She said, “When I say that many Republicans are responsible for what happened to me, to others and to the country last week, I mean their essential failure to accept facts led us here.” They were as blind to election results as to COVID-19 risks, she added.

Republican congressmen were even resisting newly installed metal detectors set up to keep Congress itself safer.

What’s the Message?

Erwin Chemerinsky, a University of California law professor often weighing in public disputes, noted in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that this impeachment is sending the wrong message as a rushed vote to punch rather than effectively to remove Trump from office.

But that is the whole point. Under other circumstances, there might be the luxury of a better-paced review of what Trump said and when. Remember Republican senators in last year’s impeachment trial refused to hear critical witnesses and evidence. Instead, last time, Republicans insisted that we leave judgment to the voters.

But we did that in November and Americans showed Trump to the exit. To all but Trump, to his mob swarming and trashing the Capitol and to party-bound Republican legislators who accepted a fantasy, the election was rejection.

Trumpists remained fixated on throwing out the results, even in the face of court decisions, recounts and now an attempt to unravel the Constitution.

This week, instant polls — granted flawed measurement tools —showed that 55% of those polled supported impeachment, with 40% of identified Republicans still supporting Trump as a 2024 candidate.

Our divisions persist.

While they argued yesterday for “healing” and “unity,” Trumpists instead committed crimes that have ranged from extorting state officials to “find” votes, ignoring Constitutional law governing elections and inciting and carrying out acts of domestic terrorism.

They need to stand to account for those crimes. The FBI is arresting hundreds identified by video to face charges. Lawyers and others in the obsession campaign are facing disbarment and possible charges. Trump should face up to his crimes as well.

Despite some of the arguments on the House floor, that is the real purpose of impeachment.

January 14, 2021