Trump impeachment DOA?
Herb Boyd | 1/28/2021, midnight
Minutes after U.S. senators were sworn in as jurors on the impeachment trial of Trump on Tuesday, Jan. 26, it was assured he would be acquitted. Along partisan lines, as in the first impeachment of Trump, 45 Republican senators voted that the trial was unconstitutional. The vote was raised from a point of order by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Since Trump is no longer the president several GOP lawmakers have insisted that to impeach him has no constitutional grounds. Many legal scholars support the view, but there are others who contend that Trump’s leaving office sets a precedent of escaping accountability.
Yale Law School professor Akhil Reed Amar, speaking on NPR, rejected the GOP’s argument. “You want to give someone a get ‘get-out-jail free card’ at the end of administration so they can do anything they like and be immune from the high court of impeachment?” He said that the Republicans’ position made no sense at all.
There is, however, a precedent for the impeachment of a former official. In 1876, the House impeached Secretary of War William Belknap after he resigned. Belknap was President Ulysses Grant’s secretary of war and was accused of committing improprieties in his administration of government contracts. After his resignation, the Committee on the Judiciary proceeded to draft articles of impeachment, which were approved by the full House.
A majority of the senators voted to convict Belknap, but they failed to get the required two-thirds majority, so he was acquitted.
That appears to be the scenario on tap for Trump, and the Democrats may have to settle for the mere fact that Trump is stained by being the first president impeached twice.
Whether the trial is constitutional or not will be a source of debate prior to Feb. 9 and beyond, the date set for the trial to begin. “The Senate will conduct a trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “It will be a full trial, it will be a fair trial.”