Earlier this month, former President Donald Trump was tried and acquitted in his second impeachment trial. Accused of inciting an insurgency against his own government, Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be indicted twice and the first to face an impeachment trial after leaving office. The former president and his followers argued that the Senate had no jurisdiction to try him since he left office and, despite the most bipartisan “guilty” vote in history, they managed to get enough votes for acquittal. This decision set a dangerous precedent for the future that threatens the very heart of our democratic system.
Trump instigated an insurgency against the U.S. government on Jan.6, 2021, and as such Congress was right to impeach him. Several Republicans who voted to acquit the former president admit he instigated insurgency, but have hid behind the claim that they could not convict him once he leaves office. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Senate after voting to acquit Trump that the former president was practically and morally responsible for the attempted insurgency.
The point is, Trump inspired a violent mob of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol, where they killed five people and injured many more. They did everything they could to overturn the outcome of a fair and free election, and we all watched it live on TV. Then 43 Republicans let it fall on a technicality.
The argument that a president cannot be held accountable for his actions after leaving office is dangerous and dishonest. Once sworn in, the President takes an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution from the time he takes office until the time he leaves. If they don’t, impeachment is the tool the Constitution provides them to hold them accountable for their actions. There is no exception that a president who will soon be leaving office no longer needs to respect his oath.
Trump was president from noon January 20, 2017 to January 20, 2021 and had a duty to keep his oath of office for every second of that time. He failed to do so and by not holding him accountable we are now setting a precedent that any future president can act with impunity between the time he is elected and the time he leaves office.
One of the founding principles of American democracy is the right to fair and free elections. Since John Adams peacefully stepped down after losing the election to Thomas Jefferson in 1800, we have celebrated the peaceful transition of power with each new President. Donald Trump spat at this sacred practice, seeking for months to steal an election he lost. In impeaching Trump, we asked ourselves: “Are we going to defend the peaceful transition of power?” By answering no, we left the door wide open for someone to start over.
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