Tuesday, February 09, 2021
Impeachment against Trump begins
It’s about the future of the Republicans
From Roland Peters
No US president has provoked two impeachment proceedings in four years before Donald Trump. A conviction would be fatal for his political career, but it is unlikely. If he is exonerated, it has consequences for his party.
Whether ex-President Donald Trump can run as a presidential candidate again in 2024 will be decided by the impeachment process and the final verdict of the US Senate starting today, Tuesday. Democratic attorneys accuse Trump of ignoring legitimate election results and then calling for an attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 while the Electoral College vote was being counted. Trump’s defense argues against it in two ways: firstly, an ex-president cannot be convicted if he is no longer in office; secondly, there is no evidence that he has alleged wrongly.
The second point is overwhelmingly easy to refute: with official election results, some of which have been repeatedly checked, and dozens of courts that have dismissed Trump’s complaints against the outcome of the presidential election. Presumably it is Trump who insists on this argument, because it satisfies his basis and should correspond to his view of the world. Several attorneys from Trump’s original defense team thought sticking to the election fraud fable was the wrong strategy. They were exchanged.
The first point is trickier. According to the US media, however, the Democrats have a majority of constitutional lawyers behind them. The House of Representatives had constitutionally opened the impeachment while Trump was still in office, so the Senate must now decide on it, so the argumentation. If the chamber is not allowed to do so, in the future every president could do what he wants at the end of his term, say the lawyers of the Democrats. They invited Trump to testify under oath, but his lawyers refused because the whole process is unconstitutional in their eyes. Even in the first impeachment proceedings, the President did not testify.
On the first day of the trial, Trump’s lawyers and those of the Democrats will deal exclusively with these issues. It really starts on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday the senators take a break, on Sunday the process will continue. But it is not just a conflict between Republicans and Democrats that is being fought in Washington DC, but also an internal dispute at the Grand Old Party.
All under one roof
An example of this was a heated marathon session last week. In the basement of the US Congress, Republicans in the House of Representatives debated late into the night about whether to remove Liz Cheney’s leadership role. Reason for the excitement behind closed doors: The Wyoming congressman had voted in January to open impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump while he was still in office; so against its own president. The discussion and secret ballot resulted in a clear result: The pro-Trump Republicans did not get their way. Cheney kept her post as number three in her faction.
Cheney was also defended by parliamentary group leader Kevin McCarthy, and according to the US media in a fiery speech. The internal feud must end and the leadership team in the House of Representatives remain unchanged, he said. “People can have different opinions, Liz has the right to vote according to her conscience. And in the end we are united,” he said in explanation. McCarthy and the result of the vote gave the party a little more calm during the stormy post-election period. However, he is known as a Trump supporter and risks the revenge of the ex-president with his actions.
There is no telling when McCarthy’s wish for more unity could be fulfilled. The Republicans are divided into at least two camps: some continue to support the ex-president, others not unconditionally or are even against him; On the one hand there is the right wing including Trump and his supporters, on the other the classic conservatives who see their hour strike. Four years of quarreling with one’s own party, which resulted in a historic election defeat and in which the Republicans lost the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate to the Democrats after only one term, are over.
Now the Republican leaders in Congress are lurching back and forth between the camps, trying to bring everyone under one roof. McCarthy even went so far as to attribute the storm of Trump’s supporters to and into Congress on January 6th to the then-president. Five people died in the uprising. Trump was responsible, said McCarthy, whereupon the president and the base outraged. So McCarthy flew to Mar-a-Lago to appease Trump. After the conversation, he promised, reconciled, that he would help the Republicans to recapture the House of Representatives in the upcoming elections in 2022, and published a message oozing with self-praise. If the party is worth the support, its actors must also satisfy Trump and his base.
Trump camp dual strategy
This is one of the reasons why the republican attorneys show the senators two paths. Anyone who wants to can stand behind Trump and continue talking about election fraud. Anyone who does not want to comment or deal with the allegations can simply question the legality of the impeachment. Take Mitch McConnell, the influential Republican minority leader in the Senate. As is known, he is no longer a friend of Trump and his supporters. He was very critical of the ex-president several times and was even open to voting for his condemnation. McConnell is much quieter now. “We’ll listen to what the lawyers have to say,” he said, as usual, taciturn. The question of constitutionality is “interesting”.
In a preliminary vote on whether impeachment is legal, only 55 out of 100 Senators voted in favor, including five renegade Republicans. But much more would be needed to convict Trump, a total of 67 out of 100. In the House of Representatives, apart from Liz Cheney, only 9 out of 211 Republican MPs had previously voted for the impeachment process. You and the senators, who dare to take cover at the trial and speak out against Trump, could overtake Trump’s vengeance and that of his base. Almost all of them will probably be grateful to go to the hiding place that the lawyers have made makeshift hiding in order to save face.
The second impeachment proceedings against Trump will again be a play, the final scene of which is already known. The polarizing ex-head of state will most likely get away without conviction. He will thus remain a powerful actor in the party, albeit without office. Nevertheless, the staging of the impeachment is fresh: It’s about much more than just maintaining power like a year ago when the Senate ruled on him because of the Ukraine affair. Some other possible presidential candidates in 2024 are already being traded. The question is: who believes in a future for the party without Trump? And who wants to bet on it publicly with their vote?