Updated: Sep 5
By Seamus Bozeman
Image via Financial Times
Following the attempted insurrection and a tumultuous four years, Trump’s presidency couldn’t have ended without making history one last time, a second impeachment. On the heels of a presidency like no other, chock full of conspiracies, lies, and unfounded claims of fraudulent elections. These false claims have sown distrust in the U.S. democratic system while creating the pro-Trump insurrectionist beast that stormed the Capitol, bringing forth rightful accusations of treason, a coup attempt, and clear violations of the constitution.
In the single Impeachment article passed by the house last week, it outlines Trump's incitement of violence, based on his speech in the Ellipse, in front of the White House. His speech “stoked the flames” of his base, unleashing a mob that stormed the Capitol building where the House and Senate was certifying Joe Biden’s election win. The events that unfolded ended up being the most brazen attack on the U.S. democratic system of Trump’s presidency, a culmination of the last four years where Trump’s radicalized supporters, who believe he is their savior, ended as an attack on the Capitol.
“Incitement of Insurrection”
In the single article of Impeachment that the House voted on and passed, it accused Trump of “incitement of insurrection” and a violation of his constitutional oath, under section III of the 14th amendment.
“Incitement” as a charge is hard to define, as it can be interpreted in a number of ways and is closely intertwined with the first amendment, setting the bar extremely high for what crosses the line as hate speech or a call to commit violence. Using just “incitement” has made what could have been an easy conviction of Trump a lot harder, and the chances much narrower. It remains to be seen how the defense and prosecution approach this case, as this is completely new, and no precedent has ever been set for an attack against the government of the U.S. that has been internal.
In Trump’s speech prior to the treasonous events, as incendiary as it was, is protected under the first amendment, unless a key phrase says otherwise. During the first presidential debate last year, Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back, and stand by”, which could be used by the prosecution to determine how a possible motive or use of language caused his followers to violently descend on the Capitol. Once more information is released on specific evidence, the prosecution will become more focused and reliant on witnesses and testimonies from those who participated in the coup attempt.
Is a Conviction Likely?
A conviction of Trump would require a two-thirds majority, and at the moment some Republicans are resistant to voting to impeach, citing future damage to their party. But Democrats have an unlikely ally with potential support from Mitch McConnell, who reportedly wants to rid the GOP of Trump. The conviction of Trump and its likelihood remains to be seen, but a number of factors throughout the hearing and trial will give a clearer picture. The biggest factor that was previously discussed, was the strength of the Democrats case and the weak defense of Trump, which will not include Rudy Guiliani or anyone who had been behind Trump during his first impeachment. Another factor that seems to influence the Republicans is the idea that impeachment might further split the nation, but in a rebuke to that, many have said that ridding Trump from the political spectrum will be a good first step in de-radicalizing the nation.
What an Impeachment Trial Could Look Like
In the days leading to the trial, multiple ideas have been entertained in the Senate on how to conduct the proceedings during the first days of the incoming Biden Administration. The first and most likely option would be that each day the Senate is in session, the first half of the day would be confirmation of Biden’s cabinet and legislation, while the second half would be for the Impeachment hearings and trial. Though a schedule will have to be agreed upon by all 100 senators, so shifts and changes to the allocation of time will be all but certain. The second option is probably not going to happen, especially if impeachment proceedings get introduced to the senate by January 19th, but if the articles are delayed, there is a possibility that the impeachment hearing would be held in April, after Biden’s first 100 days, in order to not interfere with legislation, cabinet picks, and economic relief packages, which is desperately needed by the American people.
Could Trump Be Barred From Public Office?
Under Article III of the 14th amendment, it states that anyone who participated in “insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. while holding public office can be banned from holding office in the future. An invocation of the 14th amendment section III against Trump would require a separate vote from the two-thirds majority for impeachment, instead it will only require a simple majority, a likelihood now that Democrats have a Senate majority. The amendment does not completely lay out how it should be used, which leaves it open to interpretation and a possible supreme court ruling in the future. Though if section 5 is enacted through “appropriate legislation,” a specific law that bans Trump from public office could be passed. It should be noted a similar course of action could be taken for all of the senators and house representatives who “aided and abetted” the insurrection as well.
The single article of impeachment will be given to the Senate in the coming days, and a hearing and trial will likely commence shortly after that. This article will be updated, with daily updates, analysis, and monitoring of the shift within the Republican party and the likelihood of a conviction and a subsequent vote to ban Trump from office.
