Trump impeachment trial could begin on Inauguration Day

President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House the prospect of impeachment is causing “tremendous anger" in the nation. But he said he wants “no violence.”

Two political experts from Valley universities called the House of Representatives’ vote to impeach President Donald Trump unprecedented in a number of ways.

The House’s impeachment of President Donald Trump is remarkable in many ways, said Scott Meinke, professor and chair, department of political science, Bucknell University.

“It’s the first time a president has been impeached twice,” said Scott Meinke, professor and chair, department of political science, Bucknell University. “It’s the only time the House has impeached so close to the end of a term, and it’s the most bipartisan presidential impeachment, with ten members of the president’s party voting to impeach.”

The Constitution, Meinke said, gives the House the impeachment power to protect against a president whose abuses gravely threaten the political system, and the House has impeached here to respond to such a threat. 

“Although a Senate trial will probably wait until the president leaves office,” he said, “the potential for Senate conviction is itself the strongest check Congress can place on the president in his last week in office. In addition to the mark that impeachment itself places on the president’s legacy, a two-thirds vote to convict in the Senate could be followed by a simple majority vote to bar Donald Trump from holding office again.”

Setting a precedent

House members who supported impeachment on Wednesday believe the President incited a group of his supporters to attack the capital in the hopes of intimidating members of Congress into not certifying the results of the electoral college — and that this is a dangerous precedent, said Susquehanna University political science professor Nick Clark, on Wednesday night.

“The president only has days left in power,” Clark said, “so the intent is less to remove him from power and more to signal to future presidents that this is unacceptable behavior. Some members who opposed impeachment appear to believe that the president has done something wrong but that it is not worth it to remove him so close to the end of his term, and that such actions will divide the country more. They believe some form of censure but not impeachment is appropriate.”

What it means politically

“I’m not sure that Democrats gain anything politically from this action,” Clark said. “The president has already been defeated.”

On the other side of the aisle, Clark believes that some Republicans who opposed impeachment likely fear the political repercussions of voting against the president; that his base of supporters might punish them in a future election. 

Clark said while Trump’s supporters will remain loyal — and they’re not a small group — “too many centrist Republicans are going to conclude it is time to move on after this.”

“In the Republican party,” he said, “there is a battle emerging over the direction of the party, whether it will continue to be dominated by the president and his supporters or whether another faction might lead it. That battle, to a certain extent, has been exposed through the certification process and this impeachment vote.”

Long term, Trump’s entire presidency, including the last week, has set a new standard for how politicians can behave. 

“The system will not just reset after this,” Clark said.

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