Donald Trump will go down in history as the only president to face two impeachments or impeachment. You can even become the first president of the United States to suffer that impeachment once I am a former president. Because unlike the previous Senate trials against Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump, this time time is a determining factor, since in a week the president-elect, Joe Biden, will be sworn in on the steps of the Congress and Trump will leave power at noon on the 20th.
The political environment is very different from impeachment that Trump faced in 2019. Then the Republicans were a seamless monolithic force – with the sole exception of Senator Mitt Romney. On this occasion, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he believes that the best way to get Trumpism out of the Republican Party would be by subjecting the president to a impeachment. Trump would be tried for “incitement to insurrection.”
The mission of the House of Representatives this Wednesday was: to approve the procedural rule that defined the impeachment, a purely mechanical matter. Second, vote for or against. The vote had to go through because only a simple majority is needed and the House is in the hands of Democrats. From there everything is new compared to the previous trials of modern times, whether it was Clinton’s or Trump himself. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, must then decide when to send the proposal for impeachment to the Senate, since under the current calendar the Upper House is in recess until next day 19.
The only way the Senate would resume its sessions would be if the leaders of both parties, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, agreed to return earlier than the calendar. In this section, some Democrats had asked Pelosi to delay the start of the impeachment to allow Joe Biden to begin his term without such a burden hanging over his head, which would also slow down the confirmation of his Cabinet. Others demanded that it begin immediately. If the words of this Wednesday of the leader of the majority in the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer, are confirmed, once the articles of the impeachment they will be sent immediately to the Senate, where the second trial of Trump will take place. This would clear up doubts about whether Democrats would wait for President-elect Biden’s first 100 days in the White House to execute the trial and thus not interfere with his agenda. However, according to several American newspapers, McConnell will not convene the Senate during the recess, so the process will surely happen after Trump has left the White House.
In a normal atmosphere, not after the assault on Congress and with the National Guard deployed inside the Capitol, there would be an investigation that would be sent to the House Justice Committee, which would hold endless hearings in which hundreds of articles would be written to to be approved. This is what happened in 2019 when Trump was tried for his collusion with the president of Ukraine. That inquiry took three months. The trial against Clinton began on December 19, 1998 and concluded with his acquittal on February 12 of the following year.
However, there is a precedent for a impeachment express. In 1868, the House took just three days to prosecute President Andrew Johnson to prevent him from violating a law that prevented him from firing the Secretary of War. The Chamber then terminated the articles relating to impeachment once the president had already been tried – and acquitted. Bottom line: the House can move as fast as Democratic leaders want.
Once the proposal of impeachment pass to the Senate, which is where the president is judged, it is extremely important to remember that the impeachment It comes at a time of both presidential and senatorial transition. Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff took victory in the Georgia special election held last day 5 but because the results have not been certified yet, they have not been sworn in, so Mitch McConnell remains the leader of the majority in the upper house. The 22nd is the deadline for Georgia to legalize the votes.
If both senators are sworn in while Trump is still president, the Senate would split 50-50 and it would be Vice President Mike Pence who would break a tie in favor of the Republicans. Only after Vice President Kamala Harris – and Georgia senators – pledged their seat, would the Democrats take control of the Senate. Again, time plays against the Democrats, and until the 20th, and even a few days later, it is McConnell and the Republicans who decide what to do in the Senate, which means they decide whether and how to start the trial ( for example, how much time is spent, if witnesses are called or not …)
Among the obstacles to Trump being convicted of an insurrection – and therefore unable to return to public office – is the fact that he must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Despite the fact that several Republican voices advocate punishing Trump, 17 would be needed upon reaching the Senate, which makes a conviction very difficult. Added to this is the question of whether a Senate can impeach a president who is no longer in office.
The question on which the experts cited by the North American media are divided is: Can the Senate conduct a impeachment against a president who is no longer in office? In this regard, there are those who argue that a former president is already a normal and ordinary citizen and that the figure of impeachment is not written for those cases. Others reason that the objective is to obtain that the defendant is prohibited from running for the White House – or other instances of the Government – in the future. The Constitution does not give clear answers in this regard.
While this is happening, can Trump attempt any maneuvers, such as declaring martial law or ordering a new election, as his ally Michael Flynn suggested? Despite the fact that after the insurrection, the president promised to respect the transition of power, no one can guarantee that he will comply with it. For this reason, a large majority of Democratic legislators believe that the president cannot be trusted to play fair, which is why they are calling for his immediate removal.
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