Donald Trump richly deserves the ignominy of being the first president ever to be twice impeached. His behavior has been effectively seditious, and he has been derelict in his sworn duty.
Some of us think the House erred in how it drafted the article of impeachment. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a Republican who bravely stood against Trump in the past few months, argued that he would have voted to impeach if the right charge had been brought, but he could not do so for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s poorly aimed attempt. Roy’s concerns are valid.
Still, ample grounds did exist to impeach Trump. Ample grounds abound for the Senate to convict him and make him ineligible for any future office in the federal government.
The proper ground for Trump’s second impeachment is his pattern and practice of undermining the constitutional system itself, starting with his behavior immediately after the Electoral College met and voted in each individual state and continuing through his actions immediately before, during, and after the assault on the Capitol.
Trump not only refused to accept the duly certified votes of the state electors, an unprecedented act for a president, but he also continued to spread flagrant lies about those votes and about the system. He told his followers that their sense of having been betrayed by vote fraud gave them leave to ignore ordinary constitutional and statutory processes.
He repeatedly tried what amounts to vote fraud himself, by pressuring Georgia officials and others to “find” him votes that weren’t there or to eliminate counted votes without proving they were illegal. For weeks, he encouraged his rabid supporters to rally in Washington on Jan. 6 as a way to influence Congress to ignore its constitutional duty by rejecting the duly certified votes. He spoke in inciteful language, saying the rally would be “wild.”
Trump pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, repeatedly and harshly, in private and in public, to assert clearly unconstitutional, unilateral authority to reject the duly certified votes. Then he vociferously denigrated Pence as a mob chanted angrily in front of him. Once the attack already was underway and some in the mob were chanting for Pence to be hanged, Trump issued a nasty tweet, encouraging further fury at Pence by calling him a coward.
Throughout his rally speech, Trump used the language of force and violence. He did it specifically as a way to pressure Congress not to do its duty, but instead to take action violative of relevant statutes and the constitutional design.
Then, as the assault occurred in wave after wave, Trump was reportedly watching on TV, enthralled and even excited by it. According to accounts too numerous to dismiss, including that of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Trump repeatedly ignored strong entreaties for him to intervene to save the Capitol and the lawmakers inside, including Pence, as they were under mortal threat. He refused to take concrete action. He refused to denounce the rioters. He even refused to tell them to leave the Capitol.
Four hours into the assault, he put another post on Twitter that expressed empathy for the rioters.
This failure to act to protect the nation’s most sacred civic site, the U.S. Capitol, in itself overwhelmingly merited impeachment and removal. After, and in context of, all his actions ahead of time, it produces a continuum that had the effect, if not the exact legal aspects of sedition.
The man is a menace, and he must be forever banned from public office.