Trump Unjustly Impeached

Carolyn Bonafede, Copy Editor

Senators say the Pledge of Allegiance on the first day of Trump’s second impeachment trial. Photo courtesy of npr.org.

If a sense of déjà vu permeates the current news cycle, it is not a figment of the imagination. The House passed articles of impeachment against former president Trump, again, and the Senate acquitted him, again, Feb. 13 after a four-day trial. Although the Senate’s decision was the correct conclusion to a second partisan impeachment effort (no Democrats voted with Republicans), Trump should not have been impeached in the first place. Because the charges in the articles of impeachment do not align properly with the facts of the Jan. 6 events and rest upon one’s opinion of Trump’s statements regarding the 2020 election, they do not merit impeachment.

The sequence of events at the Jan. 6 demonstration casts doubt on the claim that Trump’s speech at the rally incited the violence of the day. According to the Washington Post’s reporting, a smaller crowd had already gathered at the Capitol building by 11:15 a.m. before the president had begun to speak at The Ellipse, which is 1.4 miles from the Capitol. A group of individuals began the storming of the Capitol at 12:49 p.m. by clearing barricades while Trump was still speaking. The Capitol Police chief said he asked for an emergency declaration and the National Guard at 1:09 p.m.

Not only did this groundlaying attack occur before Trump dismissed the rally crowd at 1:11 p.m., but it occurred about twenty minutes before Trump spoke the “fight like hell” quote cited by the articles of impeachment, based on the timing of the transcript. Therefore, the causal relationship argued in the articles of impeachment between the words of Trump’s speech and the commencement of the lawbreaking does not hold. 

Photo courtesy of NBC News.

As a side note, it is significant that the first attackers were missing a Trump speech in order to set up the advance on the Capitol. Normal Trump supporters love attending Trump rallies simply because it is fun to be in the crowd’s jovial atmosphere, so it is quite odd that the individuals first to break down fencing at the Capitol were apparently not interested in Trump’s speech. 

Furthermore, the men who stuck out from the regularly-dressed crowd with their camouflage or black outfits and riot gear had clearly come prepared for violence. It is not logical to accuse Trump of inciting violence with words he spoke after the violence had been planned.  

The timeline of events on that fateful Wednesday forces an impeachment of Trump to be based on statements he made prior to his Jan. 6 speech. Parts of the articles of impeachment attempt to place blame in this manner, saying Trump had stoked unrest with repeated claims of election fraud. 

However, such a charge rests solely on one’s opinion of the 2020 election. While it is practically impossible to prove the election was fraudulent, it is also practically impossible to prove it was not fraudulent because the process of collecting and counting votes lacked transparency, accountability and legality. If it is impeachable for then-President Trump to call out what he perceives as corruption, how will any public figure, or private citizen for that matter, be able to criticize the government? 

Of course, as Americans, we do not wish there to be widespread questioning of the legitimacy of our government; we want to be able to trust our elections. Moreover, with the exception of malicious extremists who would be happy to live with turbulence and destruction, we can probably all agree that we never want to see the events of the past year happen again. 

How will our nation mend? Sadly, a path forward is not readily evident because our current leaders do not seem willing to work to secure our elections. Elections that are open to cheating are not elections, and without elections, we do not have any democracy to defend.

If those pushing for impeachment did not cheat in the 2020 election and truly cared about the preservation of our Constitution and our democratic republic, they would listen to concerns about fraud and close the loopholes to preclude any future allegations of cheating.  Instead, they seem to be attempting to suppress any allegations of cheating by impeaching and canceling those who criticize the government’s handling of elections. 

Whatever the nation’s path forward, unjustly impeaching President Trump, again, does no good.