This may come as a surprise to my readership (such as it is), but I’m only lukewarm on the idea of the Senate actually holding an impeachment trial for He-Who-Shall-No-Longer-Be-Named (and who shall be hereinafter be given the acronym “HWSNLBN”).
I do believe that HWSNLBN must be held accountable for the myriad crimes he likely committed as president, up to and including his involvement in inciting a insurrectionist riot on January 6. However, I think the impeachment trial would be a distraction from the many good things that President Biden (who shall hereinafter be named, repeatedly and without acronyming) is attempting to do in his first few months in office.
HWSNLBN has been impeached – twice, now – and the stain of that will never go away. Fifty percent of all of the presidential impeachments in the nearly 232 year history of our constitutional government belong to HSWNLBN. Last year, in the first Senate trial, Republicans tried to claim that standards of evidence that would apply to a criminal or civil trial should be used. But an impeachment trial isn’t like that. Ultimately, it’s political. The standards of what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors” are largely left up to the House to decide when they vote to impeach, and to the Senate to decide when they vote to convict or acquit.
HWSNLBN will also be facing numerous actual criminal and civil trials, perhaps fairly soon, now that he’s a private citizen and not president of the United States. Remember, the Department of Justice advice is that a sitting president can’t be brought to trial, but it doesn’t excuse any potential criminal acts that occurred while in office. Otherwise, there would be, as a point of law, no way to hold a president accountable for anything they do during their term. HWSNLBN may face quite a few charges, starting with possible tax fraud and evasion and potentially ending with liability in the deaths of the Capitol Police officer during the attack on the Capitol. Not to mention plenty of creditors, including Deutsche Bank, who are likely going to want to discuss repayment with a man whose primary business is already facing difficulty and whose brand is toxic to all but the unscrupulous and gullible.
Putting him on trial after he’s already left office – which hasn’t been definitively determined is even constitutional – accomplishes little, and might even give his supporters a weapon to wield against other criminal and civil actions against the former president. “You already tried him in the Senate,” they will bellow, “what more do you want?” (I’m sure they’ll use the key words “unity” and “healing” a lot, too, but I paraphrased my imagined quote from them.)
Let’s turn him over to federal and state prosecutors, who can potentially put him behind bars if that punishment fits the crime, and his creditors, who will put a whole other world of hurt on him. The symbolism of the impeachment trial is strong, I’ll admit, but I’d prefer to see us moving forward with real legislation and leave the repercussions of HWSNLBN’s tragic presidency to those who know how to build real cases and then get convictions.