IMPEACHMENT OR INCAPACITY TO REMOVE TRUMP: 100% NECESSARY, BUT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE EARLIER
Trump should be removed ASAP as he is a threat not just to the US, but the world. However, this should have happened a long time ago. Instead, the political system has failed everyone.
The saddest thing of the attack on the US Capitol is all this could have been preventable. At the micro-level, the Capitol Police leadership could have and should have been more aware of what was happening. The organisation of such a disgraceful insurrection was occurring on plain sight on social media. Furthermore, they opened themselves up to criticisms of hypocrisy after their excessive response to BLM. Other issues include the failure to collaborate with other DC and federal agencies.
However, this failure pales in comparison to the macro-level failures over the past four years in dealing with a deranged president and his equally deranged loyalists. In the words long misattributed to British parliamentarian Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Trump should have been dealt with long ago, maybe even before he ran for President. However, serious cases of procrastination, incompetence and, in many cases in congress, the active support of those who criticised him before he won the nomination, has enabled him. The result was the greatest disgrace in the history of American democracy.
IMPEACHMENT OR THE 25th?
Before even discussing the merits of removing Trump from office as soon as possible, the two options of removal, impeachment or incapacity, and the likelihood of both, must be discussed. As removing Trump within a matter of days is seen as the best option at an increasingly bipartisan rate, both options have their pros and cons.
The Road to Impeachment
The fact that the impeachment process is moving at such lightning speed is somewhat heartening to someone who would usually be sceptical of such occurrences being able to happen. The three impeachments of US presidents were lengthy processes in comparison.
Although the impeachment of Andrew Johnson was voted on by the House of Representatives three days after his breach of the Tenure of Office Act, the senate trial only voted to acquit (by one vote) several months later. The impeachments of Bill Clinton and Trump by the House himself took several months due to an extensive and methodological investigation.
Whether or not any trial can be heard before the 21st of January is up for debate. As in all three cases, a senate trial takes time to prepare the case. Furthermore, with just days until Joe Biden is sworn in, some fear that Senate Leader McConnell (albeit not for long) could simply delay the proceedings and let the clock run out. Indeed, a memo sent to GOP senators by McConnell outlined just that.
This begs the question: If the House impeaches the President, can the Senate trial still occur after his term expires? This has never been tested before. One could argue the attempted impeachment of Richard Nixon should serve as a precedent. Here, the proceedings ended upon his resignation. However, a distinguishing factor is this occurred before the House voted on impeachment. In Trump's case, Impeachment is likely to occur before his term expires, and any Senate trial after.
This is the million-dollar question. Should the Senate vote in concurrence to the House and convict, itself unprecedented, but Per Article I, Section 3, Clauses Six and Seven, establish further ramifications beyond mere removal from office. This only extends to ‘Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States’, but is significant considering the constant talk of a Trump run in 2024. Furthermore, the Clauses opens the door to what Trump fears most — Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment.
What About Incapacity?
In contrast, the other option is declaring the president incapacitated under the 25th amendment. In short, this is the nuclear option. Sections 1 and 2 are merely matters of succession, establishing the Vice President as the President in such a case (and a congressional vote in the case of a vacant VP).
As for the nuts and bolts, Section 3 permits a voluntary incapacity for a president, often for surgery involving anaesthesia. This is not likely, and in the case of Trump, resignation would be better this late in the game. On the other hand, Section 4 permits the VP and a majority of cabinet heads to declare incapacity. If the President or Cabinet and the VP declare the President is fit to resume duties, Congress can reject such assertions by a two-thirds vote of both houses within 21 days.
Here is a possible problem: What is defined by incapacity? If one looks at the history, the very amendment was motivated more or less by the physical health of several presidents prior to ratification. A stroke left Woodrow Wilson partially incapacitated for the remainder of his term, and Eisenhower was plagued by several severe ailments which had Washington nervous.
However, what about an unhinged president? The answer is simple — there is no stretch of the imagination. If anything, using the provision is imperative. The drafter of the amendment, Sen. Birch Bayh Jr, himself suggested the only time Section 4 should be used was if the President was ‘as nutty as a fruit cake’. In this case, removing Trump under this section would be a textbook example. His behaviour is beyond the norms of rationality and imperils American democracy
Although this seems the quickest way, the reality is anything but. First, VP Mike Pence seems unwilling to go through with it. Second, the Cabinet is selected by Trump, who has filled it with loyalists. There is reportedly chatter about it from some cabinet members, however considering the loyalty of some and the recent resignations of several cabinet officials, this may be unlikely. If Pence rejects it, then the possibility is dead in the water.
