President Donald Trump has disgraced himself and the United States of America no less. He has incurred the very dubious distinction of becoming the first US President to be impeached twice, an event that has made Thursday’s action historic.
On closer reflection, both the charge and the comeuppance are epochal. And so it has been in the House of Representatives. Mr Trump has been charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the storming of Capitol Hill, home to Congress, on 6 January.
Remarkably swift has been the response of the House ~ eight days after the ugly truth emanated from the fountain-head of democracy, and barely five days before the next President’s inaugural on 20 January. Mr Trump’s proclamation of emergency in Washington DC cannot beef up his position.
He has no defence against the charge levelled by the House of Representatives, specifically that he “encouraged” violence with his false claims of election fraud. He now faces trial in the Senate, but not before he leaves office next Wednesday. A trial can happen after his term ends, and Senators can vote to bar him from holding public office again. Joe Biden will, therefore, succeed to a depleted inheritance.
In the first week of January, Trump had urged his supporters to “fight like hell” against an election that he falsely told them had been stolen. It is a measure of the tension that rages beneath the surface of salubrious Washington that troops are on vigil at Capitol, one week after the riots.
Indeed, the FBI has warned of possible armed protests planned for Washington DC and all 50 US state capitals in the days before Mr Biden, a Democrat, is inaugurated as the new US President. Far from his customary strategy,
Trump has appealed to his followers to remain peaceful… without alluding to his second impeachment. “Violence and vandalism have no place in our country. No true supporter of mine would ever endorse political violence,” he said in a strikingly sombre and conciliatory tone, indeed a far cry from his appeal on 6 January when the Capitol suffered both violence and vandalism.
The articles of impeachment stated that “President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government, threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperilled a coequal branch of government.”
The words are suitably damning and underline the importance of democratic values. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said on the House floor: “The President of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
The fact that a section of the Republicans backed the impeachment move is a reflection not only of the gravity of the moment, but also the President’s declining influence in the final days of his administration. Donald Trump has alienated a fairly large section of legislators. Democracy has been denuded and tragically by the Head of State.