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Donald Trump emerged from isolation at the White House on Tuesday to brand the likely second impeachment of his presidency “absolutely ridiculous” and warn that it has triggered “tremendous anger.”
Speaking as he boarded Marine One at the White House for a trip to Texas, Trump called his scheduled impeachment in the House of Representatives on Wednesday a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.”
With only eight days left in his one-term administration, Trump finds himself alone, shunned by former supporters, barred by social media, and now facing a second impeachment over his instigation of a riot against Congress on January 6.
His trip to Alamo, Texas, where he will tout claims of success in building a US-Mexican border wall, is his first live public appearance since he rallied thousands of followers on the National Mall to march on Congress.
Although this is not the same Alamo as the famous fortress in another part of Texas, the trip marks something of a last stand for the Republican.
Ever since the November 3 election, the real estate tycoon has been obsessively pushing a lie that he, not Democrat Joe Biden, was the real winner and last week, in a speech he described Tuesday as “totally appropriate,” he called on the huge crowd to “show strength.”
Amped up on Trump’s rhetoric, the mob burst into Congress, fighting with police, trashing offices and forcing frightened lawmakers to suspend briefly a ceremony legally formalizing Biden’s victory.
The crisis galvanized many of Trump’s former boosters in the corporate and sporting world to turn their backs.
In Congress, where the Republican party has been in thrall to the populist leader for four years, even ultra-loyal senior figures like Senator Lindsey Graham have finally told Trump that he must accept his election defeat.
Trump, however, remains in denial.
He has yet to congratulate Biden or urge his supporters to stand behind the incoming president after he is inaugurated on January 20 — a gesture of political unity considered all but routine after US elections.
And according to Axios, Trump and the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, had a stormy phone conversation Tuesday in which Trump claimed that left-wing Antifa activists, not his supporters, attacked Congress.
“It’s not Antifa,” McCarthy reportedly responded. “I know. I was there.”
When Trump continued to push his conspiracy theory that he was the true election winner, McCarthy reportedly interrupted, telling him: “Stop it. It’s over. The election is over.”
– Impeachment 2.0 –
The House of Representatives will vote Tuesday on a longshot bid to get Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the US Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which would declare Trump unfit to perform his duties and install Pence as acting president.
This is unlikely to happen.
Although Pence is reportedly furious about Trump’s behaviour last week, the two met at the White House on Monday for the first time since the Congress attack and had “a good conversation,” according to a senior administration official.
That signalled that whatever Pence and the dwindling number of White House officials feel, they are committed to keeping the presidency limping along until January 20.
Still, with a string of cabinet officials quitting the government — most recently the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on Monday — it’s also clear that Trump’s grip on power is tenuous.
In an interview Tuesday on ABC News, Health Secretary Alex Azar did not dismiss outright the option of removing Trump, saying: “I’m not going to get into or discuss the 25th Amendment here.”
Democrats will follow up the 25th Amendment vote with impeachment proceedings in the House on Wednesday. The single charge of “incitement of insurrection” is all but sure to get majority support.
The Republican-controlled Senate, however, is in recess until January 19 and its leadership says there is no way to rush through an impeachment trial before Biden takes over the following day.
This means that Trump, who was acquitted in the Senate last year after his first impeachment, would not be forced out of the office early.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has reportedly floated the idea of using a rare parliamentary manoeuvre to force the chamber back into session under emergency circumstances, giving time for the start of an impeachment trial.
But not even all Democrats are gunning for a trial, worried that this would overshadow Biden’s first days in office.
The new president will already face the challenges of an out-of-control Covid-19 pandemic, the stumbling vaccination program, a shaky economy, and now the aftermath of violent political opposition from parts of Trump’s huge voter base.
Donald Trump’s four-year term as president ends on Jan. 20 at noon. That’s not soon enough for some in Congress, who have initiated an unprecedented second effort to impeach him, one year after the U.S. Senate acquitted him of House charges in his first impeachment. This time around, forcing Trump to leave office might not be the most important goal.
1. What would be the point, then?
Some Democrats say Trump must be impeached to hold him accountable for his role encouraging his supporters who participated in the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. More tangibly, Trump has made noises about running for the presidency again in 2024, a prospect that alarms many Democrats and complicates the ambitions of other Republicans who envision themselves in the Oval Office. Should he be impeached (again) by the House, and convicted (this time) by the required two-thirds supermajority in the Senate, senators could also vote to disqualify him from serving in future federal office, which would take only a simple majority. (Article 1 of the Constitution says impeachment judgments can include “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”)
2. Has disqualification ever happened?
The House has initiated impeachment proceedings more than 60 times, according to its historian’s office, and voted to impeach 20 individuals — 15 federal judges, one senator, one cabinet secretary and three presidents (Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Trump in 2019). Of that group, eight judges were convicted and removed from office by the Senate. Three of the judges were also disqualified from holding office again. The last instance was in 2010, involving Thomas Porteous, a federal judge in New Orleans who was accused of taking cash and bribes from lawyers and bail bondsmen with cases before his court, making false statements in declaring personal bankruptcy, and lying to the Senate during his confirmation.
3. What other repercussions would there be for Trump?
If impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, Trump could lose many of the benefits afforded to former presidents, which, under the Former Presidents Act of 1958, include a lifetime pension, an annual travel budget and funding for an office and staff. Under that law, such perks are withheld from any president removed through the impeachment process (though he would still be entitled to Secret Service protection.) Whether a post-presidency conviction, such as Trump potentially faces, constitutes “removal” might be a question for the courts to decide. But experts point out that Congress could try to amend the law to make sure Trump loses his benefits.
Protests As Joint Session Of Congress Confirms Presidential Election Result
Demonstrators mob a Police officer as they enter the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.Photographer: Eric Lee/Bloomberg
4. Is there enough time left to impeach Trump?
There’s enough time for the House to pass one or more articles of impeachment — formal written charges for consideration by the Senate — but there’s little to no chance that the Senate would act by Jan. 20. Since the goal of many Democrats transcends removing Trump as president, however, acting quickly isn’t a necessity. In fact, it’s possible that House Democrats might delay sending any approved articles of impeachment to the Senate for a couple of months, so as not to interfere with the first 100 days or so of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. No president has ever been convicted of impeachment, much less after leaving office, so the legality of a post-presidency impeachment conviction could be challenged, should it come to that.
5. What exactly is an impeachable offense?
Congress decides that. The U.S. Constitution says the president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” As Congress has defined it through the years, the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” includes exceeding or abusing the powers of the presidency, or misusing the office for improper purpose or gain.
6. Does Congress have other options?
There’s been talk of deploying the 14th Amendment, enacted in the aftermath of the Civil War, to make Trump ineligible from running again. Section 3 of that amendment prohibits any government official who participated in or supported an insurrection against the U.S. from holding office in the future. Because a resolution citing the 14th Amendment wouldn’t seek to remove Trump from office, it may not require the same two-thirds Senate vote as an impeachment conviction, and it would sidestep a lengthy trial.
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