Another problem is the repercussions. A quick fix is a quick fix for a reason. Unlike Impeachment, which can see the President barred from office for life, there is no similar bar for the 25th. Indeed, this could set the scene for a political pantomime where Trump runs in 2024 and the whole cycle restarts. Furthermore, Impeachment is the best option as this is a condemnation of his actions rather than the vacation of office on medical grounds.
GET RID OF HIM
At this moment, Trump must go. Regardless of how many days he has left of his term, he is the embodiment of both the US Government and the US State. Even if he was a mere figurehead such as the President of the Republic of Ireland or the King of Norway, his actions are non-becoming of the role that is meant to be a beacon to the rest of the world. The symbolism of the Presidency is more than being America’s diplomat in Chief. That office is, for many across the world, the eminent symbol of a functioning, liberal democracy. The president is chosen by the people, not by some notion of divine right or genetics. The people are sovereign, the president reflects that. Trump does not.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
What makes this even worse is the US Presidency is not a figurehead, rather an integral administrative role with actual power. But even that power has limits. America is governed by the rule of law, with power divided by the separation of powers. The presidency is but one arm of that separation, the other being the Legislature and the Congress. Trump either does not know this or disregards it as out of step with his imperial fantasy. In my own opinion, his own actions are textbook examples of the latter.
There is a reason Trump was impeached by the house the first time. The Ukraine scandal was an egregious attempt to unduly influence the 2020 election in ways contrary to the conduct of a democratic election. Threatening to withhold hundreds of millions to Ukraine, who themselves have rejected authoritarianism at great cost to their country, was an affront to an emerging key ally. Then there was the treatment of Alexander Vindman, who himself immigrated from Ukraine as a toddler, for testifying against Trump. He was bullied relentlessly and was practically forced to retire.
Trump has, throughout his presidency and before, been accused of being cosy with foreign dictators, many of whom hold American liberal democracy in contempt. If meeting Kim-Jong Un in a series of summits that were doomed to fail was an affront, then consider Trump’s response to Russian bounties on US soldiers…quick hint, he called it a hoax. Trump’s ties to Putin came under the microscope even before he was sworn in, in particular irregularities in his campaign. His treatment of allies, meanwhile, has been shameful. The notorious phone call between himself and then-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee swap is a textbook example of bad diplomacy. His attitude to Trans-Atlantic ties has also been disdainful.
Then there was Covid-19. If there was ever a failure of a presidency, this was it. If he was the Chairman or CEO of a private corporation, he would be looking at years in jail and lawsuits in the billions of dollars. Now some leaders such as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have been accused of being slow to respond due to an unwillingness to impede personal liberty. The result was the virus exploded several times and they had no choice but to interfere with liberty at a greater level to curb the spread. As weak as this response was, this pales in comparison to Trump.
Trump's mantra has been ‘the virus will go away’. So much so that he has done his utmost to prevent the truth being told. There is a long list of actions, from sidelining Anthony Fauci, the longstanding head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, ignoring advice from the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on numerous occasions, from Cruise Ship entry to face masks. Such obstructions are so numerous that to detail all of them would require another article.
However, the worst has been Trump's advocacy of hydroxychloroquine and other quackery. The anti-malarial drug, which in itself is known to cause adverse side effects, was rejected by Fauci himself, who called the use of it for Covid-19 treatment ‘ineffective’. What is even scarier is Trump’s destruction of trust in the scientific community among his loyalist community, which goes beyond the Covid-19 response and has even been likened to an ‘orchestrated war on science’. This is akin to the quackery in response to the Black Plague of the 1340s, in which people flogged themselves and folly exacerbated the death toll. Even worse is his attempt to blame Obama for CDC issues (which happened under Trump's watch) while weakening America’s ability to respond to a serious outbreak.
And His Words Are Just as Frightening
To complement his destructive actions, his own rhetoric is both alarming and unpresidential. Trump is known to use 7th US President Andrew Jackson as his idol and role model. Not surprising considering Trump’s tongue is as uncontrolled and unacceptable as Jackson’s was. However, what may have passed as borderline unpresidential in the mid-19th century is sheer demagoguery today.
His treatment of his opponents has been appalling. From calling for his 2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton to be jailed (recently rehashed to target Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer) to calling Journalists, media organisations (practically anyone who opposes him) the ‘enemy of the people’, this is not the language of the leader of a democracy, but a tinpot dictator. His contempt for civil liberties, protestors and journalists is unprecedented, even during the presidencies of LBJ and Nixon, and his attacks on Portland in the aftermath of violent protests have been considered a threatened invasion.
