The U.S. House of Representatives was set to hold a vote Wednesday on what would be the second impeachment of President Donald Trump.
If the House does indeed vote for the impeachment of President Trump, it would be a first. Trump would becomes the first U.S. president to be impeached a second time.
But when you read the comments about that prospect on social media, you realize something quickly. People don’t know what it means to impeach a president.
Some still think impeaching a president is the same as removing him from office. In fact, someone called the newsroom at my real job and tried to argue that Trump had not been impeached. The proof, they said, is that he’s still in office.
That’s the proof that people don’t know what impeachment actually means. If it meant removal, there couldn’t be a possibility of a second impeachment.
The first time
The House adopted two articles of impeachment against Trump in December 2019.
Impeaching a president means formally charging the president with an offense. I don’t know why people forgot that since the first impeachment happened. Sure, we’ve experienced a lot of craziness in 2020. But 2019 didn’t happen that long ago.
As we know already, when the House impeaches a president, that’s only half of the process. The Articles of Impeachment then go to the U.S. Senate. Senators then hold a trial to decide whether to convict the president or acquit him.
The Senate acquitted Trump of those two charges on Feb. 5, 2020.
All of that was before the pandemic began.
The second time?
House members will consider a charge of “incitement of insurrection.” They base that on the belief that Trump encouraged his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. That’s the day Congress reviewed the Electoral College vote to affirm the official count to officially confirm President-elect Joe Biden as the next president.
The second vote to impeach comes after the House passed a resolution Tuesday night urging Vice President Mike Pence to remove Trump from office through the 25th Amendment. That amendment of the Constitution allows a vice president and the Cabinet to remove a president they deem unfit for office.
Pence said that would not happen.
“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Pence wrote. He says the amendment is “not a means of punishment or usurpation,” and that invoking it would “set a terrible precedent.”
So the House then moves to voting to impeach.
All of this is set to happen one week before Biden’s inauguration.
Is it worth it?
Your position on that surely depends on your political persuasion. It also depends on how much you support Trump’s often-abrasive style.
Some argue it’s a waste of time to remove him from office this late in the term. He leaves office in just seven days, they say.
But others insist he’s still capable of doing a lot of damage in those seven days, pointing to the deadly U.S. Capitol riot they blame him for.
If the House impeaches Trump Wednesday, the Senate would then have to consider holding a trial to remove him from office. Could that even happen in a week? Congress can move quickly when they want to. Congress can also drag their feet like they’re walking through molasses.
Why bother? The end game doesn’t really appear to be 2021. It looks like the end game involves 2024, specifically the election of 2024.
If the Senate convicted Trump, that would disqualify him from holding “any office of trust, honor or profit from the United States.”
At this point, he may or may not have the support for a single-term run in 2024 regardless. After all, he’d be a lame-duck President the moment he would take office for the second time.
But an actual conviction would answer that question before anyone has a real chance to ask.
It would presumably prevent him from becoming a senator or representative.
Still, that’s why Biden faces the possibility that the Senate will have to conduct an impeachment trial once he takes office even though Trump will no longer be in office.
To put it more simply, this is going to a mess that’s going to stick around for a while.