Monday, January, 25th, 2021 11:30 am PST:
According to multiple sources, the articles of impeachment are set to be transferred to the Senate today at 7:00 pm today, but the formal trial and hearings will be delayed two weeks, until the week of February 8th. This gives enough time for both the defense and prosecution to prepare, and to provide Biden with time to pass his legislative agenda, and approve his cabinet picks in congress. Despite the delay, each senator will still be ceremonially sworn into the impeachment trial as jurors by Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who will also oversee the proceedings.
The next update will cover the charges against Trump, once both sides present their arguments, and I will provide an analysis of each side's weaknesses and strengths. If you have any questions about the trial or proceedings, leave them in the comments below, and I will work to answer them.
Wednesday, January 27th, 2021 9:00 am PST:
A group of 45 Republican senators voted to cancel the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, calling it “unconstitutional” because he has left office.
Here is my letter to them:
How dare you trod upon the promise of democracy, and use your vote to uphold acts of sedition, treason and the incitement of violence against our democracy. Your vote was unconstitutional, impeachment is not. In the end democracy will prevail and each and every one of you will be ousted from your seats, because “we the people”, will fight to end your grip on power. You no longer represent the country, instead you represent the epitome of white supremacist patriarchal systems that need to be abolished. Is what you see as defending your oath of office? Be gone, you evil people, be banned from public office, never serve near a position of power again, and if that means breaking your fragile white supremacist party, so be it. When you put your right hand up, you agreed to upholding the constitution, but now you are part of the rot of democracy, and it's eventual decay into authoritarianism. Your honor no longer stands, and your footsteps should no longer echo in the halls of the Capitol, bashed by your fraudulent claims and objections to the democratic process.
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021 3:00 pm PST:
Yesterday Democrats presented their pre-trial briefs and introduction to their arguments in the impeachment trial against Donald Trump. He has been accused of “inciting violence against the government” following his constant attempts to delegitimize the election results and during the riot to stop the legal tabulation of the electoral college votes.
A number of important points were covered in the legal brief, which will be summarized, and briefly analyzed. The full 80-page document in its original form can be found here.
“The constitutionality of impeachment once an official no longer holds office”
Many argue that Trump cannot be tried for his assault against democracy because he no longer holds office, a question that has stumped even constitutional scholars. In the past, a few federal officials have been tried for federal crimes after leaving their positions of power, setting up a legal precedent for the impeachment of former president Trump to move forward legally and with merit. The arguments also outlined that a number of federal officers as far back as the inception of the Constitution had been tried and occasionally prosecuted, throwing out the idea that this trial cannot carry forward. Though a debate on the Senate floor once the Impeachment proceedings begin will involve the fine print and the alternating interpretation of the founding documents.
“Trump Violated his oath of office”
In the House manager’s pre-trial brief they accuse Trump of “violating his oath of office under Article II of the constitution” by sending in armed members of his riled-up base to interfere with the forward movement in the ratification of the 2020 presidential election results. And if this is not what a violation of your oath of office looks like, then anything can slip under the rug and become legal. The democrats and their accusations have full legal merit and should be presented as such when the opening arguments are heard next Tuesday (February 9th).
“The criminality of Trump’s actions”
The criminality of Trump’s actions are clear, he violated the constitution by damaging and “injuring society itself” which can be clearly seen by the deaths, injuries, and shock that the nation faced in the aftermath and the months, if not years it will take to repair the trauma the attacks created. The moral and legal definition of impeachment was instituted in federalist paper 69 which laid out a number of checks and balances on the executive branch, stating that high crimes and misdemeanors are simply based on what is a violation and harm against the general acceptance of moral, ethical, and societal standards, and clearly, the insurrection went far beyond the harming of society as a whole.
“Trump violated the first amendment”
The argument that Trump violated the first amendment is clear because he incited violence and egged on his supporters during his speech when he said, “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore”. This was an immediate call to action, which his supporters took as a signal to begin the “violent insurrection”. A major point in the democrat’s prosecution is that the first amendment only protects private citizens, “but does not protect government officials from accountability for their own abuses in office”.
“Setting a precedent for the future”
A precedent must be set for the future, impeachment and conviction, and banning Trump from holding office is a major point in the pursuit of charging the former President. A conviction of Trump would take away any future post-presidential benefits and pay and would be a warning to current treasonous members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as those who hold public office in the future.
