The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump is underway in the US Senate, and all the experts are saying he will be acquitted. Not because he isn’t guilty, but because most Senators will vote according to political loyalties rather than the evidence presented.
Because of that I haven’t been following the proceedings beyond reading the headlines. It isn’t as if there will be anything new.
I had hoped Trump would testify, but his legal team claims the Senate has no jurisdiction since he is no longer president, so he decided not to appear. Constitutionally that was always a dubious defense.
Common sense would be that a president (or ex-president) is not beyond the law. If he or she were then they could do what they like as long as they timed it so they were no longer in office when the trial was held.
Trump is banned from Facebook and Twitter, so he has lost h8is usual platforms. I wish the Senate would subpoena him as a witness though. I think America and the world could benefit from his testimony.
What did he expect from the mob who stormed the Capitol, inspired by his words and claims of electoral fraud? Does he feel he bears any responsibility for any actions carried out in his name? How would he describe what happened on January 6, when the crowd he was speaking to tried to prevent the Senate from fulfilling its constitutional duties? Who does he see as being responsible for the deaths that day?
With the jurisdictional argument lost, does his legal team think that invoking connotational free speech provisions will win their case? Even the most liberal societies impose some restrictions on public speech, with the standard example being prohibitions against shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre. I can’t see Trump winning with that argument.
Truth is, Trump isn’t going to win, he’s just not going to be convicted. It takes a two-thirds majority to convict, and most senators will vote along party lines. It reminds me a little of Alice in Wonderland, with the Red Queen announcing: “Sentence first, verdict afterward.” This trial is a foregone conclusion.
So does it matter?
It does if you believe in democracy and democratic institutions. That the impeachment process continues, even after Trump has left office, is a reminder that structure is important.
Yes, the Democrats, knowing the vote will be along party lines, are hoping to damage Trump’s reputation, to make him unelectable in the future. Yes, Republicans, who fear his power in their party, are sticking with him to save their own electoral skins. It’s a carefully choreographed ballet.
In the aftermath of the attempted coup in Washington, I think the process will have a calming effect on America. It may not help with the healing process, with bringing America’s various divides closer together, but it may bring some closure to a chapter of American history.
This impeachment trial, regardless of the outcome, will allow the United States to move forward. That is why it matters.