Another record for the man who is everything. Donald Trump is now the only person to have been impeached twice by the House of Representatives. And whether or not he is found guilty when tried by the Senate, he also has the distinction of being a president of the United States accused by a bipartisan coalition. Ten Republican House members voted to impeach the titular head of their party. Four others abstained from the vote.
It is not difficult to see why. The impeachment came one week after a violent mob, encouraged by Trump, came to Washington and attacked Congress in an attempt to keep it from counting the certified election results sent in by all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Trump, leader of the executive branch of government, was demanding the mob stop the legislative branch from performing its constitutional and statutory function and instead disenfranchise millions of voters and install Trump as a literal dictator for another term as president.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack…. There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Not my words. Nor those of a Democrat. Those are the words of Representative Liz Cheney, the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House.
And why not? Just before the mob broke through the police lines surrounding the Capitol, Trump himself had addressed them outside the White House, “We’ve got to get rid of the weak congresspeople,” Trump ranted, “the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world, we got to get rid of them. He urged his followers to march on Congress “Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
Trump also told the mob how disappointed he was in Vice-President Mike Pence, who had promised to fulfill his constitutional duty and announce the election of Joe Biden as the next president. By the time the mob was marauding through the Capitol halls, they were chanting, “Hang Mike Pence” and “Where’s Nancy,” a reference the Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House. They got within 100 feet of where Pence and his family were being guarded by the Secret Service.
No sooner had the halls of Congress been secured than Trump loyalists, more than one hundred in the House and a handful in the Senate, voted to reject the ballots on the false assertion that they were invalid. Passionate speeches were given by these insurrectionists contending, as Trump had been falsely asserting since before the election, that he could not lose unless the election was “stolen.”
So for those who ask, “Why Bother?” to impeach a man who will be out of office before he can be tried, the first answer is to show the world that the liars and seditionists both outside and in the government did not succeed. The indictment in the House speaks for itself. And even if it proves impossible to muster the 17 Republican votes in the Senate to produce the first conviction of a treasonous president in the nation’s history. The crime is too severe to be dismissed without taking action.
And there is another matter. Trump loyalists argue that the Senate trial, coming after the end of his term, is unnecessary, “moot” in legal terms. That expression is used for a case before a court where the decision of the court will have no impact. But while it is true you cannot remove from office a president whose term has already expired, there is a second consequence to an impeachment and guilty verdict. Only after a guilty verdict can a second vote be taken barring Trump from ever holding federal office again. For Trump, insisting he has been cheated and floating a trial balloon about running for a second term in 2024, this second punishment is necessary and remains relevant even after the expiration of his first term. A guilty verdict is also required to deny Trump a taxpayer funded retirement. And to deny Trump access to classified materials, something a cash short former president might be willing to pass on to enemies of the United States.
These votes will also put Republicans on record, and that record will be a great value to Republicans as they contemplate the future of their party.
“Difficult to see,” said the great sage, Yoda. “Always in motion is the future.”
First and foremost, we have to get through Inauguration Day, January 20th. With 25,000 national guard soldiers, many carrying live ammunition, deployed around Washington, it seems unlikely that a mob of insurrectionists will get close to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Although there are some footnotes here that give one pause. We have heard that the guard members will be carefully vetted after reports that past and off-duty servicemen and women were in the mob that attacked the Capitol. And we have all read the extraordinary letter written by the generals in command of our armed forces, reminding the rank and file of their responsibility to defend the Constitution and reiterating that Joe Biden is the legally elected new command-in-chief.
But beyond that, the investigation into the January 6th mob attack must continue. While many, probably a majority, of the mob were Trump supporters driven to attend individually, there were also organized groups involved. Some of these are the usual domestic terrorists who surface from time to time in America, the Weather Underground (1969), The Symbionese Liberation Army ( 1973), the Unabomber (1978), Waco (1993), Oklahoma City (1995), I’ve given up trying to remember them all.
But others are established Republican organizations, The Republican Attorneys General Association, Turning Point Action and Tea Party Patriots. At least six current or former members of the Council for National Policy (CNP), an influential group that for decades has served as a hub for conservative and Christian activists, also played roles in promoting the rally.
And still others are active Republican public officials, including members of Congress itself! Mikie Sherrill , Democratic Representative for my New Jersey district and a 10 year veteran of the United States Navy, in a 13-minute Facebook video directed to her constituents, said she witnessed colleagues escorting people through the Capitol on Jan. 5 for what she described as “reconnaissance” ahead of the next day’s violent insurrection that left five dead. She says she has turned over her information to investigators.
And she is not the only member of Congress to suspect some of her colleagues of assisting the insurrectionists. In the aftermath of the mob attack, several Republican members protested increased security. Many went around the metal detectors installed at the door of the House chamber, defying the orders of the Sargent at Arms and the Capitol Police.
Lauren Boebert, a gun-rights activist and devotee of the conspiracy theory QAnon organization, won election to Congress from Colorado’s 3rd district. Boebert owns a restaurant where staff openly carry weapons. She also has a rap-sheet for multiple arrests. She has sworn that she will carry her Glock pistol into the Capitol, and the day after the mob attack, she went around the metal detector after refusing the request from Capitol Police officers that she allow them to inspect her purse.
As fearful as I am of Biden being shot from the crowd in front of him during the inauguration, I am equally afraid he will be shot in the back by someone in the distinguished guests seating area behind him.