Trump’s Impeachment Trials

The trial that America is watching has been waiting for. 

Written by Steve Muir / Illustration by Margarita Gonzalez Pondal

Donald Trump has made history as the first president to be impeached twice. The trial, which began on February 8th of this year, will also be the first impeachment trial to take place after the impeached president’s term has ended.

Some are concerned that this poses some questions about precedent, but it’s actually not the first time an impeachment has come after the impeached parties term has ended. William Belknap, although a senator and not a president, was impeached in 1876 after he had already resigned. Additionally, there are purposes to impeachment besides ejecting the impeached party from their current office; one possible consequence of conviction is being barred from holding further public office. If all one had to do to be eligible to run for office again after an impeachable offense was to resign before the House and Senate had time to vote, this consequence would have almost no teeth at all.

So, having established that, why is he being impeached in the first place?

The official charge against him is “incitement of insurrection,” the insurrection in question being the January 6th storming of the Capitol building. Trump gave a speech in DC earlier that day, possibly whipping the crowd up about what he called a stolen election: “We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal”. In this speech, he also used language that dissuaded those in the crowd from fact checking him or seeking out other sources, such as “Our media is not free. It’s not fair. It suppresses thought. It suppresses speech, and it’s become the enemy of the people. It’s become the enemy of the people. It’s the biggest problem we have in this country” (Transcription of speech taken from NPR). He ended his address by inviting his supporters to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. While not a direct request for them to storm it, the over hour long speech preceding that statement wandered from discussing his claims of election fraud to the perceived weakness of the democrats and even of some fellow republicans, and frequently touched on the idea that the fight for the “Make America Great Again movement” - and thereby his presidency - was not over. It’s safe to say that while this speech, and the ensuing events, were definitely the last straw, it wasn’t the only one. His rhetoric had been amping up for a very long time proceeding this. Joe Biden, sworn in only fourteen days after the aforementioned insurrection, will be attempting to reverse some of this rhetoric at least on a federal level.

One last snag: with the impeachment trial that began in February, it will take place during Biden’s first 100 days. The first 100 days of a presidency is often thought of as setting the tone, and usually regarded as a way to gauge if the person elected will follow through on campaign promises. Biden’s first 100 days will hopefully be marked with COVID-19 relief bills and other measures aimed at repairing the current state of the US; but they will also be marked with a Senate tied up in impeachment proceedings, potentially making it difficult to pass legislation at all.

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