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Should Congress Impeach the President Again?

Should Congress impeach the President again? After the Capitol Attack this week, Congress immediately began discussing and then drafting articles of impeachment.

Some people, horrified by the events at the Capitol, argue that Congress should impeach the President immediately. Others, some equally horrified and some not, suggest that impeaching the President a second time is unnecessary and overkill.

There are at least four reasons why it is potentially wise and just for Congress to impeach President Trump a second time.

One: It is an appropriate response to the gravity of the situation.

It may be tempting to characterize the Capitol Attacks as a protest that got a bit out of hand. This is a serious mischaracterization of the events.

For over two months, since the elections, President Trump has repeatedly promoted election fraud claims. In fact, he has consistently promoted such claims even though his own Conservative Supreme Court, as well as dozens of Republican election and political leaders have rejected such claims as having any basis in reality.[1]

Such political leaders include Vice President Mike Pence and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. (This is in addition to all the democratic officials and leaders that have rejected such claims.)

These leaders have rejected such claims on the advice, expertise, and testimony of homeland security advisors and non-partisan election officials.

Encouraging Violence

President Trump has not only promoted baseless claims, he has regularly encouraged his supporters to fight and refuse the election results. He has also hinted that they should take up arms against the government.

When asked to denounce violent supporters (like the Proud Boys who have perpetrated violent and racist behavior), he told them, “Stand down and stand by. But I’ll tell you what. Somebody has got to do something about antifa and the left.”

Ardent supporters of the President, such as conservative author Eric Metaxas, have used similar rhetoric. Metaxas believes President Trump is part of God’s plan to restore America and that the elections were fraudulent. He said regarding the elections, “We need to fight to the death, to the last drop of blood.”

No Surprise

So, it should have come as no surprise to anyone that some of President Trump’s supporters decided they needed to storm the Capitol and put an end (violently) to the election proceedings. Some of the protestors were also looking for Vice President Mike Pence, whom many feel have betrayed the President and whom some planned on hanging.

And while all this was happening, the President restricted the National Guard from assisting the Capitol. He also tweeted to the protestors that they were special and sent them love from the White House. And while protestors stormed the White House and Congress went into lock-down, the President called Senators, trying to get them to overturn the election.

What Does the Constitution Say?

So, it is not just the case that some protestors got out of hand. Rather, for months, the President  encouraged violent protest. And when violent protestors attacked the Capitol, our Commander-in-Chief discouraged security from responding appropriately. He also showed no concern for his Vice President that his protestors threatened to hang.

And while the attack was going on, rather than trying to prevent it, he tried to call Senators who were under threat to try to get them to overthrow a legitimate election.

If such actions do not call for impeachment and removal, it is hard to know what actions would. Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution allows for impeachment in case of treason. It states, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

The President’s behavior appears to match this description of treason.[2]

If leaders do not rebuke or censure such behavior in some way, it could encourage future lawless leaders—Democratic or Republican—to try the same thing.

Two: President Trump may engage in or encourage behavior even worse than the Capitol Attacks.

It is tempting to think that President Trump has learned his lesson and that he will behave for the rest of his time in office. However, nothing in President Trump’s tenure in office suggests that he learns from his mistakes. Nothing suggests that he listens to people (even his own chosen advisors) who know better than him about serious national matters.

President Trump regularly fires (or threatenes to fire) people who disagree with him—even when he is in the wrong, and they clearly know more than him.

In addition, since the 20202 election, many psychiatrists observing the President’s behavior believe he may be mentally ill. If that is the case, the stress of the final days of office and the reality of his loss may encourage President Trump to act in further erratic and dangerous ways.

The President’s State of Mind

Whether President Trump suffers from mental illness or not, the point is that he does not consistently learn from his mistakes. He also continually refuses to take responsibility, even for catastrophes that he creates or helps to create.

There is no reason to believe he will suddenly turn over a new leaf. Impeachment and removal may be the only way our political leaders (including Republican ones) can prevent him from doing further damage.

There is a growing list of leaders, including Republicans and former people on Trump’s staff, who believe political leaders must remove Trump through impeachment or other consitutional procedures. For example, John Kelley, Trump’s former chief of staff said he would vote to remove Trump through the 25th Amendment.

