Part of the justification for impeaching Donald Trump is that he violated a hallowed democratic principle in place since the republic’s founding. The “peaceful transfer of power” won’t happen in 2021 because Trump fomented for months what culminated in last week’s violent and deadly attack inside the Capitol. This is a tragedy for the nation.
On Wednesday, Trump paid a price for breaching his constitutional responsibilities and putting the country’s safety and stability in danger. He was impeached by the House; he became the first president to be so dishonored two times. Trump is a failed leader not fit to serve. If he lasts his final days in office without causing more chaos, America will be lucky.
Expelling a president from office isn’t an easy task, nor should it be. Because Trump is unlikely to resign, we supported invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him, an option that appears remote. Also off the table, apparently, is a Senate trial that would remove the president from office in his final days if he is convicted. That’s OK. We’re still heartened the House took action. The threat of trial could be enough to keep Trump’s behavior in check.
Impeachment also could serve an important purpose beyond the end of Trump’s term: Constitutional scholars suggest Congress would have avenues to pursue during Biden’s presidency to bar Trump from a future second term. No one knows for certain because the United States has never before had to reckon with a twice-impeached-in-one-term president.
The primary reason for impeachment is to hold Trump accountable for the grave damage he has caused, and to deliver a clear affirmation to future generations that Americans will never tolerate a rogue president. Trump in his last months in office did much worse than defy normal behavior or even abuse his powers, as he did when he attempted to coerce Ukraine’s president to investigate Hunter Biden.
Trump’s bevy of sins is that he misled the American people, repeatedly and relentlessly, about the integrity of their system of government, insisting that the election he lost fair and square had been rigged. Then on Jan. 6, he whipped his supporters into a frenzy during a 90-minute denouncement of the election that culminated in the deadly invasion of the halls of Congress during the counting of the electoral votes.
Democrats are unified in seeking to punish Trump, but some principled Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, also supported impeachment. They know a menace when they see one and recognize there are moments when politics must be put aside to stand up for what’s right.
Kinzinger said Wednesday that Trump’s Jan. 6 speech to supporters represented a dark call to action that incited the mob. “The reality is, if this is not impeachable, short of a murder on national television by the president, I don’t know what is.”
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican, also supported impeachment. She pinpointed the moment Trump committed his worst transgression: When he failed to stop the assault. “The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence,” she said. “He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
For all of these sins, Trumps deserves his punishment.
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