As you turn your television sets on next week, you will hear trial managers from the House of Representatives presenting evidence against the former President of the United States in the U.S. Senate.
Let me make a few things clear to help you follow the proceedings.
First and foremost, the ex-president is not being “impeached.” He already has been, twice in fact. That won't change. It is etched into history.
Once an office holder is impeached, the only duty of the United States Senate is to have a trial to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. For the former president to be convicted, it requires a verdict of guilty by two-thirds of the Senate.
The duty of the House of Representatives, who voted to impeach, is to have a group of trial managers present evidence proving up the acts the former president is accused of. By now, you know what they are. He is accused in an article of impeachment of inciting a riot, engineering an insurrection, publicly and repeatedly falsifying the results of the presidential election, and intimidating a secretary of state to disobey the law.
By his words and deeds, acts and machinations, the former president is accused of inducing and inciting treasonous and traitorous acts. It is alleged they were purposeful and intentional, designed to obstruct congressional leaders from fulfilling their duties to certify the results of the presidential election held on November 3, 2020.
Unfortunately, 45 Republican Senators have already said the resident should not even be tried, since he is no longer holds the office of president. They suggest, without even reaching the merits, the president cannot even lawfully be convicted. They argue that since the penalty for impeachment is the removal of the president from office, and he is no longer in office, the trial can't go forth. The Democrats rejected that argument, and the trial will therefore proceed.
The reason the Democrats rejected that argument is removal from office is only one of the penalties of a conviction. If convicted at trial by a two-thirds majority of the Senate, the second option the Senate has is to sanction the former president by barring him from ever holding elective office again. Since this requires only a simple majority, the Democrats have the numbers to do that — if they all stand their ground and cast their votes accordingly.
Even if the Senate does not convict the former president, the Senate Democrats will use their slim tie-breaking majority to at least censure and condemn the president for engaging in insurrectionist acts. This is significant in many ways. You see, under Section 3 of the 14th amendment, the United States Senate has a right to bar from future office someone who "shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereto."
Accordingly, when the Democrats lose the trial because they won't get 67 votes to convict, they will say they still have a majority sufficient to implement this clause, which they will claim only requires a majority of the Senate. They have those votes, especially if a few Republicans join with them. You can reasonably expect that Mr. Trump's lawyers will argue otherwise. Now that issue will go to the Supreme Court for review. But you can bet your last dollar that the Democrats will most assuredly censure the ex-president in a second vote.
In the meantime, the words and deeds of the former president leading up to the events of Jan. 6 are admissible against him, dating back to his fraudulent statements of the election being rigged, his intimidation of Georgia's secretary of state, along with the fighting words he published on the Ellipse the day of Jan. 6.
One thing you should know is that you have more rights to “free speech” than the president. You are a citizen protected by the First Amendment. The president's duty is to uphold the oath and protect your rights to the same. When he swears to that oath, he swears that he will protect the common good ahead of his own interests. This he did not do.
The president's duty is to protect the government and the peaceful transfer of power, not subvert it. His own interests must yield to the right of the nation's. It is not just that he can't yell fire in a crowded theater. He cannot start the fire. This, to the shame of our nation, he did do. Even if he is found not guilty, it is why he should have been.
As time passes, we will see more evidence will come out that the president not only foresaw the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6, he wished them to be so. His pardoned friends, Stephen Bannon and Roger Stone included, had been warning and threatening the public for years that if the president was ever removed from office there would be riots in the streets. They did not do this in isolation.
By their rhetoric, they inspired others to do the same. They got their wish and nearly destroyed our democracy in doing so. The former president's delusional followers now will pay the price for his crimes, facing state and federal prison sentences for “following his orders.” Too bad. It didn't work for Nazi soldiers. It won't work for white supremacists and proud boys either.
The tragedy of the Trump presidency will stain us forever. This is the legacy of electing a con artist to the highest office of the land. We are lucky we have a country still standing. Now let us turn to fighting a pandemic, creating jobs, and a safer civilization, knowing always that a free press is not now and has never been an “enemy of the people.” It is the core of what holds our government accountable to truth and trust.