The impeachment, if it ends in conviction which will be a first in US history, is bound to affect the institution of the American presidency.
Even as I write this on Wednesday, there is an impeachment afoot. The House sent Vice President Mike Pence a strong request for the White House to evoke the 25th Amendment which allows a majority of Trump’s administrators to declare him unfit to govern, and remove him from the presidency in its last week. Apparently, Pence rebuffed calls from Speaker Nancy Pelosy and other Democrats to do so. “I do not believe such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with the Constitution,” Pence wrote in a letter to Pelosi. “Last week, I did not yield to pressure to exert beyond my constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our nation,” he added.
Superficially, Pence has a point. The U.S. has never removed a president. Three, including President Trump, have been impeached. The 25th Amendment has never been applied to end a president’s tenure. To do so now, when the outcome of the 2020 presidential election is finally settled, and Joe Biden’s swearing-in is next week, may set a dangerous precedent; and may, as Mike Pence fears, plunge us in an even bigger chaos, possibly accompanied by violence and mayhem.
Still, it’s got to be done.
No president has ever tried to openly and so passionately provokes such vast millions to rebel, after months of claiming that he has been unfairly and illegally cheated out of office. Thousands of Trump protesters stormed the Capitol building at his behest. What was expected to be a peaceful protest, showing support for an outgoing president, turned out to be a deliberate attack on one of our most sacred democratic processes. The joint Congress was in the act of certifying the Electoral College results and declare Joe Biden and Kamala Harris president and Vice President elect. Live, in front of our eyes, we saw Trumpers storm the Capitol. Slogans turned to sleuth; formality to fight. A fight to war. Horrified, we saw our Capital desecrated, its doors battered, windows shattered, and scores hurt. There were demands for the ouster of Nancy Pelosi, and ugly, loud cries for Mike Pence’s head. On the floor of the Capitol we saw a young woman dying, lying in her own pool of blood.
We saw all this. The whole world watched.
So this is not “political games.” It is our nation’s elected officials’ sole responsibility to take appropriate action so that something like this NEVER happens again, to ensure that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States. What Mike Pence is dismissing as merely “political games,” is much, much more serious. In 2019, Donald Trump rocked the Constitution by attempting to connive with the government of Ukraine to implicate his main political rival, Joe Biden, in corruption. The Constitution forbids anyone from colluding with a foreign power to influence the politics of one’s own country. Trump was guilty of that. He was impeached, but the Senate in its partisan wisdom, acquitted him. This time, for reasons purely personal, he has incited his millions of supporters to rise violently against their own country. This is treason, if ever there was one. How can Mike Pence, or for that matter the Senate let Donald Trump get away with it this time?
They cannot. And this time around, folks in Washington appear to be in no mood to forgive. Take Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority leader for example. Hitherto, he had been steadfastly leading the House Minority in support of the president. In the last impeachment process, not a single Republican had voted for Trump’s impeachment. But this time, the offence is so much more serious that more and more Republicans are moving away from the president. The relationship between McCarthy and Trump is deteriorating rapidly because of what the latter’s supporters did last Wednesday. Kevin McCarthy, who has come under broad criticism for how he handled last week’s events, reportedly sparred with the president on Monday when Trump floated the conspiracy that it was antifa (a fascist group allegedly favoring Joe Biden), and not right-wing extremists and his own supporters, who stormed the Capitol last week. McCarthy told Trump that that was not the case, according to Axios. The House Minority leader then wrote a letter to the House Republicans not to spread the “disinformation” regarding Antifa.
Comprehend the change in the Capitol, if you will, from last week at this time when the joint session of Congress was in the process of certifying Joe Biden to be president, and today. More and more Republicans are joining the pro-impeachment movement. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, has also cast her lot to impeach him.
Multiple Republicans are expected to side with Democrats to impeach Trump for “willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” House GOP leadership is not lobbying members to vote against the impeachment article in another clear sign of the growing differences.
Donald Trump has surrounded himself with loyalists who are willing to tell him what he wants to hear, according to two people familiar with the matter. “They told him lies and gave him false hope about the election and clearly we saw what that went to on Wednesday and the consequences of that,” said one former White House official.
He has shown no regret for his remarks in the months, weeks, days, hours and minutes leading up to the attack, which are widely seen as having encouraged a riot. Trump told supporters at an event near the White House hours before the Capitol was attacked that they were going to walk down to the Capitol and that “you’ll never take back our country with weakness.” On Tuesday, he said his remarks were “totally appropriate.”
Yes, Donald Trump needs to be impeached. He needs to be convicted and removed from Office. Most importantly, since just a week remains of his tenure, he needs to be banned for life from running or ever holding public office again. There is no trusting a man who exists solely for his own selfish interests, and who can do anything, cause anything, just to achieve his own ends. With Mitch McConnel’s saying that Trump’s offences are, indeed, impeachable, there is a distinct possibility that Trump will be impeached a second time in the House, and convicted in the Senate.
The impeachment, if it ends in conviction, might also affect the institution of the American presidency. A first in history of such import is bound to influence history itself. Remember, what happened to the English monarchy after Oliver Cromwell used the government to execute Charles I in 1649. Monarchy was permanently weakened, and parliamentary democracy began to take firmer and firmer roots until Britain is what it is today. Will the second impeachment of Trump unwittingly strengthen Congress too much, affecting the system of checks and balances the Constitution provides for us?
We have to be ready, but Trump needs to be convicted.
Shivaji Sengupta is a retired Professor of English at Boricua College,
New York City. He has a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from
Columbia University. He has been a regular contributor to
The South Asian Times and to other
newspapers. He is a member of the
Brookhaven Town Democratic