Sunday 10th January 2021
Impeachment and Law Enforcement
Democrats agree, Republicans hesitate
Donald Trump’s presidency is history in a week and a half. Impeachment proceedings would take much longer. The Democrats still want to get the impeachment off the ground. Also because they absolutely want to prevent Trump from making a comeback.
Following the storming of the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump, the Democrats want to initiate a new impeachment proceedings against the elected US president this Monday. Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu announced on CNN that the Democrats would propose a resolution to impeach Trump in the House of Representatives on Monday. “We expect a vote in plenary next week.” He and his colleagues would prefer that the Republican resign himself first or that Vice President Mike Pence take steps to his impeachment.
Lieu is co-author of the draft resolution, which lists a single charge against Trump: “incitement to riot”. Trump is accused of inciting his supporters at a rally before the storm on the Capitol. Five people were killed in the riot at the Capitol, including a police officer. In the draft resolution, Trump is called “a threat to national security, democracy and the constitution”. Trump would be the first US president in history to have two impeachment proceedings opened.
With the swearing-in of his Democratic successor Joe Biden on January 20, Trump is leaving office anyway. Before that, a judgment in the Senate in an impeachment process is virtually impossible, even if the House of Representatives decided to open it next week. In addition to Trump’s impeachment, the draft resolution also provides for him to be banned from future government offices. This would deny him a possible candidacy in 2024. According to the Democrats, the procedure is also about setting an example after the attack on parliament.
Several Republicans support impeachment
Support for the project is huge on the democratic side. According to Lieu, at least 180 of 222 MPs want to vote in favor of impeachment proceedings. Several Republican congressmen also want to support the resolution. The House of Representatives – which is controlled by the Democrats – can decide to initiate impeachment proceedings with a simple majority. The procedure, which is similar to a court process, but in the Senate would be conducted and decided. The two-thirds majority required there for Trump’s impeachment is currently not foreseeable. The future 50 Democrats will lack the votes of 17 Republicans.
However, Trump is also facing increasing headwinds from Republicans in the Senate. Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey told Fox News that Trump’s offense would qualify for impeachment. His Nebraska colleague Ben Sasse told CBS that he was “definitely considering” a House of Representatives indictment. Lisa Murkowski, a senator from Alaska, had already called for Trump’s resignation on Friday. All four are internal party critics of the president.
The Senate will not meet for its next regular session until January 19. A memorandum from the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, circulated by the Washington Post, states that under the current rules, proceedings could begin at 1pm on January 20 at the earliest – one hour after Biden’s swearing-in and Trump’s departure Office. Biden had announced that he would not intervene in a decision on the opening of impeachment proceedings by the House of Representatives.
Horns man is in custody
Meanwhile, three other suspects have been arrested because of the unrest. Prosecutors in Washington said they included Jacob Chansley, who entered the Capitol wearing a headdress made of fur and horns, a painted face, a shirtless torso and a spear with a US flag – pictures of the disguised QAnon supporters made worldwide the round.
A suspect named Adam Johnson was also caught by police for allegedly stealing the lectern of the Chairwoman of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, in the Capitol. A member of the West Virginia House of Representatives, Derrick Evans, was also reportedly arrested. He is said to have shown a video of his intrusion into the Capitol live on his Facebook page. Evans announced his resignation on Saturday. The public prosecutor’s office accuses the three men, among other things, of illegally entering a specially secured building. In total, the cases of 18 alleged rioters are pending before a federal court.
The arrests increase the pressure on Trump. The documents published by the prosecutor show that Chansley himself called the FBI on Thursday and identified himself as a man with the horned headdress. He also stated that he had traveled to Washington from Arizona because the president had called all “patriots” to the capital for Wednesday. Trump condemned the attack on parliament only a day late and after massive criticism.
Impeachment not in Biden’s sense
A trial in the Senate could make the start of Biden’s new government much more difficult. The chamber would possibly block the proceedings for weeks until a judgment is reached. Biden, however, depends on the senators confirming his nominated cabinet members and numerous high-ranking government officials in office. He is also dependent on the powerful chamber for important legislative projects, for example in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump did not speak publicly on Saturday. The evening before, Twitter had permanently blocked his @realDonaldTrump account, thereby depriving him of his most important communication platform. As a reason, Twitter named the “risk of further incitement to violence”. Trump accused Twitter on Friday evening in a message circulated through journalists in the White House of conspiring with the Democrats to silence him and his supporters.
Nancy Pelosi also called for criminal consequences for Trump because of the unrest at the Capitol. “Unfortunately, the executive is a troubled, confused, dangerous President of the United States,” the chairman of the House of Representatives told CBS. “And there are only a few more days before we can be protected from him. But he did something so serious that he should be prosecuted.”
As president, Trump enjoys immunity from prosecution. This immunity ends with his term of office on January 20th. US media have reported that after the November 3 election, Trump discussed several times with advisors about pardoning himself. The self-pardon of a president would be a novelty. It is controversial whether such a step would be legally permissible. The constitution does not expressly exclude self-pardon.