And In defense of the insurrection:
In a response to the House Democrats’ legal brief, Donald Trump’s lawyers presented a weak defense. Some of his legal team dropped out of the case, in order to not further tarnish their reputations, in the weeks leading up to the trial. In consideration of bi-partisanship a brief analysis of the defense’s case will be presented below. The full document and claims from the defending lawyers can be found here.
"They have to ““hold office”” to be impeached”
The weak arguments posed by the former president’s defense team were indicative of the internal scramble to put together a team of lawyers to represent Trump next week. Their first point, one that is clearly invalid, is that one has to be currently holding office to be impeached. This is a “diametrically opposed” viewpoint in comparison with the House of Representatives case which provided evidence of past precedent of post public office impeachment trials. And in consideration of poor phrasing, Donald Trump held office at the time of the Insurrection and was still the leader, denying the defense of a strong counterargument when defining the phrase “had to hold office at the time of the event”. Other counter-arguments were posed by the defense, but they did not prove anything of legal merit, again, further weakening an already poor response to a terrible situation. But this will not deter Senate Republicans from abusing their constitutional oaths by voting to acquit the former president of his actions.
If you have any further questions or thoughts please leave them in the comments below. Also, if you enjoyed the article consider sharing it with friends and family. Updates will start daily once the impeachment trial formally begins next Tuesday.
Monday, February 8th, 2021 8:10 pm PST:
In a late evening agreement, both the senate majority leaders and minority leaders from both sides of the aisle set the rules for the impeachment proceedings, less than twenty-four hours before the opening debates are to be held.
On Tuesday February 9th, house impeachment managers will debate with the legal team of the former president, about the constitutionality of the current trial, which has legally been proven to be legitimate, as there have been multiple cases in the past of federal officers being impeached, after their resignations and departures from office. After the debate, a vote will be held, which will likely pass, as it only requires a simple majority.
On Wednesday the 10th, through at least this Friday, both sides are being granted sixteen hours each to present their arguments, but it is unlikely that either side will use the whole time. Also, the arguments will likely last into Sunday, because of a request by one of Trump's lawyers to halt the proceedings on Friday evening by sundown for the Jewish holiday of Sabbath.
Next week will likely be used for questions from the senators, a possible vote to call upon witnesses, and the slim chance of a verdict. It remains to be seen how everything will play out in the most rushed impeachment trial in history.
Impeachment Trial Day 1 - Tuesday February 9th, 2021 8:00 pm PST:
In a jarring video to open the trial, the House Impeachment managers presented a horrifying visual recount of the January 6th events, which ripped to pieces the defense's case, everything from the protections provided in the first amendment, to the denial of Trump’s direct egging on of the mob. In the two-hour presentation from Democrats, they laid out a number of key points of evidence that completely discredits the arguments later posed by the defense. Below is a brief overview of major points the prosecution made and a short analysis of each as well.
The prosecution used the debate around the constitutionality of the trial to lay out the facts of the constitution, past precedent of holding those who commit acts against our democracy accountable, and multiple times calling the case presented by the defense completely “frivolous” and with no legal merit.
In the first major point, the constitution and the powers granted to the legislative branch gives members of the house, “the sole power of impeachment”, and does not specify when this has to occur. Also included in the argument about the validity of former officials being tried is the fact that the Senate “has jurisdiction to try all impeachments”, and there is no specification about when this has to take place, especially when the House of Representatives impeached Trump while he was still in office.
The second point is that in the past there has been a number of impeachments of former public officials, though all have ended in acquittal. Nonetheless it is a clear precedent that this impeachment trial is not necessarily out of the ordinary when it comes to the Senate trying former officials.
In their third major point, it is important to note that if what happened was not an impeachable offense, there would be nothing that would be an impeachable offense. A president, or any other public official, could in theory commit anything without the fear of facing prosecution.
After a ten minute break between each two hour presentation, Trump’s defense team came back with little to present for their counterarguments. It was a lackluster response that left many wondering, scratching their heads and pondering, and asking the legitimate question: are they trying to embarrass themselves in front of the nation?
The full two hours felt like a filibuster filled with fluff-filled rants and things about the lawyers' personal lives. The success of their case is not measured by its strength, in fact it is completely irrelevant, because the majority of the republican party is unwilling to “break with the former president” which will lead to his acquittal.
