House impeachment sends message about accountability

Former+President+Donald+J.+Trump+faces+his+second+impeachment+in+the+span+of+a+year.+

Claire Moore '22

Former President Donald J. Trump faces his second impeachment in the span of a year.

By Claire Moore, Sacred Heart Greenwich

The United States House of Representatives voted to impeach former President Donald J. Trump for the second time January 13, one week before his presidential term was set to end.  Following the Capitol riots a week prior, the House indicted Mr. Trump under the adopted article “incitement of insurrection,” according to The Washington Post.  His impeachment sparked controversy as it deepened party divides and furthered political polarization.  Congressman Jim Himes spoke to the King Street Chronicle about holding the former and future presidents accountable.

Congress holds the authority to impeach and later remove the president, vice president, and all federal officers charged with treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors, according to congress.gov.  Impeachment proceedings begin with an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee to advise the full House on which articles of impeachment to cite.  A majority vote in favor of at least one article leads to the official’s impeachment, according to The New York Times.  The Senate then holds a trial overseen by the United States’ chief justice with lawmakers from the House acting as prosecutors, and senators serving as the jury.  At least two-thirds of the Senate must find the defendant guilty to result in his or her removal.  Following the trial’s conclusion, there is no opportunity for appeal.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi signs the article of impeachment, charging former President Trump with incitement of insurrection.  Courtesy of Mr. Brendan Smialowski

Current impeachment charges against Mr. Trump center around his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, which he lost to President Joseph R. Biden.  Mr. Trump’s encouragement of a riot, continued efforts to undermine the election results, and false claims of victory even after Congress certified the vote count all contributed to his impeachment.  The House utilized Mr. Trump’s statements urging his supporters to fight his loss as well as recordings of a phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state, Mr. Brad Raffensperger, in which he pushed him to “find” votes to invalidate Mr. Biden’s win of the state as the main pieces of evidence, according to The Washington Post.

In an exclusive interview with the King Street Chronicle, Mr. Himes, United States Representative for Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District, shared his reasoning for voting to impeach Mr. Trump.

“The President incited a mob that stormed the capital and resulted in five fatalities, an action that requires accountability and response,” Mr. Himes said.  “We cannot send a message to history saying that this behavior will be tolerated.  I was delighted to see ten very courageous Republicans vote for impeachment as this is not a partisan issue.  The idea that we wouldn’t have the sharpest condemnation possible for incitement of violence and insurrection is just unacceptable.  I wish we had longer for the whole process and could hold hearings, but I think it would have been a huge disservice to both history and future presidents to say we will tolerate these actions.”

While Democrats remain in unanimity, Republican congressional officials are divided about impeaching Mr. Trump as his presidency has ended.  A previously staunch defender of Mr. Trump, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, remains undecided about how he will vote and intends to listen to both legal arguments, whereas House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy voted against impeachment with 196 other Republicans, according to The Wall Street Journal.  A survey found that only five Republican Senators were in total opposition to the proceedings, placing Mr. Trump’s supporters in an unusual minority position.  The House officially voted to impeach Mr. Trump while the Senate remains undecided in the trial process, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Many deem the actions of Mr. Trump as dangerous because they incited a violent mob which led to five fatalities.  Some, however, dispute his impeachment with only a week left in his presidency, believing that the act could cause more political unrest, according to CNN.  Practical efforts to remove Mr. Trump were mostly symbolic as his administration concluded January 20 with Mr. Biden’s inauguration.  The Senate could potentially hold a follow-up vote using a simple majority to ban Mr. Trump from running again in 2024, but a later conviction would not impact post-presidential benefits such as pension and Secret Service protection, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Himes commented on the importance of following through with impeachment proceedings even though Mr. Trump’s presidency has ended.

The first three Wednesdays of 2021 marked insurrection, then impeachment, and finally inauguration.  Claire Moore ’22

“There are two main reasons why I think the impeachment was necessary,” Mr. Himes said.  “The first is that it gets all the facts out to the public, meaning who was the President talking to in the days leading up to the riots, what was said, how deep did the incitement go.  It’s always good to have all the facts and because the impeachment happened so quickly, it wasn’t possible to get everything.  But a trial is a trial and another opportunity to publicize the facts.  The second reason is that the Senate could prohibit Donald Trump from holding public office again.”

Mr. Trump is the first president in United States history to undergo impeachment twice.  During his first impeachment in January 2020, the House charged him with “abuse of power” and “obstructing Congress” following reports of controversial interactions with the Ukrainian government regarding reelection, according to nbcnews.com.  After a partisan trial, the two-thirds Republican Senate acquitted Mr. Trump and he was not removed from office.

The violent insurrection damaged the American public’s trust in the federal government and its democratic institutions, according to uchicago.edu.  Mr. Himes discussed Congress’s responsibility to dispel political polarization in order to begin repairing the divide and rebuilding people’s confidence in their representatives.

“We’ve got a real obligation to get things done, something that involves compromise, which has been a dirty word around here for so long,” Mr. Himes said.  “If we’re going to restore the faith of the American public, we’re going to have to get back to compromising with each other.  I also think we need to change the language we use.  There are some who have you believe that the opposition isn’t just wrong, they’re evil and treasonous, and this gets you to the destruction we saw two weeks ago.”

Featured Image by Claire Moore ’22

This story was originally published on King Street Chronicle on January 25, 2021.