Legal Scholars Point Out Avenues to Convict Trump

After his historic second impeachment by the United States House of Representatives, there has been much legal argument over the ability of Congress to convict Donald Trump now that he is out of office. Recent findings by legal scholars on both sides of the fence indicate that conviction is not only possible but entirely likely at this point.

The Argument Against Conviction

The House impeached Trump for "incitement of insurrection" in the aftermath of the insurrection on the Capitol by his supporters. Five people died in the mob attack and arrests continue in the weeks following the attempted coup.

Now that he is no longer in office, many leading Republicans insist that the Senate no longer has the constitutional authority to convict Trump. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas issued a statement asserting that the Founding Fathers only intended the impeachment process to be a way to remove officeholders from their position and not as an inquest against a private citizen.

The Legal Precedent

Despite this posturing, a group of constitutional law experts responded by stating that Congress not only has the power and authority to convict Trump, but they also have the duty to hold a trial to determine his fitness for future office.

A letter arguing just that was signed by more than 150 legal scholars in response to Republican objections.

In it, they pointed out that the Constitution's impeachment clause has two parts: removal from office and disqualification from future office. They went on to assert that the second part must extend to former officials.

The signers of this letter come from both sides of the political aisle and include:

  • Steven Calabresi: The co-founder of the conservative and libertarian group, The Federalist Society.

  • Charles Fried: The former Solicitor General during the Reagan administration, Harvard Law professor, and a staunch member of the Republican party.

  • Ilya Somin – Co-editor of the Supreme Court Economic Review, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and associate law professor at George Mason University.

  • Brian Kalt – Leading constitutional scholar on the topic of impeachment and law professor at Michigan State University.

The signatories pointed out that while they differed in their political affiliations and on issues of constitutional interpretation, as a rule, they were in complete agreement that the Constitution permits for the conviction and disqualification of former officials, including former presidents.

In their response, they wrote that while impeachment is the only way to constitutionally remove an officeholder before their term ends that is not the exclusive purpose. Impeachment power clearly extends to imposing disqualification from office in the future as well as the present.

As they pointed out, if this part of the impeachment process were only meant to be applied to sitting officeholders, accountability could be avoided by resigning right before conviction. The carefully designed checks and balances of the Constitution were not designed to be easily circumvented.

After all, what would be the logic behind impeaching somebody in the House if they could just resign and run for office again.

Why It Matters

Former President Trump indicated multiple times during his time in office – even after being impeached twice – that he planned to run for office again in 2024. He has even indicated an interest in establishing his own political party to compete with Democrats and Republicans.

The House impeachment found Donald Trump guilty of inciting a mob – during his tenure as President – to overthrow a legitimate election. The end goal being to retain power despite the people's choice.

The Senate's ability to hold an impeachment trial and convict Trump of his misconduct is seen as an essential deterrent against future repetition as it effectively prevents him from holding any public office, including the presidency.

Officials who incite treason – and are impeached for it – should not be allowed to run for any public office. Experts say that want the intent of the Founding Fathers and thus, should be the goal of any impeachment process.

Summing It Up

While many Republicans oppose the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump, constitutional experts assert that it is both appropriate and necessary. After all, Democracy is only as strong as the laws that govern it and how those laws are applied evenly to all.

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