Northern Michigan Professors React to Impeachment Prospects
An impeachment vote could come on Wednesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Trump would face a single charge for “incitement of insurrection” over the riot at the U.S. Capitol.
But impeachment doesn’t guarantee he’d be removed from office, in fact local two political science professors tell us it’s unlikely.
“There have only been handful of impeachments throughout history. Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump in 2019. So a second impeachment of a President is unprecedented,” says Dr. Scott LaDeur, a Political Science Professor at North Central Michigan College.
All signs point to another historic week in the nation’s capital. Impeachment is on the table. LaDeur says he expected impeachment would be coming. “It doesn’t come as a huge surprise after Wednesday’s riots at the Capitol.”
Zachman agrees. “Acting quickly makes a statement to the American people. To kind of the ethical gravity of the situation.”
Impeachment starts in the House, then – in theory – moves to the Senate. But both professors agree it may not make it to the Senate this time. At least not yet. The house could hold on to the Articles of Impeachment until after Trump leaves office. LaDeur says, “They might adopt Articles of Impeachment and then they might sit on them for months.”
Zachman says, “The big question would be ‘why would you want to impeach a President after they left office because they lost the election?’ The answer to that would be that the punishment for impeachable offenses goes beyond simply removing a President from office. It includes precluding the individual from holding any future federal office.”
LaDeur says there are not other ramifications, such as loss of Presidential pension, Secret Service protection, or jail time as you’d find in a criminal case. “He could be impeached after he has already left office. The effect of that impeachment is that the constitution allows for the Senate to bar anyone from running for federal office again. This seems to be the main goal of the House here, to prevent Donald Trump from ever running for a federal office in the United States again, rather than removing him from office, which has nine days or so left to go.”
LaDeur continues, “What’s interesting this time is that it seems there is slightly more Republican support for it. Whereas the impeachment in 2019 was almost an entirely Democratic affair. This one, before any votes are taken, has a number of Republicans that seem to be supportive of it.”
Even then, there’s no guarantee. The Senate would have to vote to convict with a two-thirds majority. “It would take 17 (Senate) Republicans to come over to the side of conviction to actually convict President Trump of impeachable offenses.”
The professors also agree that advancing impeachment in the Spring seems most likely, because the Senate isn’t even due to return to session until January 19th – one day before Joe Biden’s inauguration, and hardly enough time for trial. So, the House could vote to impeach, but there would be no Senate trial yet.
Zachman says, “The actions of the House will be largely symbolic at this point in time. And would potentially set the stage for a trial in the future. If you don’t see a trial for impeachable offenses within the next four or five months it’s just not going to happen.”
But the professors say it would give Washington the time to focus on Biden’s inauguration and time for Congress to take up Cabinet nominees; it would allow for a President Biden to set the stage for his agenda and push any immediate legislation; and it would set a precedent for future presidents that Congress won’t tolerate this kind of chaos without consequences.
The other option is the much-talked about 25th Amendment, where Vice President Mike Pence would convene members of the Cabinet to call for Trump’s removal from office, issuing a “written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
LaDeur says the 25th Amendment is “a bit cumbersome and it’s a little clunky. With the kind of 10-day window (until Inauguration Day) it doesn’t seem like it would be very quick or very efficient. Presidents, if they are removed from office via the 25th Amendment, do have a chance to contest that with Congress…. Then we’re basically in the impeachment process all over again.”
And even in an Impeachment trial, Republicans could argue there is no point – and that voters should decide whether Donald Trump can serve as President (or another federal office) in the future. “That’s the ultimate check, right? The support of the voters. I could definitely see that argument coming up…. ‘The people should have this decision. We should not forbid anyone from running for office.’”