- Anthony Zurcher
- BBC correspondent in Washington DC
Exactly a week after the security forces had to defend US congressmen from an angry mob, lawmakers gathered in the same chamber to impeach the mob-backed president.
Is the first time in America’s 231-year history that a president has been subjected to two political trials in the same period, undoubtedly an ignominious end for a president who likes to boast of the historic successes of his presidency.
The only article of the impeachment accuses President Donald Trump of news incitesdo to the riots that erupted in the US Capitol after he addressed thousands of his supporters at a rally near the White House on Wednesday morning, January 6.
The indictment will now be referred to the Senate and its 100 members will once again serve as jurors in a political trial presided over by the Chief Justice
And while the outcome of that trial, which will not begin until after Joe Biden takes office, is doubtful, the political implications of the action of Congress can already be evaluated.
Republicans who turn their backs on the president
Just over a year ago, the House of Representatives passed its first impeachment against Trump without a single Republican vote.
This time, 10 members of the president’s party broke ranks to support the resolution, and a larger number condemned his words and actions on the day of the Capitol riot.
Liz Cheney, the third most important Republican in the lower house and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was the most notable dropout.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a United States president of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” he wrote in a statement that was frequently quoted by Democrats during the debate on the impeachment.
And according to reports, some Republicans in the Senate are willing to vote to convict the president. The “New York Times” reported Tuesday night that Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was “pleased” that Trump was about to be indicted and hoped the trial allowed the party to clearly disassociate itself from the president.
McConnell has since said he will reserve his trial until the process is over, but reports from the senator’s office – which is usually very careful – don’t materialize out of nowhere: battle lines within the party are already being drawn, at least tentatively.
The evident division in the House on Wednesday highlights the choice Republicans will have to make in the coming days.
On the one hand, there is the option of remaining loyal to the type of politics represented by Trump, which created a new coalition of voters that the White House and Congress gave up in 2016, but lost both in 2020.
On the other, there is a uncertain future, but free from the brand and rhetoric of the president.
A trial against Trump and Trumpism
In the hours after last week’s riots, Democrats debated how best to respond and punish the president for instigating an attack that, in their view, not only threatened American democracy but also put their lives at risk.
In the end, they decided that making Trump the first president forced to face two political trials was the most effective action, even if the impeachment came. in the last week of his presidency.
On Wednesday, however, Democrats weren’t just blaming Donald J. Trump: also eThey were accusing Trumpism as a whole.
The impeachment article specifically referenced the months Trump spent attacking and undermining the November general election.
And during the debate in the House of Representatives, they attacked Trump’s behavior over the course of his presidency and lashed out at Republicans in Congress who echoed the president’s rhetoric.
There may be Republicans who want to get away from Trump and Trumpism, but it is clear that at least some Democrats in Congress will try to tie the president, and last week’s riot, around the neck. the entire Republican Party.
Trump, weakened but not defeated
Imagine, for a moment, an alternate course of history over the past few months, in which instead of vociferously challenging his electoral defeat, Trump would have quietly conceded in November.
Republicans would likely have won at least one of the runoff elections in Georgia and still control the Senate. And Trump, instead of facing a very real threat from Republicans eager to bury him, would be the party’s undisputed benchmark.
In that context, another presidential race in 2024 would be a very real possibility.
Instead, Trump is on the ropes. He has been silenced from social media, losing his beloved Twitter account. And even if a Senate conviction does not prohibit him from running for office, his power and influence within the Republican Party have been significantly eroded.
Public opinion polls, as well as his most vocal defenders in the House of Representatives, suggest that the president still enjoys significant support within his party.
But the last few weeks will embolden his adversaries, who see an opportunity to deliver a lasting coup de grace to the president while he is on the ground.
In other words, now run mwings risk than ever.
For five years, Trump has laughed at his critics and forecasters who have been wrong many times in writing his political epitaph, surviving scandals and controversies that would have wiped out most politicians. But this time it could be different.
An awkward trial for Biden
After being sworn in as president, Biden will have to deal with a pandemic that is claiming the lives of more than 4,000 Americans a day and an economy that continues to worsen. And now he will also have to do it while the Senate deals with the impeachment of his predecessor.
Republicans warned Wednesday that impeachment would further inflame and divide Americans at a time when the nation needs to begin to heal. They say it would make Biden’s promise to unify the nation even more difficult.
That may end up being the case, although Democrats were quick to note that references to the need to heal the country sounded hollow in the mouth of Republicans who did not hesitate to be part of a long campaign to undermine the legitimacy of Biden’s election.
The impeachment, however, will present some very real practical challenges for Biden in the early days of his presidency.
A Senate concerned about the need to pass judgment on Trump is one that will not be able to focus on enacting the ambitious agenda of the first 100 days of the new president.
It’s also one that he may not be able to quickly confirm to officials appointed by the Biden administration, limiting his ability to successfully run the sprawling apparatus of the federal government.
Biden has asked if the Senate could carry out a part-time trial Trump, working on confirmations and legislation when he is not serving as a jury in the process against the former president.
But there are no guarantees that Republicans or independent senators will accept the plan.
The first 100 days are a crucial moment for any new president, because during that time his political influence is maximum.
And at least some of Biden’s power will be drained by this particular fight.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.