If Democrats really want to impeach Trump, why haven't they done it yet?
Here we are in the waning days if the Trump administration, a nation reeling from a pre-planned insurrection attempt encouraged by the president himself. At least five people are dead as a result, including a Capitol Hill police officer who was reportedly bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher by the MAGA "law and order" crowd while they breached the halls of Congress.
It is no exaggeration to say that we are in truly uncharted territory as a country. And in response to this unprecedented state of affairs, congressional Democrats — plus a paltry few of their Republican colleagues — have begun moving forward with plans to impeach President Trump a second time, less than two weeks before he's set to leave office entirely.
Speaking with CNN on Friday, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark (D), the assistant House speaker, predicted articles of impeachment against Trump could be introduced as early as the middle of next week. "This is the time for action," Clark said. "This is a crisis of our Constitution and of our democracy."
Clark's timeline comes one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer both came out strongly for impeaching Trump again, should Vice President Mike Pence not remove the president from power under the 25th Amendment — something Pence has indicated he will not pursue.
As a sign of just how fast things are moving on the impeachment front, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) has already unveiled an impeachment resolution — co-sponsored by dozens of House Democrats — citing both Trump's instigation of Wednesday's coup attempt, as well as his efforts to strong-arm Georgia election officials into illegally and falsely declaring that he won that state in November's election.
While the movement toward a second impeachment trial is largely powered by Democrats, there have been Republican lawmakers willing to sign on to efforts to remove the president from office. On Thursday, Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger called for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment against Trump, saying it was necessary "for the sake of our Democracy."
In an interview with CBS This Morning on Friday, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse — who has staked his political claim as "the Republican who tsk-tsks the loudest at Trump" despite voting with the president more than 86% of the time — said he would "definitely consider whatever articles" of impeachment the House put forth.
Useless as it may be, Sasse's expert fence-sitting raises a good point. As he noted, "the question is more of a prudential question" of whether impeaching Trump, a necessarily fraught and legally complex process, is doable in such a limited timeframe, with just 12 days until President-elect Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated. Clark also acknowledged the challenge of completing a full-blown impeachment effort with just days to go in Trump's time in office, but noted that House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has already vowed to use his legislative authority "to bring the articles as fast as possible" to the floor.
Which all raises the question: If the Democrats (to say nothing of the Republicans!) are truly as serious as they claim to be about impeaching Trump, what is stopping them moving forward right now? Or yesterday? Or the moment they finished ratifying Biden's electoral win on Wednesday evening? It's hard to imagine any of them truly believed that Pence would actually move to trigger the 25th Amendment process to remove Trump, or that the president's hodgepodge of loyalists in the Cabinet would actually go along with the effort. It was rather predictable that they would instead bow out and hope people forget they were some of Trump's chief enablers.
Yes, there are legal and procedural challenges to impeaching a president. But it's been two days since Donald Trump incited a mob to storm the Capitol. In that time, he's managed to release a single, transparently disingenuous plea for calm, before reverting back to the dangerous demagoguery that brought us here in the first place. By some accounts, he's taken to prowling the West Wing, ranting and raving and scaring the snot out of even his most loyal enablers.
Introducing articles of impeachment on the House floor by next week is admirably fast. It's just not fast enough.