Last Wednesday the House of Representatives voted 217-192 to impeach President Trump for the second time, and according to the Constitution it now moves to the Senate to convict. While it only takes a majority of the House to impeach it takes a 2/3 vote of the Senate to convict and remove him from office.
While Presidents Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump were impeached, none of them were convicted and removed from office. This may change soon.
I hope so.
President Trump’s allies argue that he has only a few days left in office and there is no point in removing someone from an office that he no longer holds.
On its face it does make some sense, but I argue that he still needs to be removed.
President Trump continues to claim that he won the 2020 election and has been robbed of a second term. He and his allies claim that voter fraud, uncounted ballots, and various other conspiracy theories cheated him of his reelection. While he hasn’t conceded defeat he has claimed he will run again in 2024. A conviction will ensure this won’t happen as he will be barred from running from another office.
More importantly, a conviction will send the message that nobody, even the President, is above the law. Our Founding Fathers wrote volumes (not only in the Constitution but also in the Federalist Papers) that they didn’t choose to overthrow King George III only to replace him with a homegrown tyrant. It’s often said that the mark of a true democracy isn’t the inauguration of the the first President but the inauguration of our second President. In other words the peaceful transition of power from one President to another makes us a true nation of, by, and for the people.
Since this happened for the first time in 1800 (when George Washington passed the mantle to John Adams) it hasn’t always been easy and several times a current President has been forced to watch his successor take the oath of office when he lost his bid for reelection.
But for the most part the outgoing President has shown graciousness and a respect for our nation. President Trump ended this. Not only has he refused to accept the will of the voters he has demanded that others break the law to keep him in office.
I hope we’re all aware of his threat to the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (a Republican) that if he didn’t “find” 11,780 votes he would face criminal charges. Fortunately Mr. Raffensperger didn’t take his threat seriously.
But on January 7th it became much, much more serious. On that day Congress was set to meet to accept the electoral votes and certify that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were properly elected as President and Vice President. We’re learning more about this each day but I think we can all agree that President Trump emboldened his supporters to march on the Capitol and, frankly, occupy it. Not only did they wish to stop the certification they intended to keep President Trump in office.
Four years ago the majority of us voted for Hillary Clinton to lead us. She won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote (much like President Bush in 2000). We were hurt, angry, and afraid but we accepted the results and prayed that President Trump would govern better than we feared.
He didn’t. By any standard he made us worse and I have no desire to list his failures. But nobody can argue that he was unprepared for COVID-19. He blamed China, he blamed the Democrats, he made fun of those who wore masks, and refused to listen to the smartest people in the room.
President Trump hoped to follow the fascist playbook: Find a way to power and declare that yourself president for life. He hoped to whip up the mob to prevent Congress from certifying the election. And then he planned to stay. He had no mechanism to have the vote certified for him. He also presented no evidence of voter fraud.
He wished to be Donald the First. Gratefully he didn’t succeed. Now we must ensure he can’t make another attempt.