By Samantha Milewicz
Just after 1:00 pm on January 6, over eight-hundred rioters ransacked the Capitol. However, this was not a coincidence, but an event inspired by former President Trump. Earlier that day, at around noon, Trump took the stage at his “Save America” rally. He encouraged his supporters to give the Republican senators the “pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” This is just one of the many examples of provoking and terrorizing language Trump used to address his supporters. With this in mind, they began to make their march down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol. After breaking through the police barricades, rioters stormed the building. They ran through the historical halls, searching for congressman and former Vice President Pence, who they planned to hang because according to Trump, Pence, “did not have the courage to do what should have been done.”
Unfortunately, this event did result in five deaths, but luckily, no members of congress were physically harmed. Nevertheless, Trump is still at fault for the actions he incited, and as a result, the House of Representatives introduced an article of impeachment against Trump for his role in instigating the insurrection. On January 12, the House requested that Pence invoke the 25th Amendment, which states that if the president is unable to do his job, the vice president and Cabinet have a right to remove him. Despite all that happened, Pence refused. On January 13, the article of impeachment was passed with a vote of 232 to 197, with ten members of Trump’s party voting yea. Consequently, Trump became the first president to ever be impeached twice, setting yet another startling record.
After reaching a consensus between majority leader Chuck Schumer and minority leader Mitch McConnell, the date for the trial was set for February 9. However, on January 26, just before overseeing senators were sworn in, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky argued that the trial was unconstitutional because Trump no longer held office. This resulted in a vote on a motion to dismiss the trial, which was ultimately rejected in a 55-45 vote, with five Republicans siding with the Democrats in deciding the trial was constitutional.
Sophomore Kaela Newman agrees with the Senate’s decision. Kaela’s response to the same question senators were asked– Is the trial constitutional?– is, “Trump’s actions were considered to be incitement of insurrection, actions very eligible for impeachment. They were committed with two weeks left in office, leaving hardly enough time for an impeachment to occur while he still held office. It is completely unfair to say that Trump should not have been held accountable for his actions.” Although the Constitution does not specifically address impeaching a former president, it does state that officers should be convicted for treason, bribery, and other high crimes or misdemeanors. To Kaela and the majority of the Senate, inciting insurrection on your fellow government officials as well as violating the very document you swore to defend and protect is sufficient ground for impeachment. This also follows the precedent of the impeachment of Ulysses S. Grant’s Secretary of War, William Belknap, who submitted his resignation letter before the House could impeach him. Although Belknap was no longer holding office, he was still impeached by the House and tried by the Senate.
Before the trial began, the Senate requested that Trump testify, but that was immediately rejected by his lawyers. On February 9, the trial began after governing rules and procedures were decided. Prosecutors and Trump’s defense heavily debated whether a senate trial of a former president was constitutional; the Senate voted to proceed with the trial (56-44). On February 10, the oral arguments began, and each side presented their cases. While the House managers used ten of their sixteen-hour time allotment, Trump’s defense only used about three hours. Once the cases were argued, the Senate questioned both parties on February 12. The Senate voted to allow for witnesses to be called, but after a deal was established between the House managers and Trump’s defense, the request was dropped. Final arguments were made, and the Senate proceeded with their vote.
It is worth considering what the implications would be if Trump were convicted. The most commonly known and the biggest threat to his political future is that if Trump were convicted, the Senate could vote to bar him from ever holding office again. Additionally, Congress could decide to take away Trump’s 200k+ pension for life, million-dollar per year travel allowance, lifetime Secret Service detail, and more post-presidential benefits. It is also important to note that convicting Trump would have a symbolic value and set an important precedent. As Kaela said, “It is completely necessary to hold a president accountable for their actions.” Convicting Trump sends a message that inciting violence and breaking the law is unacceptable under any circumstance, and just because the official is no longer in office does not mean they are off the hook.
As predicted, the Senate did not reach the necessary sixty-seven votes to convict Trump. However, a staggering seven Republicans voted “guilty,” making it the most bipartisan impeachment trial in history. Included in these seven were Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Richard Burr (R-NC). These individuals originally voted that the trial was unconstitutional.
This trial will be one for the history books. In addition to its notable bipartisan record, it also resulted in Trump becoming the first president to ever be impeached twice. Despite being acquitted, this impeachment sent an important message to all Americans, especially Trump: no one, not even the president, is above the law.