Trump’s impeachment trial will also be an indictment of Republican lawmakers—and they know it

“The story of the president’s actions is both riveting and horrifying,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead prosecutor, told The New York Times. “We think that every American should be aware of what happened — that the reason he was impeached by the House and the reason he should be convicted and disqualified from holding future federal office is to make sure that such an attack on our democracy and Constitution never happens again.”

The Democrats’ case will rely heavily on a video recreation of the violent siege, viscerally reminding both lawmakers and citizens alike of the trauma Trump inflicted on the nation that day. Since Democrats will need the votes of at least 17 GOP senators to convict Trump and only five have signaled a willingness to consider the arguments on their merits, winning a Senate conviction seems unlikely. But convicting Trump and his GOP enablers in the court of public opinion is clearly worth the energy—particularly as Republicans spend the next couple years whining about President Biden sidelining them in his effort address the country’s urgent needs. Congressional Republicans spent four years helping Trump shred the U.S. Constitution in pursuit of stealing another election. Now they think they deserve to be equal players in a presidency they sought to nullify by overturning the will of the people. Democrats are going to remind The People that Trump engineered an attack on the homeland specifically to disenfranchise them and the Republican Party aided and abetted that effort.

Republicans’ chief argument against convicting Trump is that it’s unconstitutional since he’s no longer in office. But remember—Sen. Mitch McConnell stalled the Senate trial until Trump was safely out of office. As luck would have it, Senate Republicans are now basing their key defense strategy on a loophole McConnell created.

But it’s not only a phony loophole, it’s also a weak loophole at that. The notion that presidents can’t be held to account for their conduct during the entirety of their tenure is ludicrous. As the House impeachment managers wrote in their brief, “There is no ‘January Exception’ to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution.” 

Even conservative stalwart and constitutional law expert Charles Cooper is calling BS on the notion that a president can’t be held accountable for their actions in office merely because they are no longer in office. Specifically because the Senate has the constitutional authority to bar people from holding office in the future, Cooper argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “it defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders.”

So GOP efforts to discredit the impeachment trial come down to sending out a bunch of discredited Republican lawmakers to make a preposterous constitutional argument based on circumstances that they themselves manufactured.

Sounds totally reasonable, said nobody who was sane enough to vote for Biden in the first place. And just maybe a few people who voted for Trump but were repulsed by the lethal Jan. 6 riot—or who had hoped the Republican Party would redeem itself in a post-Trump era—will find the Republican posture equally as revolting. The Capitol siege already set in motion a wave of conservative voters who are fleeing the party. The sentiment fueling those defections is only likely to gain steam as Americans watch the impeachment trial and the GOP’s bogus defense of Trump and, by extension, themselves.

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