The Democrats want to start impeachment proceedings against him shortly before the end of Donald Trump’s term in office. That may seem like pure symbolism – but it goes far beyond that.
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Donald Trump did not want to go down in history for this: the Republican is already one of only three US presidents who have had to undergo impeachment proceedings. Now he is also threatened by an inglorious unique selling point: If the Democrats in Congress live up to their threat, Trump will become the first head of state in the USA against whom two such proceedings have been opened. The Democrats have already made the concrete preparations for this.
Another novelty: If the impeachment process actually starts, it should not be completed until the elected president is no longer in the White House. From the perspective of the Democrats, impeachment is inevitable.
Trump a “national security threat”?
The Democrats believe it is imperative to act in a hurry. The Democratic MP Ted Lieu announced on Monday that his group had formally introduced an impeachment resolution in the House of Representatives accusing Trump of “inciting a riot”.
According to a spokeswoman for Lieus, the indictment could be voted on in the chamber on Wednesday – and thus on the official opening of the impeachment proceedings. Lieu is co-author of the impeachment resolution. The US president is described as a “threat to national security”: “Donald John Trump committed high crimes and offenses by inciting violence against the government of the United States.”
One final deadline for pence
The Democrats now want to push for a possible impeachment of Trump at lightning speed. First, they want to give Vice President Mike Pence one final deadline to take immediate steps to remove Trump, as House Chairwoman Nancy Pelosi announced on Sunday. The basis is an additional article of the constitution, according to which the vice-president, together with a majority of important cabinet members, can declare the president incapable of “exercising the rights and duties of office”.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on Tuesday on a resolution setting pence a 24-hour deadline. The chances of Trump being dismissed this way seem slim: Pence has been ignoring corresponding demands from top Democrats for days.
When the impeachment process could start
If Pence still does not move, the Democrats want to immediately open a regular parliamentary impeachment procedure – with the resolution of Lieu and his colleagues. The necessary simple majority for this is foreseeable. The process itself – which is similar to a court process – would then be conducted by the Senate, the other chamber in Congress. The Senate will not meet again until January 19. According to the impeachment rules, the procedure could start on January 20 at 1:00 p.m. at the earliest. One hour before Trump’s term of office will end with Biden’s swearing-in.
Vice President Mike Pence: There are reports of radio silence between him and Trump. (Source: Chip Somodovilla / Getty Images)
What is behind the project of the Democrats
If the Senate passed a verdict, the Trump era would be history. The approach of the Democrats seems symbolic at first glance, but there is more to it: The resolution not only provides for Trump to be removed from office – but in a second step also to ban him from all government offices for life. It would be the end of the politician Trump, who otherwise could run for the presidency again in 2024.
What are the chances?
The chances of success for the Democrats are slim. No president has been removed from office in US history. Trump was also acquitted by the Senate last February in his first trial of the so-called Ukraine affair because his Republicans still had a majority in the parliamentary chamber at the time. Since 1798 – when the first trial ever took place with the impeachment of a senator – the Senate not only removed the accused from office in three cases, but also issued a suspension of office. Federal judges were affected in each case.
Trump and the “madness”
The suspension of office cannot be decided alone – the Senate would first have to vote for removal from office with a two-thirds majority. That is not foreseeable, at least not yet: Criticism of Trump is also increasing among Republican senators. Two of them have been openly calling for the president to resign since the weekend, while a third wants to at least consider the House of Representatives indictment. Senator Pat Toomey justified his call to resign on CNN on Sunday by saying that since the election defeat Trump had descended on “a level of madness” that was unforgivable and previously unthinkable.
The Democrats also see the impeachment proceedings as a kind of reserve resolution: If Trump affords further serious offenses, the Senate could meet before January 19 to immediately start a lightning-fast process – if all 100 senators agree. The Democrats warn that every day Trump stays in office is a threat to the country. According to her information on Friday, Pelosi was already consulting with the military leadership to prevent an “unstable president” from “starting military strikes” or ordering a “nuclear attack”.
Democrats want to set an example
Last but not least, the Democrats want to initiate an impeachment procedure in order to set an example. Left Senator Bernie Sanders said: “It needs to be made clear that no president, now or in the future, can lead an insurrection against the American state.” Many compatriots want to get rid of Trump immediately.
In a published on Sunday Poll by broadcaster ABC 56 percent said Trump should be removed from office shortly before the end of his term. Another 19 percent are only against the fact that the president will soon be leaving anyway. Only 23 percent spoke out against impeachment because Trump did not do anything wrong in the week of the heavy Capitol riots.
Does impeachment deepen the division in the USA?
However, critics of impeachment proceedings warn of the consequences. The first impeachment case against Trump has deepened the political rifts in the United States. Even then, Democrats and Republicans were irreconcilable, as were Trump supporters and Trump opponents in the country. “I am convinced that an impeachment under these circumstances will further divide the country,” warns Senator and long-time Trump confidante Lindsey Graham.
Republicans also raise the question of how an impeachment fits the words of future President Joe Biden – who said the country finally needs healing, calm, unity. Republican Congressman Kevin Brady accused the Democrats of “putting the desire for revenge above the best interests of the country.”
The Democrat Lieu does not want to accept that. “We are healing our nation by holding those responsible for the coup attempt accountable,” he wrote on Twitter. “Starting with the man who instigated him: Donald Trump.”