Why it was so important to impeach President Trump this time than it was ever before. The American democracy is the result of years of struggle, resistance and sacrifice – a system for which people laid down their lives during the American War of Independence and again for preserving it during American Civil War. Many countries around the world have taken cues from the American system. Democracy might look a normal system of governance at present but it had taken a lot of blood and time to arrive at this stage.
When Trump said “Make America Great Again” in his re-election, he probably meant that he was smart enough, so elect him again. And he tried everything possible under the sun to remain in the chair. For about two months, he declined to accept the results of the election without any substantial proofs of frauds, claims that were already rejected by courts. Many anticipated that he did not learn to accept defeat and his Id might be at work so he was taking time to concede but what happened on the 6th of January was beyond anybody’s imagination that a sitting president would incite his supporters to storm the Capitol, the seat of democracy, the very symbol of The United States of America. He should have been the first person to defend it, preserve it, and to uphold the law of the land and values enshrined in the constitution. On the contrary, he encouraged people to break the law and to siege the Capitol like what used to happen in some far off tribes a few centuries ago. He said to his supporters “We are going to the Capitol” and “If you don’t fight like hell you aren’t going to have a country any more” in a rally who then marched straight to Capitol and raided the building where the joint session of Congress for affirmation of electoral votes was being convened. And when Trump addressed them after the raid he said, “We love you. You’re very special. Go home ”. What kind of special people these were who threatened the elected representatives and took control of the house. They scaled the walls, smashed the windows, left graffities on the doors and sat in house speaker’s chair. Five people including a Capitol police officer died and many officers and rioters were injured in the melee. Vice-President Pence, who had no will to subvert the election results, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, House of Representative Speaker Pelosi and other Congress members were on their target and had to be taken to safer chambers. Any politician in his right mind would not side with the rioters overtly even if he encouraged them in the first place.
Being one of oldest democracies of the modern world, it was, in the words of Pelosi, a “constitutional and patriotic duty” to impeach the president for inciting the insurrection even though he was in his last week in office. It will go down in history that insurrection and violence on the Capitol hill cannot go unpunished. Congress cannot be made to function under the threat of physical violence and seize by mob. Donald Trump has become the only president in US history to be impeached twice and this time because, among others, he made statements that “encouraged and foreseeably resulted in lawless action at the Capitol”. He tried to dismantle the very institution he took oath to protect. It would send a strong signal across the globe that there are limits for even the highest office in the country, regarded as the most powerful in the world, and there will be consequences.
Vice-President Pence refused to invoke 25th Amendment to remove the president from office for incapacity or inability to discharge duties terming it political games and saying that this amendment was not “a means of punishment or usurpation”. So the next option was to impeach the president. After the impeachment the trail would be held in the Senate and the president can only be convicted with the support of the Republicans. Republicans do not have anything to lose. On the contrary, they might reap some benefits in supporting the Democrats in convicting Trump because he is not going to help them win 2024. Conversely, he might prove to be a liability. By supporting the Democrats in the Senate Republicans have a chance to prove to swing voters that GOP still believes in upholding the rule of law and is against any violence or specifically the violence on Capitol. His conviction might be followed by a vote barring him from running again thus providing opportunity to other Republicans to run for presidency. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has indicated that proceedings would only be started after 19th January when the Senate reconvenes. Many Republican are expected to vote against Trump in the Senate as ten Republicans have voted to impeach the president in the House of Representatives, but it is not easy to get the required two-third votes to convict him. One third of the Republican in the Senate (17) would be required to vote against Trump and the process might take two to three weeks from Biden swearing-in ceremony. Even if the Senate cannot convict him after trial but not doing anything about the siege and not impeaching Trump would have been quite discreditable for the US and with what moral authority the US could have commented about other countries if such a thing happen in future.
The FBI has initiated inquiry about 70 plus people involved in the siege. May more are going to be charged for rioting in the coming weeks. The special powers of the president regarding pardon should not be used in this case and for himself and if it so happens, the Congress must bring an amendment regarding pardons and powers of the president when new administration is installed.
Everybody is equal before law and it should also be seen on the ground!
Dr Mubin Raza Khan, Assistant Professor of English Literature, Taif University, Saudi Arabia