Leslie Marshall: Impeachment trial of Trump must proceed – here are 5 reasons why

Senate has ‘a constitutional responsibility’ to hold Trump’s trial: Sen. Murphy

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., argues former President Trump’s impeachment trial ‘doesn’t stop’ the rest of the business the Senate is considering.

Donald J. Trump has been impeached, twice. Now the second Senate impeachment trial against the former president will commence Feb. 9. 

The one article of impeachment charges him with “incitement of insurrection” over the violence that took place at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The article states: “Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.”  

The impeachment article goes on to say that during an address to his supporters Trump “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”  

ANDREW McCARTHY: TRUMP IMPEACHMENT TRIAL – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW, WHAT MAY SURPRISE YOU

This impeachment trial will be very different for a few reasons: Trump is no longer president and is a private citizen; it is the first time in our nation’s history in which a president has been impeached twice, hence having a second impeachment trial in the Senate, and senators not only will hear evidence before their vote, but many of them witnessed firsthand the violence Trump is accused of inciting. 

Many believe, for numerous reasons, that this trial should not go forward. But I strongly disagree and here are five reasons why: 

Protocol 

The Constitution is very clear about how Impeachment proceedings should be handled.  Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution states that “the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments… impeachment proceedings, the House of Representatives charges an official of the federal government by approving, by majority vote, articles of impeachment.” 

So the Senate sits as a high court of impeachment in which senators consider evidence, hear witnesses and vote to acquit or convict the impeached official. In other words, impeachment in the House is Part A, the Senate trial is Part B. As President Joe Biden said: “He was impeached by the House and it has to move forward, otherwise it would come off as farcical what this was all about.” Not having a trial in the Senate would “make a mockery of the system,” Biden said.  

It’s constitutional and there is precedent 

Those who argue that it is unconstitutional to have this trial because Trump is no longer president and is a private citizen, or that there is no precedent, are wrong. Trump was impeached by the House seven days before he left office. The Constitution clearly states that the Senate has the “sole power to try all impeachments.” “All” is the key word in this sentence. Thus, the Constitution says the Senate’s authority extends to every constitutionally proper impeachment, which Trump’s second impeachment clearly was.   

You don’t stop the process because you think you know the outcome.

As for precedent, William W. Belknap, Ulysses S Grant’s secretary of war resigned hours before he was impeached by the House. The Senate held a trial even though he had left office and he was acquitted. As the House states in its case against Trump, “a president must answer comprehensively for his conduct in office from his first day in office through his last.” 

This is exactly what Impeachment was designed for 

In “The Federalist Papers,” Alexander Hamilton wrote that Impeachment varies from civil or criminal courts in that it strictly involved the “misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Our founders so feared potential abuse from the executive branch that they made impeachment a part of the Constitution even before they fully defined the presidency. 

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Move ahead even if you know the outcome 

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that in a 50-50 Senate whose members typically vote along party lines, and with 45 Republicans recently voting that the trial is unconstitutional, getting the two-thirds vote to convict Trump and prevent him from running for office is unlikely. Thus, some argue, the trial shouldn’t move forward. Well, that’s ludicrous.

In criminal cases, even when defense attorneys acknowledge overwhelming evidence against their clients, they push forward, providing the best defense they can. You don’t stop the process because you think you know the outcome. And you certainly don’t stop the process because you fear it might anger some people and prompt more violence. If we do that, the rioters win and justice loses.  

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It sends a message 

The First Amendment does not allow one to yell fire in a crowded theater and that is exactly what Trump is accused of doing prior to the Capitol Hill riot on Jan 6. If no action is taken, then we, the United States through our leaders, are excusing such behavior without punishment. That cannot be allowed to happen. 

We need to send a message to future leaders that words have serious consequences and that true leaders must lead by example and put country over party.  

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