Within days of ending his term, Donald Trump faces what no other president in the United States does: his second impeachment trial. His unbridled speech of alleged electoral fraud, discarded by the courts, enlivened the support of his followers, but also condemned him in public opinion, accused of inciting the unprecedented attack on the Capitol, symbol of American democracy. Fact that marks the last days of a presidency plagued with scandals.
Three presidents have been impeached in the United States, but Donald Trump enters the records of history as the only one to face him twice.
True to his irreverent style, the outgoing president refused until the last days of his government to acknowledge defeat at the polls when he attempted a second consecutive term. Now charged with “inciting insurrection,” a week after encouraging his supporters who stormed the worst wave of violence on Capitol Hill, as congressmen formalized the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, Trump reaches his second impeachment, despite having only seven days left in the White House.
Most likely, the head of state will not be removed from office and will be able to complete his term on January 20. But beyond the possibility of leaving early, Trump’s main concern is the impact on his immediate political and financial future, according to four White House officials close to the president who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Impeachment is one of the most serious penalties in the Constitution against a president. The process is proceeding with extraordinary speed that tests the limits of Congress and marks the end of a presidential era riddled with scandals.
Since his first presidential campaign in 2016, Trump has been accused of further polarizing and dividing the country with his strong anti-immigration policies and more recently by his inaction in the face of the racially-tinged police abuses that sparked one of the worst waves of unrest and protests across the country.
Trump changes his tone and “unequivocally” condemns the violence on Capitol Hill
Contrary to his usual way of lashing out at the press, which he routinely calls “fake news,” against his political detractors and anyone who is opposed to his ideas, Trump changed the tone on Wednesday and condemned the violence on Capitol Hill. However, he dismissed any responsibility for what happened.
“I want to be very clear. I unequivocally condemn the violence we saw last week (…) The violence of a mob goes against everything I believe and against everything our movement represents, no true supporter of mine could have supported political violence, no true supporter of mine could have been missing respect for the administration of justice and our great American flag, “said the president in a video that was broadcast through the White House social networks, after his well-known personal Twitter account, in which he issued many of the most controversial statements throughout his presidency were suspended.
What’s next in the second impeachment for Donald Trump?
The next big step must be taken in the Senate, where the trial should take place to determine the guilt or innocence of the president.
There a two-thirds majority is needed among the 100 senators, meaning that at least 17 Republican lawmakers would have to join the indictments for there to be a final verdict against Donald Trump.
However, a great obstacle to the intentions of the Democrats is already in sight, as the leader of the Republican majority in the Upper House, Mitch McConnell even anticipated the vote in the Lower House to ensure that he will not use the emergency power to convene the Senate.
Therefore, McConnell assures that the trial could not begin until after the recess of the Senate, on January 19, just one day before Trump ends his term with the possession of the new president Joe Biden.
There would then be no time for any impeachment, but that does not mean that a former president cannot be tried. According to the consensus among scholars, it is constitutional to hold a “late impeachment.”
Trump was acquitted in 2020 of his first impeachment, charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, thanks to the Senate, with a Republican majority. But this time, when several members of his own political party turned their backs on him by claiming that he committed punishable crimes, Trump has his political future in suspense.
Now, the biggest consequence for the tycoon could be to disqualify him from re-occupying the Presidency. If the Senate condemns it, the Constitution allows a subsequent vote to prevent an official from occupying “any position of honor or trust in the United States.”
To be endorsed, it requires only a simple majority in the Upper House. That step is attractive not only for the blue bench, but also for many Republicans who have their eyes set on the Presidency and believe that this would be the only way to eliminate Trump as an active member of the party and his intentions to return to the House Blanca with the 2024 elections.
With Reuters, AP and local media