As I write this, the second day of Donald J. Trump's impeachment trial is taking place. Donald Trump is the first President in the 245 years of this country to have been impeached twice.
Once an impeached President is convicted in the Senate, the Constitution provides for two punishments. One is automatic - removal from office. The second, which requires a separate vote (but majority only), is to disqualify the convicted person from running for federal office again. Republican Senators have landed on the position that if the first punishment is no longer an option, someone who is impeached cannot be convicted. That nonsensical position would give the President a free ride to do whatever he or she wants during the final weeks in office, knowing that Congress would never have time to impeach and remove that person from office. Or the President, facing removal and disqualification, could simply resign and run for re-election at the next opportunity.
|Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)|
Those who argue that an ex-President can't be impeached often point to the criminal law as providing a way of holding the President accountable. Yes, but no. While a President could be charged with a crime, and ultimately convicted and imprisoned, even a felony conviction does not disqualify him from running for President again. Courts have long held that barring felons from serving in federal elected office would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to include that prohibition.
Last week, Republican Senators voted 45-5 that it is unconstitutional to try the impeachment of a President who is no longer in office. Yesterday though, the opening statements went so badly for the Trump legal team, that one GOP Senator flipped on the constitutional issue. The Hill reports:
Sen. (R-La.) on Tuesday panned the arguments made by former 's legal team, saying that House Democrats made a more compelling case that the impeachment proceeding is constitutional.
"I said I'd be an impartial juror. Anyone listening to those arguments — the House managers were focused. They were organized. They relied upon both precedent, the constitution and legal scholars. They made a compelling reason. President Trump's team were disorganized," he said.
"They did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand, and when they talked about it, they kind of glided over it, almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments. Now, I'm an impartial juror, and one side is doing a great job, and the other side is doing a terrible job on the issue at hand. As an impartial juror, I'm going to vote for the side that did the good job," Cassidy said.
Cassidy's vote and his comments apparently brought a quick rebuke from the Louisiana GOP.
“The Republican Party of Louisiana is profoundly disappointed by Senator Bill Cassidy’s vote on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial now underway against former President, now private citizen, Donald J. Trump,” the party said in a statement.
“We feel that an impeachment trial of a private citizen is not only an unconstitutional act, but also an attack on the very foundation of American democracy, which will have far reaching and unforeseen consequences for our republic,” it added.
The statement is unsigned and it is not clear who in the Louisiana GOP approved it.
What is truly astonishing is the comments attached to the Louisiana GOP statements in which posters (who may or may not be from Louisiana) react in anger to Cassidy's vote and demand he resign. Never mind that Cassidy is one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate and voted about 99% of the time with Trump's agenda, Cassidy is labeled as a RINO and not being conservative enough. In reality, the problem is that Cassidy dared to stray from the Trump cult and now must be punished.
OOP's short takes:
- Speaking of the Trump cult, the Aiken County Republican Party is considering a censure resolution against GOP Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott for not objecting to the counting of electoral votes that favored Joe Biden. Never mind that they really had no choice under the Constitution and have otherwise voted 100% for anything Dear Leader wanted.
- 'The Fulton County Prosecutor Fani Willis has opened up a criminal investigation into former President Trump's "attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia general election" relating to his phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump pressured Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to give him the win in Georgia. In a letter to state officials asking for the preservation of potential evidence, Willis has indicated the "investigation includes, but is not limited to, potential violations of Georgia election law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office, and any involvement in violence of threats related to the election's administration."
- I find the inclusion of the last phrase to be noteworthy. While Trump did, indirectly, suggest his Justice Department might prosecute Raffensperger if he didn't do as he was told, I am not aware that Trump was involved in instigating violence or threats toward Raffensperger or other Georgia officials. Makes me wonder if they have evidence of that allegation. Nonetheless, as far as Trump being charged criminally in Fulton County, I think the odds are at least 50-50.