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In the Know – Second Impeachment of President Trump

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walks back to her office from a House Chamber during the Impeachment debate and vote on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 13, 2021. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

By Annah Johnson

The House of Representatives voted that a second impeachment was the appropriate consequence for President Donald Trump’s involvement in inciting the violent attack on the United States Capitol on Jan. 6. 

The House Judiciary Committee released a report that detailed the events that took place during the counting of the electoral votes to officiate the results of the Nov. 3 election. It explained the call for impeachment based on Trump’s incitement of the violence that took place and concluded that he is unfit to remain in office.

After a failed call from the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi asking Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and assume presidential power, impeachment proceedings on the House floor today were successful.

The process of impeaching the president, and for a second time at that, is not only confusing but is often misunderstood as a different punishment altogether. Keith St. Clair, a political science professor at Grand Rapids Community College, broke it down for us.

“So let’s say you commit a crime, like murder,” St. Clair explained. “The prosecutor’s office would charge you with murder, but that’s not the end of the story. You would then have to have a trial and a jury would then have to find you guilty.”

He explains that the House of Representatives votes to impeach with a majority vote, which is simply the indictment, but not a charge for a crime. The Senate would then conduct a trial on whether or not to convict, which takes a two-thirds majority vote.

“We have had presidents impeached in the House of Representatives, but we have never had a president actually convicted in the Senate,” St. Clair said. “If one was to be convicted, then they would be removed from office.”

For a serious crime, once impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate, a president found guilty by a jury in a regular criminal court could potentially face prison time.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he will not be consenting to reconvene the Senate early for a trial to convict Trump. Because the president is nearing the end of his term in just a few days, the act of convicting Trump would happen after he leaves office. 

“The trial could very well take place afterward, but there are some people who question the constitutionality of that,” St. Clair said. “The incentive to go through with a trial after he leaves office is to potentially allow the Senate to convict Trump, but also remove his pension and prevent him from running for president ever again.”

This impeachment is mostly a historical embarrassment, as not only the third president ever to be impeached, he is also the first president to be impeached twice.

“The people responsible for breaking into the Capitol should certainly be arrested and charged, and then you could make an argument that the president incited the mob, and that’s basically why the House is impeaching him,” St. Clair said. “I think he should be impeached for this, absolutely. Even Betsy Devos, his secretary of education resigned because she said he was responsible for the attack, and even Republican Peter Meijer has said that Trump is responsible.”

The first impeachment of Trump fell on the party lines, as no Republicans voted in favor. His second impeachment, however, had the support of 10 Republican congressmen. Two Republicans from West Michigan voted in favor, Peter Meijer and Fred Upton.

Meijer maintained that his vote to impeach Trump was not a victory, but a way to right the wrongs that have caused severe damage to our nation.

“President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to undermine our constitutional process, and he bears responsibility for inciting the insurrection we suffered last week. With a heavy heart, I will vote to impeach President Donald J. Trump,” Meijer stated in a tweet during proceedings.

Around 4:30 p.m., Pelosi announced the results of the vote that historically impeached President Trump for the second time. 

Silenced by all of the social media platforms, Trump finally offered a public statement hours after the vote and addressed the nation.

“Now I am asking everyone who has ever believed in our agenda to be thinking of ways to ease tension, calm tempers and help to promote peace in our country,” Trump said.

Trump maintained that he unfairly lost the election and that he believes the censorship of his accounts on social media platforms are direct assaults on the First Amendment.