The US Senate has the opportunity to make Donald Trump the first American President in history to be convicted. A series of moves by Mr Trump aimed at bucking democratic norms and traditions had led to his being impeached a second time on January 13, when he left behind Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1998) as Presidents who had been impeached. Charged with inciting an insurrection after trying to cling to power by overturning an election he had indubitably lost, Mr Trump committed a treasonous crime in encouraging his hardcore followers into invading institutions of democracy on Capitol Hill — the House of Representatives and the Senate. Worse, as supporters vandalised the Capitol and hunted for vice-president Mike Pence, the President ignored pleas to rein in his crazed and violent army of followers. He showed no remorse after the protests against the highest symbols of democracy, giving lip to words denouncing the violence only with an eye to avoid legal complications. “Appropriate,” he said of words like “fight like hell” he had earlier spoken in whipping up passions that led to the invasion of Capitol Hill.
The Republican Party has two choices — forgive him and vote on partisan lines for a President whose four-year reign is all but over — or punish him for his misdemeanours by voting with their conscience and ridding the party of a troublesome leader who could make a run for the presidency again in 2024.
If at least 17 Republican Senators vote with 50 counterparts of the Democratic Party, a first-ever man who was President to be convicted in a Senate trial would be toast. A simple majority vote in the Senate would then be sufficient to stop Mr Trump from running for any office in future. There may be other provisions in the American statutes that could bring about the same desirable ending for the most controversial US politician but they would be subject to interpretations by the Supreme Court, which Mr Trump has managed to stuff with likeminded Conservatives. It is apparent many in his party are distancing themselves, though not in sufficient numbers considering that as many as 197 lawmakers voted against his impeachment in the House of Representatives.
The democratic world waits with bated breath to see if American lawmakers have the gumption to condemn Mr Trump for a rule that has left the USA fractured and disunited, angry and confused. Faith in the system has also eroded at a time when the pandemic has killed more Americans than World War II and Vietnam War combined. The chapters in history in which the US was a shining light for democracy seemed to have ended. It is small relief that Mr Trump has been boycotted by Big Tech platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, which have denied him the megaphones with which he had wreaked havoc on his country even as he played ducks and drakes with foreign policy to earn more enemies than friends around the globe. Regardless of the Senate’s ultimate decision under Kamala Harris’ chairmanship during the presidency of Joe Biden, Mr Trump will have cleaved America like no President before him. He may not have been the first demagogue in the White House be he was certainly the one that did the most damage.