Opinion: The Senate must convict Trump after he has left office



After a chaotic presidential transition, the Senate will be tasked with judging whether or not soon-to-be-former President Trump is guilty of incitement of insurrection.

It is never a good thing to see a president impeached, let alone convicted. It means that the president failed their duties and oath of office. 

As Americans, we all root for the success of our president. Even the most ideological and partisan individuals see the president’s success as vital to that of the nation. We may all have a different perception of success, but we all hope for it.

President Trump has failed his oath and the country. Chaos and division have been the hallmark of the Trump presidency. Yet, that is not enough to impeach or convict. Key policy failures like the handling of the COVID-19 epidemic also drench his presidency but do not necessarily warrant impeachment, as the Constitution reserves impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It is intentionally vague, allowing Congress to fill the definition. 

After proclaiming baseless claims of voter fraud, something his lawyers don’t even argue in court, Trump incited an insurrection against the United States Congress. He told his supporters to go down to the Capital and “fight like hell.” On its own, any apologist can argue hyperbole, but Trump platformed his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who called for “trial by combat.” Coupled with “fight like hell,” a pattern of clear intent emerges. 

Trump was impeached on two separate occasions for a total of 3 articles (accusations of a crime). In the first go-around, he was impeached for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The first impeachment was a mostly party-line vote, with a few Democrats in the House diverging from the party. The second impeachment with the single article for incitement of insurrection was the most bipartisan impeachment in American history, with 10 Republicans breaking ranks and voting with the Democrats. 

You may think: “Didn’t the last impeachment trial fail to convict? What makes this one different?” The answer is simple, there has been a reckoning in Congress, but it is much more pronounced in the Senate than the House.

After the capital riot, the Senate voted down the objection to Arizona’s electoral votes, 93-6 (with half of the Senators withdrawing their objections). By contrast, a clear majority of the House Republican caucus voted for the doomed measure. 

The highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is undecided on whether or not he would convict Trump. McConnell’s position will be critical in whether or not the Democratic majority will attain the 67 votes needed to convict.

The trial will only occur after Trump has left office. Historically, there is precedent for this: in 1876, Secretary of War William Belknap resigned with his impeachment by the House imminent, but the Senate decided to go forward with his trial. However, he was ultimately acquitted.

Much of the American legal system operates under precedent, the idea that decisions in the past are used as a framework for our future. The term limits set on Presidents were initially the precedent set by George Washington and were mostly followed until their ratification under the 22nd amendment in 1951. We do not have the privilege of hoping that another president will conform to the previous norm after being torn apart by Trump’s actions on Jan. 6. 

As the Senate enters the inevitable trial, we Americans have one question to ask ourselves: do we want future Presidents to be above our laws, or do we want to hold everyone equal and accountable in the eyes of justice?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email