Donald Trump hates democracy when it is not for its ends, as has been confirmed by inciting the president last week of a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of its failed attempt to dismiss President 2020 results. But that doesn’t mean that Trump wants to give up his dream of a catastrophic second term as President of the United States.
Because of this, every option needs to be explored in order to hold Trump accountable. Immediate impeachment and removal of the President is the first and best option, and the House of Representatives is ready to begin the process on Wednesday. However, if Senate Republicans block the completion of this process, it may not be the end of the job of ensuring that the threat Trump poses is addressed. In particular, consideration should be given to the prospect of Congressional action that recognizes that the President’s incitement to insurrection prevents the President from ever holding public office under the requirements of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.
The 14th Amendment, incorporated into the Constitution after the Civil War, is a blunt instrument that in its third section prescribes:
No person may be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or electorate for the President and Vice-President, or hold any civil or military office in the United States or in any state that has previously sworn an oath in Congress or as an officer of the United States or as a member of one By state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of a state in support of the United States Constitution, must have participated in, or given help or comfort to, insurrection or rebellion against the United States.
Section 5 of the amendment states: “Congress has the power to enforce the provisions of this article through appropriate legislation.”
This power is logical because Donald Trump will remain a clear and present threat to the republic as long as he remains president – and as long as he seeks the presidency.
After everything that has happened in the last week, it is easy to imagine that Trump wrote himself out of the competition for public office. That’s not the case. Trump is still planning, still planning, still campaigning – as has been shown at length his planned trip to Alamo, Texas on Tuesday to highlight its crusade to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.
To imagine that Trump will fade after January 20, it must be denied everything Americans know about the president’s massive ego, his reluctance to be seen as a loser, and his determination to accept his defeat in the 2020 election revenge. Because of this, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and others have focused on holding Trump accountable not only for previous actions, but also ensuring he does not expand the threat to the republic by positioning himself as president-in-exile after he leaves the office . “We must,” says Reich“Make sure Donald Trump can never hold public office again.”
If Donald Trump can run for president again, he will. At the very least, he will suggest that he is ready – by taking the prospect of continuing to seek media attention, raising money from his mad donors, and raising supporters to attack the very foundations of the American experiment. “If nothing is done to stop him, Donald Trump will do two things: he will use the lack of an answer to claim he did nothing wrong and he will position himself to do more wrong,” says Representative Mark Pocan from Wisconsin. “He always did. This is him.”
The prospect of Trump posing a lingering threat is one of the main motivations behind efforts by members of the U.S. House of Representatives to indict Trump on Wednesday. The impeachment decision Presented Monday by a trio of members of the House Judiciary Committee – Representatives David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland – it reports on Trump’s actions prior to the January 6 attack on the Capitol and points Trump to instigate rebellion against the United States. The resolution begins by explaining:
The constitution provides that the House of Representatives “has sole power to impeach” and that the President “be removed from office for impeachment and conviction of treason, bribery or other serious crimes and misdemeanors.” Also, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits any person who has “committed insurrection or revolt against the United States” from “keeping”[ing] every office … under the United States. “
After detailing Trump’s instigation of the uprising, the resolution comes to the following conclusion:
It is for this reason, through such behavior, that Donald John Trump has shown that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if he is allowed to remain in office, and has acted in ways that are compatible with self-government and the Rule of grossly incompatible is law. Donald John Trump therefore guarantees impeachment and trial, impeachment and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, confidence, or profit in the United States.
The impeachment of Trump is the appropriate and necessary response to the president’s incitement to insurrection. There should be no diversion from the House’s work of calling for accountability as suggested by Cicilline, Lieu and Raskin, as well as other members such as Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
However, impeachment does not guarantee Trump’s impeachment or re-assumption of office. When the House indicted Trump in 2019, the Republican-controlled Senate protected him in 2020 and could do so again in 2021. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the Senate couldn’t even consider trying Trump in the office until January 19, his last day. McConnell didn’t immediately reject the idea and retain a small amount of leverage over the president. However, the majority leader is not urgently involved in the accountability project.
With the Democrats in control of the Senate and with Georgia Senators elected Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in place, McConnell will no longer be able to block action. However, Senate Republicans will retain sufficient numbers to block the president’s removal or impeachment-related sanctions – as that requires a two-thirds vote from the narrowly divided chamber.
Because of this, it is important to focus on the 14th change. As Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner reminds us, the House and Senate House could censor Trump by simple majority for incitement to insurrection and, with the approval of a President, effectively prevent Trump from running again for the presidency. “This can be used against anyone who has ever taken an oath to support the Constitution, including the President,” said Foner of the 14th Amendment. “It’s a lot easier than impeachment. It’s not a trial. It’s a political process. It’s not a lawyer or a trial. It’s just about qualifying for office. You could spend an afternoon debating and voting.”
An impeachment and deportation strategy needs to be followed in the coming days with a particular focus and sense of urgency. However, if the Republicans are obstructing the completion of this process, a joint House-Senate resolution confirming that Trump violated the 14th Amendment, and specifically advising that this is the enforcement of the provisions of that amendment, should be be understood as a suitable instrument for coping with the ongoing threat from Donald Trump. “There was talk of Trump’s role as a kind of government in exile when it comes to rallying Republicans when he’s not in office.” explained Alan Baron, a former special adviser to the House Judiciary Committee. “When he is forbidden to hold a federal office, he is a kind of toothless tiger.”