Here's why impeachment remains an 'extraordinarily powerful' tool — even if Trump's acquittal 'seems certain': conservative
Former president Donald Trump's acquittal on a charge of "incitement to sedition" appears likely — regardless of how compelling a case Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, presents. Some of Trump's Democrat critics have argued that because Trump probably isn't going to be found guilty, the trial is a pointless distraction from President Joe Biden's agenda. But Never Trump conservative David Frum, in an article published by The Atlantic on February 7, argues that whatever the trial's outcome, impeachment remains an "extraordinarily powerful" tool.
"Trump repeatedly committed impeachable offenses," Frum explains. "The senators of Trump's party repeatedly protected him. Does the impeachment remedy even function any more?.... Here's the case against despair."
The Never Trump conservative goes on to say that the "impeachment remedy" offered by the Founding Fathers "is not dead" and "remains extraordinarily powerful — just in ways different from those imagined by the authors of the Constitution."
Delving into history, Frum stresses that although a U.S. president has never been convicted in an impeachment trial, impeachments have never been exercises in futility.
"There have been four presidential-impeachment processes since 1787," Frum notes. "None has resulted in removal, but all four had seismic political consequences. Andrew Johnson was not removed in 1868, but he was not renominated either, and failed to gain the second term he so wanted. Richard Nixon was not removed in 1974; he resigned amid an immense scandal."
Frum continues, "Bill Clinton was not removed in 1998. Instead, Clinton's became the first administration since Reconstruction to gain congressional seats in the sixth year of its term. His chief opponent, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, resigned instead, as did Gingrich's immediate successor, Speaker Bob Livingston. Donald Trump was not removed in 2020, but he lost the presidency, and his party lost control of the Senate."
According to Frum, impeachment can "send a powerful signal to the public about the gravity of certain cases."
"Impeachment changes the calendar of politics," Frum writes. "Impeachment concentrates and clarifies issues. Impeachment compels senators to take a public stand one way or the other: convict or acquit."
Frum acknowledges that Trump "can probably still expect a second acquittal in 2021" but maintains that his second trial — regardless of the outcome — will damage Trump politically.
"The Senate does not have to vote to disqualify Trump to destroy his future political prospects," Frum emphasizes. "It does not have to convict him on the impeachment charge to signal state and federal prosecutors that it's safe to proceed against private-citizen Trump — that ex-president Trump has forfeited some large measure of the deference normally extended to former presidents…. He will be marked."
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