Yesterday (Feb. 9), Donald Trump became the first American president to be subject to two impeachment trials during their administration, although the second impeachment formally began when he was no longer head of state, creating another milestone in the country’s political and institutional history.
In the first instance, the House of Representatives accused Trump of obstructing justice in a federal investigation over alleged pressures he had exercised so that the Ukrainian government would formalize a criminal accusation against the son of now-president Joe Biden, his potential rival at the time for the November 2020 election.
This time, Trump has been accused of “inciting an insurrection” when, on Jan. 6, he improvised a speech to a crowd in front of the White House and said, “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.” This was followed by the crowd’s attack on the Capitol to impede Congress’ confirmation of Biden’s victory. Before the formal trial, Trump’s legal team debated with Democrat district attorneys on whether the U.S. Constitution permits or prohibits Congress from trying a former president for a crime they are accused of committing while occupying that role.
It’s unlikely that the second impeachment process will deem the former leader guilty because it is improbable that it will obtain the required majority. However, if it does happen, it will spark another debate on the type of sanction that can be applied, which can’t be removal or full disqualification.*
The accusation against Trump was ratified by the House of Representatives on Jan. 13, meaning the process will end when he is no longer a resident of the White House, even more so because the Democrat legislators have indicated that Trump’s alleged crime is the most serious accusation a head of state has received in the history of the U.S.
Article 2, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution details that “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Although it doesn’t refer to “former presidents,” the impeachment managers argue that the process started and was approved while he was still in office.
In this historic court case, Trump is probably going to be absolved again, and if he were declared guilty, no law or jurisprudence text could hope to shed light on the type of penalty that will be imposed on him. But even so, in this great nation, democracy will still prevail.
*Editor’s Note: On Feb. 13, the Senate failed to convict Trump.
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