President Donald Trump is apparently such a threat to the Democratic Party and the wider, entrenched political establishment that he must be impeached for a second time. The first go-around was somewhat absurd, and the second attempt is shaping up to be no less so. Still, with less than two weeks until Trump is scheduled to leave office, impeachment 2.0 will be coming to a television screen near you, possibly within the next few days.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Sunday night that House Democrats are prepared to vote on the impeachment of the president for inciting violence at the Capitol on January 6. One article of impeachment has already been drawn up. The charge against the president is incitement of insurrection. Though it is not entirely clear how such a charge would hold up in a court of law, it is worth remembering that impeachment has very little to do with the U.S. legal code, facts, or fairness.
Drama Queen Pelosi
In a letter to House Democrats, the speaker, in a tone so overly dramatic that it would be enough to make any sane person’s eyes roll, laid out her justification for green-lighting the proceeding. “As the days go by,” she wrote, “the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so the immediate need for action.”
This is the woman who uttered not a word of fear, anger, outrage, nor even mild irritation as American cities burned and mobs bent on violence and destruction looted and ransacked their way across areas of the country for many weeks during the summer of 2020. Even though federal courthouses and police precincts were set ablaze and subject to days-long sieges, Pelosi gave no thought to attacks upon the nation’s democracy.
Now – and duly recognizing the tragic deaths of five people – windows at the Capitol Building get broken, and the speaker believes the country is on the verge of collapse. Then again, Pelosi’s laptop was reportedly stolen from her office, so, for her, things could be as dire as she claims.
The 25th Option
The Democratic leader said that her party’s preferred response to the January 6 incident is for Vice President Mike Pence to remove Mr. Trump from office by invoking the 25th Amendment. There are conflicting reports about whether he would be willing to do so, but it is unlikely. No matter how the president’s enemies want to spin the situation, Trump has displayed no signs that he is either mentally or physically incapable of continuing to perform the duties of his office.
Even so, it appears that the 25th Amendment option will be attempted first. It puts Pence in a difficult position. Should he refuse to invoke the 25th, Democrats will portray him as a traitor to the country. If he goes along with this, though, half the nation will consider him a traitor.
No Proof and No Time
Two problems lie between the president’s enemies and their desired outcome. The first is that it can only be subjectively argued that Trump incited any violence or unrest on the day Congress certified the result of the presidential election. Proof that he did so simply does not exist. During a speech Mr. Trump delivered on that day in Washington, he urged the crowd to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Even for those in Congress who so despise this president that they are willing to disregard the facts and ignore the truth, this is a formidable obstacle to overcome. In a Senate trial, the president would be entitled to legal representation, and indisputable evidence that he urged the crowd to peacefully protest will be presented.
Of course, the trial itself presents another problem. According to Mitch McConnell, the earliest possible date and time for a trial is the afternoon of January 20 – by which time Joe Biden would already have been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
Not wanting to give Senate Republicans a reason to make life difficult for Biden’s cabinet nominees, some Democrats are even talking about not transmitting the article of impeachment to the Senate until after Biden’s first 100 days in office.
Despite being no fan of Trump, it is not clear how Chief Justice John Roberts would feel about presiding over the impeachment trial of a president who no longer holds office. If this entire crazy enterprise were to play out the way Trump’s detractors hope it will, the very concept and mechanism of impeachment would be rendered meaningless, and Congress would have entered a new phase in its existence where rules and law no longer have any relevance.
If there were ever a horrific assault on American democracy, it is happening now. It is being conducted by lawless people who so hate and fear this president that they are determined to ensure he is never again able to run for office.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.