By Nafina Raha
On Wednesday, January 13, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump for the second time in his four-year term with a majority of 232 to 197 votes on a charge of “incitement of insurrection.” This charge results from Trump’s encouragement of far-right conservatives at a rally of his own to march on the Capitol, later leading to a mob of domestic terrorists descending upon Capitol Hill and breaching the Capitol Building.
Trump is the first president ever to be impeached twice, and to have his impeachment supported by so many of his own political party. In his first impeachment in 2019, no members of the Republican Party voted in favor of impeachment. However, this time, ten Republican representatives in the House joined the Democratic majority to move forward with his second impeachment.
The impeachment resolution stated, “President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a press conference that Trump is “a clear and present danger to our country.” She added, “Today in a bipartisan way, the House demonstrated that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.”
The vote for impeachment was officiated exactly one week after the terrorist mob of far-right extremists committed sedition by storming and vandalizing the Capitol. The desecration of this site will forever impact its symbolism within American democracy.
This event was urged on by Trump, who organized an event he called the “Save America March” on January 6, mere hours before the riot and on the day that Congress came together to ceremonially officiate the election results.
During this rally, Trump made many provocative and encouraging remarks to the crowd, such as “And we’re going to have to fight much harder…When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules.”
After continuing to claim that he won the election, Trump said, “We will never give up. We will never concede…You don’t concede when there’s theft involved…we will stop the steal…if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore. And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you…We are going to the Capitol…going to try to give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
Trump’s most loyal supporters, the ones who’ve held on to his so-called vision of a “greater America,” even after the endless false claims, crimes, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and hatred in general, took his words to heart and marched in a violent mob upon the Capitol, They became ery visual evidence of how Trump’s presidency has birthed homegrown terrorism and hatred.
This is yet another event in the domino effect of terror that has defined Trump’s presidency, and the impeachment proceedings exemplify that finally, the government is going to attempt to hold him responsible for his crimes.
In response to this mob, he initially proclaimed to them, “We love you. You’re very special.” However, after he realized the nation viewed his mob as a terrorist attack, treason, and a threat to American democracy, he switched tones and condemned the terrorists via a tweet in which he stated, “No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement or our great American flag. No true supporter of mine could ever threaten or harass their fellow Americans.”
However, this is an ironic statement after his repeated endorsements of violence against his opposition.
For example, during last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and marches, Trump’s tweet, that was later censored by Twitter for glorifying violence, stated, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” He also called the words “Black Lives Matter” a “symbol of hate,” despite the generally peaceful and communal aspects of the protests.
Trump encouraged a group of white supremacists and domestic terrorists to charge into the very seat of American democracy and vandalize it without real condemnation, while he considered the millions of people across the country marching for their right to live to be hateful.
Despite the blatant crime Trump has committed in inciting this terrorist attack, the vote for impeachment has been met with wide opposition. Lawmakers who voted in favor of impeachment are facing threats of violence from far-right conservatives and avid Trump supporters. The FBI has issued warnings nationwide of possible armed protests. They have warned state officials to be on the lookout for armed militias and extremist activity in the wake of the impeachment announcement and President Biden’s inauguration. National Guard troops have been stationed all throughout Capitol Hill in case of another insurrection taking place in response to Trump’s impeachment.
Trumpism has created its own kind of political party of far-right, hateful extremists set on terrorizing their own country despite their claims of patriotism. Trump’s presidency has burned a rift through the Republican party, dividing and polarizing its members.
One of these such Republicans, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, explained her decision to vote for impeachment, saying, “None of this would’ve happened without the President. The President could’ve immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
The protocol for the impeachment will be completely new, as it is unprecedented that an impeachment trial be carried out for a former president. Legal and political opinions differ about whether or not it is constitutional or even right to impeach a former president.
Yet another big debate arising from this controversy is the question of whether Trump will be allowed to ever pursue office again.
Debate has also arisen as to whether Trump will receive the amenities that accompany being a former president. The Former Presidents Act of 1958 gives former presidents a plethora of benefits, including a federal pension that would be equal to the wage received by a sitting president (which in 2020 was $219,200). On top of this, funds are also provided for office space, hiring a staff, and for “security and travel-related” expenses. This act, however, specifically excludes a president who has been impeached and convicted by the Senate.
Congress could potentially amend this law to specify that a president convicted after their presidency no longer qualifies for the amenities of this act, but Trump’s side could argue that since this potential new statute was only passed after a Senate trial in which Trump is convicted, it cannot constitutionally be applied to him for the fact that it didn’t exist before his case was considered.
Democrat Representative Jim McGovern summarized Trump’s crimes and the necessity for accountability and an impeachment trial, stating, “Our country came under attack, not from a foreign nation, but from within. These were not protestors, these were not patriots. These were traitors. These were domestic terrorists…Some of my colleagues on the other side have suggested that we just move on from this horror. But to gloss over it would be an abdication of our duty. Others on the Republican side have talked about unity. But we can’t have unity without truth and without accountability, and I’m not about to be lectured by people who just voted to overturn the results of a free and fair election.”