Donald Trump has truly made history — for all of the wrong reasons. After the horrifying events at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump has been impeached for his role in encouraging the rioters.
There are two main steps involved in the process of removing a president from office: impeachment by the House of Representatives and then conviction by the Senate.
The House of Representatives can impeach a president with a simple majority for what the Constitution describes as “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” So, impeaching Trump was easy both in 2019 and 2021 because of how the House of Representatives is controlled by the Democratic Party.
The second step, conviction, is carried out by a two-thirds majority in the Senate. After conviction, the president is removed from office. This did not occur in 2019 because the Senate was controlled by Republicans, and it is unlikely that Trump will be convicted now because, even with Democratic control, not enough Senate Republicans are expected to vote for conviction for a two-thirds majority.
“I think they believe that this is an unnecessary and unconstitutional power grab designed to damage Trump’s reputation,” said former AP Government and Politics teacher Jeffrey Seymour. “They will argue that it serves no purpose other than to humiliate the former president, and that this should be a time of healing, not vindictiveness.”
Some have also argued that convicting a president after they have left office will set a dangerous precedent. However, their arguments of unconstitutionality are moot.
“There is constitutional support for convicting someone in a Senate trail after leaving office,” continued Seymour. “Some of the notes of what was discussed at the Constitutional Convention support this idea, and, in 1876, the Senate held the impeachment trial of William Belknap, the corrupt secretary of war under Grant, after he had resigned from office. The Senate did not convict him. But there is precedent for the Senate holding the trial of an impeached official after that official leaves office.”
Nothing in the Constitution prevents a former president from being convicted. Although conviction is unlikely, this constitutional measure would prove advantageous to our democracy.
“The real advantage to convicting Trump now is that it would signal that public officials are responsible for their words and actions, and that some form of penalty will be paid for bad conduct,” added Seymour. “There is also the possibility that the Senate could impose an order barring the president from ever holding public office again.”
A president as dangerous as Trump would be harmful to have in office again, but without this unlikely conviction, it is possible that he will run for president in 2024.
“I think that President Trump is incapable of being embarrassed so he will not feel shamed by anything that is proven at trial,” finished Seymour.