On the Black Lives Matter protests, he has shown callous indifference. His infamous tweet, ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’ was a direct quote from Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, who made the racially charged comment back in 1967 due to rioting in the city. Likewise, he called Black Lives Matter ‘a symbol of hate’, and inflamed tensions throughout the protests. He specifically targeted Democrat-led cities during the protests with budget cuts if they did not respond in the manner he thought appropriate. Then there was the photo-op at St Johns Church in Lafayette Square
In what liberal democracy would a president use the military to clear a protest just to have a photo op in front of a church? None. This is a leader whose words of contempt have devastating effects. The main reason the Capitol was stormed while the election results were being certified was that Trump fanned the flames from his Twitter account and from an appearance at the rally (behind bullet-proof glass). His own mouth was the reason, in the opinion of Whitmer and many others, that a kidnapping plot emerged. And his own mouth which gave legitimacy to Charlottesville and enabled the white supremacist terror group The Proud Boys.
TRUMP NOT JUST A ONE-MAN ARMY
In spite of Trump’s own actions, one must never forget he had people, both willingly and unconsciously, who enabled him to behave in the most unacceptable behaviour seen by a US president or any American leader since Benedict Arnold. However, even Trump would not have gotten away without those who could have stopped him
The Ambitious Sycophants
One thing about Trump which cannot be discounted is how he whips up his loyalists. He has them under his spell so much that they are willing participants in his scheme. We saw that when they actively resorted to insurrection and terror by attacking the Capitol. We see it every time they repeat the same cliches and arguments against socialism, democrats, CNN and the like. And we see it when they reject reason, evidence and science, instead they put their faith in the Gospel according to Trump.
Although this loose coalition of White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and others with fascist, totalitarian and racist beliefs have always existed in one way or another, they had been on the fringes of American debate or, in the case of the South, restricted in power and influence to a geographic area. Even when the Tea Party emerged, they remained on the fringe despite becoming more prominent. Under Trump, they found a leader. As he went on to dominate the GOP, even those who opposed him followed suit.
There is a good reason for this. Because of this momentum, the GOP shifted. The party of Lincoln became the party of Trump. Several GOP Representatives and Senators who opposed him were hounded. For many, supporting Trump made sense to secure their base. Many GOP congress candidates, for both houses, repeated the same, tired slogans of Trumpism during the 2020 campaign.
In the case of several, this was a base to further their own ambitions. The two senators who were most prominent in supporting the effort to overturn the certification of the vote, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, have been said to have done so in order to boost their pro-trump credentials in order to bolster their chances at a run for president in 2024. Even among others, particularly McConnell and Sen. Lindsay Graham, have only broken with Trump when they saw the effects of the attack on Congress. In McConnell’s case, this cannot absolve him of blocking impeachment, his hypocrisy on appointing SCOTUS justices, or his obstructionism beyond the bounds of reasonable partisanship.
Despite others doing so, even the fact that insurrectionists desecrated the worlds most visible shrine to democracy and stormed into both chambers of Congress could not change the minds of others. Rep. Matt Gaetz made the ridiculous suggestion that the riots were a false-flag attack by ANTIFA, despite no evidence existing. And he did so on the floor of the House not hours after the attack. Senator Amanda Chase, who had advocated imposing Martial Law just because Biden won, is currently being pressured to resign.
And who can forget the support given throughout the Trump presidency by Jim Jordan? This is just the elected representatives of the GOP. One must not forget the propaganda from FOX opinion presenters such as Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and co. All these people enabled a President by egging him on, making him think he was some sort of God-Emperor. In the end, they should be held responsible for their role.
The Role of Outsiders
One of the key reasons the Trump bandwagon grew out of control was the unconscious support of other players. In many cases, actions were taken that were weak, insipid, and ultimately continued to fuel his ego. Nowhere was this more apparent than the reaction of Social Media platforms in their response to Trump, most notably his preferred platform, Twitter.
Although Trump has finally been banned permanently from Twitter, this is a case of too little too late. Throughout his presidency, Twitter had resisted calls to ban Trump due to his status as a Head of State. As his tweets became more verbose, any action taken has been piecemeal. At first, a common response was to hide messages considered threatening.
As the election came and his comments conflicted with reality, in particular claiming the election was rigged, Twitter merely put a warning below each tweet that was incorrect. Despite this, he was still tweeting and used the platform to organise the infamous January 6 rally. Other platforms such as Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram have also followed suit. However, as with Twitter, many are questioning why it took them so long.
Trump will be remembered as the worst president, not one of the worst, THE worst in American history. However he is removed, either Impeachment or Incapacity, that couldn’t come soon enough. Impeachment would be better, as this would be a condemnation of his antics and contempt of American democracy. His actions have imperilled the country, and his words the most unpresidential. That being said, were it not for those actively cheering him on and social media platforms dithering on dealing with him, this façade may not have gotten so far. However, the end result is that it has, and American democracy is at its lowest point. All because one man was allowed to trash that very institution.