Photo by Louis Velasquez, courtesy of Unsplash

Three: It communicates to other countries that we respect democracy.

The United States has long encouraged other countries to adopt a democratic governmental process.[3] There is good reason to do this, both for us and for the countries. If countries do not elect leaders democratically, leaders often seize the power in such countries illegally and violently. Such rulers are lawless rulers. Since they are lawless, they are not interested in dealing fairly with their own people or with people from other countries.

The less democratic countries are, the more difficult it is for us to deal with them peaceably. An inability to deal with other countries peaceably makes commerce, diplomacy, and humanitarian endeavors almost impossible. This is one of the ostensible reasons the U.S. has fought almost every war we have fought as a country: to make the world safe for democracy.[4]

We cannot encourage democratic processes in other countries if we subvert them in our own. Impeaching the President communicates to other countries that we take democracy seriously.

Four: It allows the Senate to vote to prevent President Trump from holding office again.

President Trump has tried to overturn a legitimate election, and he has encouraged an attack on the White House. Because of this, he should never be allowed to hold a public office again, even if some people like him and want him to do so.

You might recall that President Trump once said that he could shoot someone in the street and still not lose his supporters. This has proven true. There are some people who will vote for President Trump no matter what he does and no matter how many laws he breaks. Furthermore, some people will vote for the President no matter how much he violates the duties of his office, engaging in lawless behavior.

We cannot elect lawless people to office. The Constitutional writers certainly never intended our democratic process to function this way. Impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office allows the Senate to bar him from holding public office again.

Concluding Thought

It is hard to know what exactly will happen in the coming weeks, and this situation is unprecedented. Obviously, it is difficult to know the right way to handle it. Given that, Congress certainly has just cause to impeach the President twice, and there is reason to think it is the wisest course of action.

Postscript:

By the way, if you are worried that the election was stolen from Trump, I am sorry for your pain and anxiety. It feels bewildering and confusing when someone you admire and want to win an election loses.

I have felt this way before, too. Please consider reading this post. In it I argue that President Trump fairly won the election in 2016, but Joe Biden fairly beat Trump in 2020. I encourage you to consider this evidence carefully. No harm can come from you considering the issue from various angles.

And it may be that you do not like Joe Biden and Democrats and are afraid of them taking office. I am sorry for your fear, but please love the truth more than you hate or fear people you view as your enemies.

 

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If  you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing on social media. 

I also invite you to follow my blog. You can find the follow button at the right or bottom of this screen. 

You might also like this post that I wrote about President Trump’s first impeachment:
A Presidential Impeachment Primer

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Footnotes

[1] As an example, President Trump recently pressured the governor of Georgia, a Republican, to overturn the Georgia election results. The governor repeatedly told the President that no such election fraud occurred.

[2] While the President did, at one point, tell protestors to go home, he initially encouraged their behavior. In addition, he hindered the National Guard from going to help police at the Capitol. And despite telling protestors to go home, during the attack, he continued to claim that the election was stolen from him.

[3] I am also aware that the U.S. government has frequently disrupted the democratic process in other countries. Unfortunately, I cannot address this issue in this post.

[4] I realize there were often ulterior motives, too.

8 thoughts on “Should Congress Impeach the President Again?”

  1. A thoughtful and wise post – as usual – Shelley. From my perspective (a dismayed Brit) your third point has particular resonance. One question though, if it’s decided to go for impeachment but the President isn’t found guilty, is this worse – in terms of the US’s international standing – than not going for impeachment at all? Would the failure of the Senate to make the charge(s) stick simply confirm the widely held view that the problem in the US runs much deeper than one rogue individual? I ask this in all innocence, I simply don’t know. But I do know that what happened a few days ago was one of the shocking events of my lifetime, and given that “when the US sneezes the rest of the world catches cold” I am filled with a sense of foreboding.

