That too is an achievement: Trump is the first US president to face two impeachment processes. If the Republicans aren’t careful, they could become his last victim.
Donald Trump made history again. He is the first president in US history to be impeached twice. On January 12, the House of Representatives had Vice President Mike Pence put the pistol on his chest: by way of the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution, Trump should be declared incapacitated within 24 hours. Pence refused on the grounds that impeachment was not in the best interests of the country. So the Democrats in the House of Representatives took matters into their own hands. Together with ten Republicans, they started the process of impeachment – impeachment.
As early as Monday, the Democrats brought a first complaint, the “Article of Impeachment”, against Trump. The accusation: inciting an uprising. What was meant was the storming of the Capitol on January 6th. The world was shocked to see a mix of right-wing conspiracy theorists, Nazis and evangelical militiamen riot in the hallowed halls of American democracy. Barricaded in the depths of the Capitol, the Democrats draft their indictment while the mob still roamed the halls. Your goal is to prevent Trump from ever being able to hold office again.
Anyone who remembers the impeachment of 2019/2020 will notice that the process that was carried out in the last three days lasted 65 days. It took the House of Representatives more than two months to conduct an investigation and hearings in 2019 and then to bring charges against Trump. These hearings are not explicitly provided for in the constitution. If they take place, they are supposed to build a case and increase the legitimacy of the impeachment. According to the Democrats, this is not necessary this time – the case is completely clear: Trump betrayed his oath of office on the constitution through his instigation and subsequent inaction during the storming of the Capitol. He was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors”, serious crimes and offenses.
After the indictment, there will be a trial in the Senate, in which the 100 senators act like juries in a traditional court case. A conviction requires a two-thirds majority of all senators who are in the chamber at the time of the vote. If everyone is in, 17 of their senators would have to vote to condemn Trump. But you can also get out of responsibility by simply not going. Then it would be easy for the Democrats to condemn him. Should that happen, the Senate can forbid Trump, with a simple majority, from ever holding office again.
A special feature of the process will be that Trump will no longer be an incumbent at the time of the process. This is also historical: So far, impeachment proceedings have only been carried out against incumbent presidents.
Lonely at the end
In his own party, Trump has lost the almost unreserved support he has enjoyed so far. Important advisors and ministers no longer speak to him; For the first time, close allies such as the powerful Republican majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, have turned against him. Before the vote on the impeachment, the Republican parliamentary group leadership in the House of Representatives had explicitly decided not to give their members any election recommendations. McConnell may even privately advocate impeachment. He could see this as an opportunity to remove the Trump system from the Republican Party. McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao had already resigned from her post as transport minister in Trump’s cabinet on Thursday. Moderate Republican MPs and Senators, who were already critical of Trump, are now openly expressing their criticism.
The break in power politics came with the loss of the Senate majority after the runoff election in Georgia. When Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue had to surrender their Senate seats to Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, even the most loyal Republicans realized: the Trump principle has lost its momentum. The storming of the Capitol last Wednesday could have been Trump’s political death knell.
The most powerful man in the world is largely alone today. Pence’s refusal to remove Trump from office on the basis of the 25th Amendment should not be misunderstood: this is more about saving one’s political career and Republicans from the wrath of Trump supporters than protecting the president .
Seven days of rest
Although all the signs are against Trump in the general political climate, impeachment will be more complicated than it looks. Because in seven days Joe Biden will be introduced to the presidency under the motto “America United”. As a sign of unity, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and Mike Pence will attend the ceremony. Immediately following impeachment proceedings against an ex-president, who was last elected by around 75 million citizens, runs counter to this attempt at reunification. Especially since there is an urgent need for economic stimulus and a strategic approach to the corona crisis. Issues that deserve full attention inside and outside Congress
The question now is how the process will actually take place. Mitch McConnell has not complied with the Democrats’ request to begin the Senate trial immediately. This responsibility rests with the future majority leader in the Senate, Democrat Chuck Schumer.
Schumer is in a bind. A highly polarizing case against an ex-president with millions of fanatical supporters would overshadow the start of Biden’s presidency. A close confidante of Biden therefore suggested that the impeachment procedure should only be carried out after the first 100 days of the term of office. However, this schedule is difficult to justify. If the Democrats are now indicting Trump with such urgency, why should they wait over three months to impeach the Senate? Of course, the political support is greatest while the wound is still fresh. Biden himself has therefore proposed dividing the Senate’s session days into two – half of the day the Senate should deal with its legislative proposals, the other half the impeachment process.
The ruin of the Grand Old Party?
Regardless of the reality of the impeachment itself, there are painful times ahead for Republicans. Your own president turned his supporters on you. He calls those who accuse him of this as traitors. When they return to their constituencies, they are attacked and threatened. Most recently, the mob in the Capitol chanted “Hang Mike Pence” because the latter had fulfilled his constitutional duty and, contrary to Trump’s wishes, had not collected the votes of the electorate. While the Republican MPs, Senators and the Vice President were barricaded in the Capitol, some of them fearing for their lives and that of their families, the President attacked them on Twitter.
Ordinary MPs enjoy no personal protection from the Secret Service. Since January 6, the cold fear of being physically harmed has been a real factor in the lives of those who dare to stand against Trump. The anger of the Republican establishment against Trump can be vividly imagined against this backdrop. But they too are partly to blame that it could come to this at all. They let Trump run free for too long; tolerated the progressive radicalization of their base for too long. They cannot get rid of the spirits who called them.
Large parts of the party apparatus are under the influence of Trump and his family. But the resistance is growing. If the Republicans do not break with Trump, there are important senators who have already announced their exit. That would drive the radicalization of the party further. Wednesday’s centrifugal forces have the potential to irrevocably tear the Republican party apart.
Trump likes to boast of his alleged accomplishments. With his two impeachment processes, he really became a record holder. In the end, he could also become the gravedigger of the former “Grand Old Party”. That would be really historic.
This is the slightly abbreviated version of an article that initially appeared on the Keep it Liberal website.