In a moment, where democrats could actually chuckle and cheer the defense, is when they congratulated the House Managers on their strong case, a compliment that was used to fill time in a largely empty counter-argument. They even outright said voters were “fed up” with the former president and elected Joe Biden, legally, and argued against their defense which is riddled with unfounded claims of election fraud. Which they then claimed was the reason that an impeachment was no longer needed.
However, the case did bring up some interesting points and paints a clear picture of the deep polarization of the parties and the drastically different interpretations of democracy, the constitution, and the ideas the founding fathers had about the future of the nation.
After the four hour debate, the Senate proceeded with a vote which (56-44) resulted in the continuation of the trial. Six Republicans defected from their party, an increase of one, compared to an identical vote last month on the same question: Is it constitutional to hold an impeachment trial after an official leaves office?
Impeachment Trial Day 2 - Wednesday, February, 10th 2021 10:00pm PST:
On day two of the impeachment trial, the prosecution presented their arguments in painstaking detail that left many Senators and viewers in a stupor. From the beginning of the election cycle in mid 2019 to January 6th, 2021, lie after lie was seeded in the minds of Trump’s supporters ingraining the extreme consequences of words. The House managers, in their case, laid out a roadmap that recounted the events, from the origins of “Stop The Steal” to a vicious mob descending on the Capitol, encouraged by Trump.
In probably the most damning evidence presented in front of the Senate so far, it was shown that before Trump’s involvement in the planning of the “Save America March”, there was no permit for the attendees to leave the Ellipse, and it was only because of the influence of the former president that it was approved for the march to encompass the length of Pennsylvania Avenue, from the White House to the Capitol. Whether this meant violence was pre planned by Trump and his supporters, or not, is yet to be determined. It is still unclear on the separation of Trump’s supporters planning on fringe websites and social media, from that of the former president.
“Inciter in Chief”
The hardest part of the case to prove, which will likely be laid out over the next couple of days, is proving that what Trump said during his January 6th speech and his countless false accusations are enough to convict him of “high crimes and misdemeanors''. The charge of Incitement could most likely be proven by multiple witnesses, Trump supporters, who have said they were convinced by Trump words to storm the Capitol on his behalf.
“Failure in a court of law”
In the lower federal courts across 17 states, and 61 dismissed lawsuits, Trump's ludicrous claims of an election win were overwhelmingly thrown out. These lawsuits were not filed to uphold the “integrity of the vote”, but to “steal the election from millions of legal voters”. This threw the trust of the electoral system into question and was at the forefront of Trump’s lies.
“Pressuring of election officials and G.O.P legislators”
In states where Trump lost the election by small, and sometimes larger margins, he continued to pressure state and election officials, and Republican legislators, in an effort to intimidate them to change the results of the elections in their states in his favor. He even went as far as to bribe some members of the Michigan and Pennsylvania Republican legislators, inviting them to the White House in off-the-record meetings to persuade and pressure them to not certify the electoral college vote. After this brazen attempt at intimidation, election officials and others who did not capitulate to Trump's demands, faced threats of death and/or serious physical harm from his supporters.
“Attacking Senators and Members of Congress”
Through Trump’s intimidation tactics on Twitter, which he no longer has use of, he vehemently attacked a number of powerful Republican Senators and House members, pressuring, threatening, and essentially forcing them to dishonor their constitutional duties of confirming the electoral vote, and by not certifying the election of Joe Biden. Some Republicans continued to challenge the results, even after the Capitol was stormed, which is a blatant sign of the incredible power that Trump has over the G.O.P.
“Pressuring the Justice Department”
In another means of a direct attack on the legitimacy of U.S. democracy, Trump pressured his attorney general, William Barr, through Twitter and closed-door phone calls to investigate his false claims of voter fraud. Nothing was ultimately found, which caused Trump to fire Barr and hire a loyalist. The loyalist didn’t last much longer as he “disobeyed” Trump, and did not overturn the election, as there was no evidence that the election was rigged, with some experts saying that “it was the most secure in election history”.
