Toothless Tiger: Accountability Could Prevent Trump from Taking office in the future

that Unusual breach At the United States Capitol by rioters encouraged by President Donald Trump, they led lawmakers into uncharted territory as they set the impeachment path just days before Trump’s term.

Democrats in the US House of Representatives said they would file an impeachment clause as soon as Monday, accusing him of involvement in “major crimes and misdemeanors by deliberately inciting violence against the United States government.”

In his repeated attempts to undermine the elections and direct his supporters to march to the US Legislative Council headquarters on January 6 as Congress met to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, Trump “betrayed his confidence as president” and lawmakers argued.

Experts said the move has the potential to shape the early days of the Biden presidency, as well as the US political landscape for years to come – one in which Trump could be barred from holding federal office again in the future.

“The fact that this could be the result could be a fatal blow to Trump,” Alan Barron, a former special adviser to the House of Representatives, told Al Jazeera during four inquiries about the dismissal of federal judges.

For Trump to be held accountable, the rule must pass a majority vote in the House before it is sent to the Senate for trial. The measure then requires the support of two-thirds in the Senate to convict the president and remove him from office.

Then, Barron explained, a subsequent vote in the Senate, “historically only of a simple majority,” could prevent an impeached president from taking public office again.

As of Sunday, 200 sponsors of the impeachment article have participated in the 435-seat House of Representatives, with the Democrats having a slim majority.

Barron said that, with the party also preparing to assume majority control of the Senate soon, the impeachment could be a “practical” move aimed at preventing Trump from running for president again in 2024 – or a “symbolic” reprimand for his actions.

“There was talk of Trump’s role as a kind of government in exile, in terms of rallying Republicans when he is out of office,” he said. “If he’s barred from any federal office, he’s some kind of toothless tiger.”

US Senators cast their votes during the 2020 Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump [Reuters]

A constitutional issue

However, the Senate trial is unlikely to take place before Trump leaves office on January 20.

Even if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cooperated with a trial before Biden took office – which he said he would not do – observers said it was logistically impossible to hold such a high-stakes trial in such a short time frame.

Meanwhile, Democratic Representative James Clairn suggested Sunday that the House may wait to send the impeachment clause to the Senate until 100 days into Biden’s presidency, so as not to spoil his early days in office.

This means that lawmakers’ hopes of preventing Trump from taking office in the future will hinge on a constitutional question of whether the Senate trial can proceed after the president has already left the White House.

“The constitutional text is not clear on this point,” Thomas M. Keck, a professor of political science at Syracuse University, told Al Jazeera, adding that “most of the constitutional researchers studying impeachment agree that trial and conviction can occur after his departure.” Office. Headquarters. center. “

“This is a debatable interpretation of the meaning of the constitution,” he added, “But my understanding is that as long as the process started while someone was in office, it could continue to the end, even if that person left an office. Headquarters. Center.”

Philip Bobbitt, a constitutional researcher at Columbia University, told Al Jazeera that while he believes lawmakers have reasons for his impeachment, “in my opinion … you cannot impeach someone who is not in office.”

Bobbitt said that based on his interpretation, the Senate trial must be completed before January 20, which he described as “unrealistic.”

If the trial continues after Trump leaves office, Bobbitt said, “I think it would be an appropriate defense by the former president’s party to say he’s no longer an officer in the United States.”

‘Historical record’

Even if the trial is allowed to go ahead after Trump leaves office, Democrats are likely to face an uphill battle in convincing the 16 Republican senators required to reach a two-thirds majority in the House to vote impeachment.

In recent days, at least two Republican senators, Pat Tommy and Lisa Murkowski, have done so call For Trump to resign.

Other Republican lawmakers have said they support the 25th Amendment, a constitutional provision that allows the cabinet and the vice president to remove him from office if they deem him incapable of fulfilling his duties.

Supporters of President Donald Trump rioted on the second floor of the US Capitol Building on January 6 [File: Mike Theiler/Reuters]

Vice President Mike Pence said he opposed the idea of ​​invoking the 25th Amendment, an adviser said recently, while some Republican lawmakers have urged Biden to halt Democrats’ efforts to impeach them, saying they risk making it difficult to unite the country after the Capitol violence. .

However, opinions could change as more evidence emerges from the riots, in particular whether directives from the Trump administration contributed to a delayed response by Federal Security agents.

Kik said the House impeachment measure would still send a message to future US leaders.

“Even if preventing Trump from holding office in the future was a shortcoming, I classified him as the only president in history to be sacked twice,” Keck said.

“It should be up to the historical record to say that inciting the mob to attack Congress and trying to prevent them from certifying the election results is unacceptable behavior.”

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