Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s midafternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Thursday, January 14, 2021. Right now the temperature is 66˚F (19˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind becalmed and humidity at 49%, the feels-like temperature is 66˚F (19˚C), which is slightly higher than the original forecast high of 63˚F (17˚C). Tonight, we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 47˚F (8˚C).
Well, yesterday the House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach President Donald J. Trump on a single charge – incitement of insurrection – in a rare bipartisan response to last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump’s supporters, which was caused by several months of false claims that the 2020 Presidential election was “rigged” and “stolen” in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. This is the first time in U.S. history that one President is impeached twice in less than one year’s time…and in one term, at that.
In contrast to Trump’s first impeachment, this time around the vote was a bipartisan effort; 10 Republican representatives joined Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Democratic majority in the lower house of the Legislative Branch. All 222 Democrats voted to impeach – not surprising, considering that the attack on the Capitol was carried out by insurrectionists who targeted anyone who certified the Electoral College results of the election – including every Democrat in Congress, Vice President Mike Pence – for refusing to decertify the election on his own like Trump wanted – and the Republican members who joined their Democratic colleagues.
The next step, of course, is a trial in the Senate. The House – and Speaker Pelosi – wanted a speedy trial while Trump is in office, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will not recall the Senate for a special session. He prefers to hold a Senate trial after Trump leaves office on January 20; the twice-impeached Trump can still be tried even if he is no longer President, and even if the Senate does not convict him of the charge of incitement, there can still be a vote to ban Trump from ever holding an elected office again.
Why is McConnell not interested in trying Trump in the Senate while he’s still President?
Two words: political expedience.
As Time magazine’s Philip Elliott writes in GOP Leaders Seem to Want a Trump Divorce. But They Can’t Bring Themselves to Sign the Papers, both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and McConnell find many of Trump’s utterances and even actions as President galling, but he has proved useful in furthering their conservative agenda, including tax cuts for the wealthy, eliminating regulations that protect the environment, and allowing McConnell to shape the country’s judiciary in accordance with the right’s wishes.
McCarthy has been stewing over Trump’s cheering of the failed insurrection that put members of Congress at mortal risk and cost a police officer his life at the Capitol, but he still fell into the same quandary facing most Republicans. A political animal who has an effortless way of making anyone he is courting feel seen, McCarthy was never going to be much of a roadblock for Trump. After all, McCarthy landed the top job in large part because of Trump. When McCarthy tried for it in 2015, he came up short. In 2018, when House Speaker Paul Ryan decided it was time to exit, McCarthy’s second bid to top the GOP ladder proved successful. If the price was to sort through bags of Starburst candies to weed out the orange- and lemon-flavored snacks for Trump, so be it. (That happened.)
McConnell was never one to suck-up to Trump, but he excused the theatrics. Trump gave McConnell a large berth when it came to legislating and McConnell used the slack to pack the federal courts for a generation. McConnell’s calculations and Trump’s instincts found a way to co-exist, even if they never really fed off each other.
Whether Trump is tried in the Senate after his term is over is an unknown at this time. The previous three impeachments of Presidents – Andrew Johnson in 1867, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Trump in 2020 – all took place while the accused were still in the White House. So if the Senate does try Trump a second time – and now with a more cooperative McConnell – it will be what is called a “late impeachment.” This has been done a few times in American history, and no state constitution forbids the procedure.
As they say on TV, stay tuned!