    1. I really appreciate this comment, Friend. I had not thought of your concern, but it makes sense. And I believe your foreboding is at least partially correct. The problem does, indeed, run deeper than one rogue individual. There are some radical right folks in the Republican party that are behaving in an extremely dangerous manner. Not all Republicans are like that (I was one a Republican! but am not anymore), and some are starting to distance themselves very vocally from that group. But for right now, they are vocal and powerful and definitely present a problem. It is likely that if Congress votes to impeach the President, the Senate will acquit him. That could be a problem. It could, however, also be an opportunity. I think it is likely that at least some Senators, and more than we think, may vote to remove the President. If that happens, it could be helpful. It could show Republicans who are concerned about the President (and there are many) that there is a different mindset in part of the Republican party. And it will show the country and world that at aleast some people are sane. My hope is that the different mindset (and it is there) can win over the Republican party. That feels like a pipe dream sometimes, but I don’t think it is. There is a great deal of disgust at both the President and politicans who act like him. My homestate, Kentucky, is a Republican stronghold. We had a governor, Matt Bevin, who was pretty much exactly like Trump. In the last governoral election, Kentuckians voted Republican pretty much down the line. But they kicked Matt Bevin out and put in Andy Beshear, a Democrat. Thank God we did because he has handled the Coronavirus with such grace. A lot of people are getting it. Unfortunately, there are still some extremist Republicans.

      1. Thank you for such a thoughtful response. You’re right in suggesting it’s wrong to assume that political parties are monolithic entities, whose members / supporters are mere clones. During the last decade of my career in English local government I spent of lot of time working with elected politicians. I was, of course, required to be impartial but entered the role with my own (left-leaning) prejudices. Having been forced to spend time with them I discovered that there were politicians from all three main political parties whom I liked and respected – men and women who were basically honourable – and others from the same parties whom I loathed and found contemptible. The party label gave little clue as to the true nature of the individual it sought to describe, and on this basis I can easily see the folly in assuming that all Republicans are supporters of the stand the President has taken since November.

        What remains unclear is how the numbers stack up. The media tells us repeatedly that the US is deeply polarised, with few people occupying the middle ground. But to what extent are journalists seeking out and highlighting the extreme views of a small percentage of the population in order to sell copy or pursue their own political agenda? Perhaps the best we can reasonably hope for is that there is a substantial part of the right in the US (the moderate right?) who, while uncomfortable with Joe Biden, have been so unsettled by recent events that they are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. The next couple of weeks will be very interesting!

        1. Thank you, Friend, as well, for this thoughtful response. You are right that U.S. politics is extremely polarized right now. It is giving me both a massive headache and stomachache. To be honest, today I feel very discouraged about things. I have had a somewhat unusual life, perhaps, in that I have spent roughly have of my life in conservative circles (and have been exposed to radical right extremism) and half my life in liberal circles (and have been explosed to radical left extremism). All I can say right now is both those extremes definitely exist, and they are generally unwilling to talk with each other, much less even view each other as human beings with legitimate viewpoints. I also know that within the Republican circle, there are so many conservatives who are appalled by Donald Trump. And I know at least some people within my liberal circle (I count myself one) who are deeply committed to justice but cannot participate in politics that dehumanize other people–even radical Republicans. I call these folks committed to justice and humanization The Remnant. Remnants are often small, but I actually think this Remnant is pretty large. We are just having a branding, messaging, and mobilizazation problem. That is what I want to help with, although I can’t tell you exactly how i am going to do that right now (besides writing this blog). That is part of what is giving me a headache and stomacheache today. I will let you know when I figure it out :). I really appreciate your comments and insight, Platypus Man (sorry I don’t know your name.)

          1. Sounds like the Remnant you describe is seeking to rebuild the centre, based around values of diversity, tolerance, compromise, compassion and mutual respect. An honourable ambition, but a big challenge in a society that’s so focussed on winning. Although people like me (and you, if you’ll forgive me for second-guessing you inner beliefs!) regard such values as a mark of civilisation, they appear weak to people fixated on victory. I suspect they will be a difficult sell in today’s febrile world. But failing to instil them could have tragic consequences for a nation that – from where I sit, at least – appears to be losing its way. I wish you well in your endeavours.

          2. You are very right, Platypus Man. Those are indeed the values I wish to rebuild on–or related ones. In my dissertation, I emphasized/researched values of love, playfulness, compassion, hope, and critical thinking. Those values are especially important to me. And you are very right. Anyone who seeks to advocate for these values does indeed face a big challenge because so many people, as you correctly point out, are concvinced that winning is the only value and believe all other values are weak. And to be honest, I have very little clear idea right now how I am going to accomplish the dream I have of qualitatively changing the values of society. I for sure know I can’t do it alone. But I can’t give up yet.

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