It’s hard to not take note of the broad range of opinion of people who have the power bestowed upon them to make such decisions about whether to impeach a president for his role in the riot and brief overrun of the Capitol building last week or, in this case, since impeachment is already done, whether a trial in the Senate is warranted. But I’ve picked out some specific comments I’ve heard this weekend to write about here.
Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News this morning to talk about a letter he wrote to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the incoming majority leader, regarding the unconstitutionality of the articles of impeachment that were handed down by the House last week, asking him to review whether a trial was warranted.
Graham asserted that the impeachment procedure used by the House was unconditional as Trump was afforded no opportunity to defend himself or present exculpatory evidence prior to the House vote on the Article.
I want to point out here that I am more historian by hobby, concentrated on antebellum United States; and I am not a constitutional lawyer, just well-read. My understanding of the impeachment process in the House is that it is kin to being indicted by a grand jury that determines whether there is enough evidence to change a person with some sort of criminality. It’s a manner of formally charging a person and is not a trial. Generally, in a grand jury proceeding, the defendant is not yet a defendant, does not get to present evidence or cross examine witnesses, and may or may not be called to testify. It is an entirely one-sided endeavor, and the old joke about being able to indict a bologna sandwich is well more than cliché.
Unless there is some rule among those for impeachment proceedings adopted by the House that says a president who is the subject of an impeachment must be allowed to answer to the charges before they are formally voted upon, since the power of impeachment is defined in the constitution in an absolute manner with no modifiers, Graham is likely incorrect on this point.
In addition to this, the Senate has no constitutional discretion in impeachment trials; and there is precedent for an impeachment trial after the subject has left office. In 1876 the Secretary of War under Ulysses S. Grant, William Belknap, resigned the same day of the impeachment on March 2 – and the trial commenced anyway. He was acquitted in August of the same year, even though he had admitted to committing the crimes for which he was impeached.
With these in mind I am either missing some important facts, or Graham has something of an agenda for which he is willing to sacrifice something or spin to convince others to sacrifice something, perhaps without understanding what it may be.
I probably do not need my next disclaimer, as many people are aware that I wanted Trump removed last year for what I saw as unstable and erratic behavior regarding policy choices that produced a discretionary death toll among allies. If that was something he could easily and abruptly do, leaving him where he was left me wondering what other gravely regrettable things he might do; and we saw yet more glibly endeavored policy choices that hit much closer to home after his acquittal. But I am putting this down here anyway. I don’t want anyone to take my word for anything. Look it up and read stuff – you should!
Of course, just because the House can do something, doesn’t mean it should do it. There are all kinds of other considerations to keep in mind when considering a course of action at this level of government, starting with the political environment of the present, and what impact actions today may have on posterity. It’s general wisdom.
In the most recent article, the article itself is simplistic, and the case against Trump is well outlined with nothing in it that the evidence for which hasn’t already been blasted across the broader media in digital video and recorded form. In these charges, there are no hearsay or vagaries regarding Trump’s seditious behavior that started the day the States certified their tallies of Electoral College votes in the absence of contrary orders from courts with justification over such certification.
If anything, the Article is too simple and may be missing many behaviors exhibited by Trump regarding the election’s outcome that can be categorized as sedition that should be included with posterity in mind, when we do not yet know the extent of his involvement or knowledge of the mob that attacked the Capitol. While such behavior by the President of the United States was previously unimaginable, Trump has exposed certain weakness in our tradition of expecting and assuming selflessness, integrity and grace when it’s time for the President to hand the reins over to someone else, we certainly do not want that president of the future scheming against the republic during a transition of power, when it is at its weakest, with impunity. He can’t be allowed to get away without consequence of his role in this mess or the next person with designing autocratic qualities will be the last gasp for the Republic. Those weaknesses must be remediated.
It’s my non-expert opinion that Trump is likely to end up getting the better end of the deal of impeachment and trial now, rather than putting accountability for his crimes off to some later date, even if he is convicted by the Senate; as the matter would then be of the past at that point. If not dealt with now by the people most apt to do so, he’ll be hounded with investigations, suspicions, and accusations of sedition and conspiracy for the rest of his life.
If, like me, you find the evidence against Trump compelling, you might also have an issue with Trump receiving perks afforded to all former presidents before him that include: a pension, security detail, special clearance, daily briefings, service personnel, special vehicles to travel in, etc.. If indeed found guilty, he can – and in my opinion, should – be stripped of these. He would not deserve them.
What concerns me most about the recent chatter from the talking heads is not being able to understand what they are trying to accomplish and for whom with the spin and lies. If one is a small ‘d’ democrat and a big ‘R’ republican by compunction, then spin and lies in this case don’t make sense because, in this case, the issue is longevity and survival of the Republic. It’s not about Trump. Trump just happens to be the autocratic bastard who tried to usurp the presidency the same way he obtains anything else he wants from the unwilling – bullying, violence and intimation. If they choose to defend Trump regardless of whether the republic survives, perhaps then, it is already lost and a steep, downhill slide into dictatorship is all we have to look forward to from here.
But the Republic is only lost when would-be defenders give up. If you are not a defender of the Republic, and would rather see it torn down than Trump impeached and tried for the crimes of which he is accused, you have no business in the government at any capacity and should resign to make room for someone who cares for its well being according to the oath. Defend the Republic or defend Trump. Choose wisely, act accordingly.
PS: By the way, the 1877 law allowing Congress to insert itself into the Electoral College presidential vote on a regular basis is unconstitutional and is one of the many factors involved in the current crisis. It needs to be repealed. The conditions under which Congress may involve itself in the process of selecting the president are clearly outlined in the 12th amendment, and these include only occasions in which there is no decisive outcome from the Electoral College. The States are intended to elect the president, and are not to be interfered with by any Federal institution.