The impeachment trial begins.
The Constitutional question seems straightforward enough: did the Framers intend a “January exception” (so named by House Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin) to the clause requiring impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors? Can a President wait and commit any crime he wants to in the last few weeks of his term?
Could President Trump really shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it?
The answer to that question is no, but only because murder is a state crime, not a federal one. Trump may be able to avoid the federal charges but not evade state ones, for the same reasons he can’t pardon himself for potential tax indictments from the state of New York.
I find it odd that this is even a question. The logic of the Constitution here is incontrovertible. Importantly, by deciding when to have it, a complicit Majority Leader of the Senate can hold up the trial until after the President leaves office. Republican Mitch McConnell did exactly that, by refusing to call a special session to have the trial. I find that Republicans now arguing that the time has passed for the President to be tried disingenuous, to say the least.
The Republicans ignore the second remedy available to Congress. Not merely removal, conviction allows Congress to bar the elected official from holding federal office in the future. Does anyone think that Trump will not run again in 2024 unless barred? That he will not claim the election is rigged if he loses? That his acolytes will not again swarm the Capitol in an attempted coup?
Republicans have argued the trial would divide the country. I cannot for the life of me see how the country can be more divided than it is. Instead, a conviction would help heal the bleeding wounds, the naked fear, so many of now carry. The election and inauguration of Joe Biden helped assuage some of that fear, but left open the possibility of insurrection and destruction the next time a Republican (or, to be fair, a would-be Democratic dictator) wins the Presidency.
The forces of destruction might not even need a new cult object. Donald Trump insists on using the Presidential Seal in his correspondence and calling himself “the 45th President,” as though there were not a 46th in office. Were a mob to successfully overrun the Capitol and the White House, they might attempt to reinstate him to his former position. Given the fallout against the members of the House of Representatives who voted for impeachment, and the efforts of the Arizona State Senate to invalidate the results of their election, a lot of Republicans would welcome his return.
The country faces a catastrophe. The worst crisis that we have imposed upon ourselves since the Civil War looms before us.
I have never prayed harder for Donald Trump to die. I would prefer he get struck by lightning while playing golf at Mar-a Lago, but a sudden heart attack or stroke would suffice. The last thing I would hope is that he get assassinated.
The country definitely needs for him not to become a martyr.