The practical question before the U.S. Congress is likely to come down to whether to convict Donald Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors, after he’s already out of office. The answer to that is, most emphatically, yes.
We would certainly prefer President Trump to simplify these matters and resign. He should. He incited an attack on the Congress as it was doing its most important constitutional duty, and so has forfeited any right to hold the nation’s highest executive office anymore.
But let’s be serious. He is not going to do that. Donald Trump is never, ever going to acknowledge any form of shortcoming; he does and says only whatever he thinks is to his own immediate advantage.
It also appears that he will not be removed by the Cabinet, under its powers outlined in the 25th Amendment. That is also unfortunate, since the quicker President Trump leaves office, the better.
That leaves Congress, and impeachment. The U.S. House is already moving forward with charges, which is to be expected. President Trump deliberately provoked an attack on the legislative branch of our republic as it was going about its solemn business of overseeing the transfer of power from one executive to another. It’s impossible to overstate how much of an offense against our system that is.
While he didn’t join the riot, he incited it. There’s no doubt.
So it’ll be up to the U.S. Senate whether to convict President Trump of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” knowing what he’s done.
We would prefer that the Senate take this up as quickly as possible. Mr. Trump has proven himself unfit for the job, even a potential hazard.
But even if the Senate doesn’t get around to this until Mr. Trump is out of office, we believe it’s important to continue with the prosecution of the case. Allowing it to go unpunished would say to the next would-be dictator that it’s just fine to stay in office by brute force.
The point in that instance will not be to remove President Trump from office. Voters have effectively done that, and election officials around the country — many of them from Mr. Trump’s own party — then held firm against President Trump’s assault on the system. The system worked. In the end, even his own vice president upheld the law rather than bend to his pressure.
No, the point is to uphold the law, thereby sending a message to the next would-be strongman. The point is to show the whole world that such an attack on our system of government will not be tolerated. Ultimately, we follow the law, not the strongman.
It’s easy to get sucked down into politics and practical considerations of whether impeachment is worth it. We say, very simply, forget all that. Mr. Trump incited a mob that attacked our system of government. Those are facts. He must face the consequences.