“Attacking Vice President Pence”
In a last-ditch effort, Trump wielded his usual weapon, a storm of Twitter attacks that started at 1:00am on January 6th, which were directed at Mike Pence, accusing him of being a traitor if he certified the election. During the attempted insurrection, Pence was the target, among others, who had “failed to protect the nation” in the eyes of the “inciter in chief”, and his dangerous mob. If the Senate chamber had not been guarded by the heroics of police officer Eugene Goodman, and the House floor had not been evacuated a moment later, this nation would have seen a lot more damage done. Ultimately the certification of the electoral vote would have not been completed, and an all-out constitutional crisis would have ensued.
It should be noted as well that there has been a stark contrast set by prosecutors, between Trump and Pence - Trump as an unhinged inciter, as opposed to Pence who fulfilled his duties and upheld the constitution. This was clearly an attempt to persuade Republican Senators to vote to convict Trump.
In part two of the day’s proceedings, there was a very detailed reconstruction of the events that was unpacked, from the beginning of Trump’s speech to the very last moments that the rioters were in the building. The prosecution went into detail about Trump’s state of mind and the “glee” that he was exhibiting during the insurrection, and his unwillingness to tell the rioters to stop or go home in a genuine fashion. It should be noted that nothing constitutional had ever come out of Trump’s mouth during his whole time in power.
It was very clear from the first words of Trump’s speech at the Ellipse, to the attempts to stop the certification of the state’s ballots, that there is much clear evidence that can pin Trump to the actions taken by his followers, from their chants of “hang Pence” to “fight for Trump”. In many of the current court cases of those charged for entering the Capitol they are quoted as saying that they “listened to their boss” and “followed orders”.
Day three will consist of the final opening arguments by the House Impeachment managers, and likely include the opening statements from the Defense, which will again feel like a filibuster.
Impeachment Day 3 - Thursday, February 11 2021 10:00 pm PST:
On day three the House managers went over in detail the events of the past four years and the multiple times Trump and his supporters incited violence, from the storming of state Capitol buildings to the violence Trump encouraged and endorsed time and time again. They clearly showed the astonishing sway Trump had over his supporters and their actions he so often basked in. This was also shown by the multiple indictments of Trump’s supporters and their clear willingness to illegally storm the Capitol on his behalf. There are some new details and analysis provided below.
House impeachment managers dug deep into the actions of Trump’s supporters during his time in office. In striking similarities to scenes of the riot at the Capitol, armed extremists were arrested for plotting to take over the Michigan State Capitol and kill the Governor of Michigan. The prosecution stated that Trump clearly, “saw what his words did, and he knew his actions would lead to the Capitol riot on January 6th”. It is beyond a reasonable doubt, and with all politics aside, that events in Michigan earlier in 2020 did have a direct impact and were a foreshadowing of his incitement of the violence at the Capitol. Trump’s calls for violence have been nothing new. It is detailed in an article I wrote about the extremely damaging course of the Alt-right here in the U.S. and how it threatens, not only the highest seat of power in the world but also everything this country wants to represent.
The events on January 6th shattered the trust the world once had in American Democracy and has eroded the place the U.S. has on the global stage. It also gave countries with authoritarian regimes reasons to mock the U.S. for its deep hypocrisy, which is somewhat true, because the U.S. has over its imperialist history openly committed coups in other nations.
Those who did breach the Capitol also had access to extremely sensitive documents that could endanger future national security, a point that could garner bi-partisanship between Democrats and Republicans, because of their perceived shared interests of a secure nation, and the protection of the government. This point would have never needed to be brought up if both sides had been in agreement that the riot was more of an existential threat to this nation than political careers, or polarized political views. If Trump is not convicted, as the prosecution said, “he can do this again”, and based on recent events, the outcome can be much worse in the future.
A precedent must be set now, so that the support around white violence, presidents who break their oath of office, and members of the House and Senate who have disavowed the constitution cannot be reelected or receive the benefits of office. This behavior cannot stand in a democracy, particularly as it recognizes its vulnerability because if it does the people will no longer be able to freely walk the halls of the Capitol, which has “become a fortress” guarded by barbed wire, and high walls - a dark splotch on Democracy and a horrible resemblance of a war-zone.
In a rebuttal before the defense had a chance to present their claims, House managers were quick to debunk and tear apart their core arguments. The first was that the protections provided by the First Amendment are invalid and the second was the outlandish claim that the impeachment trial did not provide Trump due process. Both arguments are shoddy at best. The next couple of days will likely be quite boring unless you like watching people make fools of themselves.
Day four will consist of the opening arguments from the