The House of Representatives has, not surprisingly, decided to impeach President Trump a second time. He thus becomes the first President in history to be impeached twice. Now we have to see whether the Senate takes up his trial before he leaves office, or whether it attempts to try him after he has already left office. But with so little time left, why is Congress even bothering?
Why Congress Cares
No one in the political establishment liked Trump. Before he ran for President, Democrats didn’t mind him. In fact, we all remember how the DC government bent over backwards to get Trump to take over the Old Post Office Pavilion and turn it into a Trump hotel. But once he ran for President as a Republican and won the nomination, they turned on him.
Republicans never liked Trump because he wasn’t part of the establishment. He was a crass, nouveau riche developer who didn’t put his time in like other Republican politicians, and so they didn’t take him seriously. Once he won the nomination, they didn’t know what to do, and the party remained conflicted about whether they should support him or reject him.
Even during Trump’s tenure as President, Republicans very often held their noses when supporting him, and now that they have an excuse to dump him, they’re taking advantage of it. That’s why Senator McConnell has expressed his willingness to hold a trial, hoping to expel Trump from the party and ensure that he has no political future.
Trump’s remaining supporters in Congress support him largely only because they realize that the Republican Party’s base still supports Trump, and that anyone crossing the base might face a strong primary challenge in two years. Those in leadership would just as soon get rid of him, but they don’t want to be too open about it lest they alienate Republican voters.
What Will Happen
Now that the House has impeached Trump, it’s uncertain if the Senate will take up the trial. The Senate isn’t expected to go back into session until January 19, and under Senate rules can’t consider the impeachment until 1PM on January 20, one hour after Biden will have been inaugurated. While there is speculation that the Senate may still try to go ahead with a trial, that’s something that would be unconstitutional.
As Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution states, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” How can you remove someone from office who is no longer in office? But Congress won’t let common sense or the Constitution get in the way of punishing Trump, so strong is their hatred for him.
The risk in treading too strongly on Trump is that of provoking a counter-reaction. Democrats think they have the upper hand right now, but anger is already growing at the treatment of Trump, the blatant censorship of conservatives online, and the fact that people are losing their jobs for attending a rally. If Democrats push too far, and Republicans become complicit with that, it could shake up the American political landscape in a way that no one expected.