The Chamber has always offered Presidents such courtesies in its impeachment inquiries, ranging from being able to have a lawyer present to offering witnesses to appear themselves (although they never did) . But this case is different.
More importantly, unlike previous cases involving complex and secretive schemes, here the House already knows all that is necessary to indict Trump with an impenetrable offense. He committed his crime and misdemeanor live on camera – in full view of the House, which was then sacked and vandalized by a mob he unleashed to block his certification of election results. Law enforcement officials have already arrested and charged more than 150 perpetrators of violence on Capitol Hill; there is no reason for the House to hesitate to accuse the man who instigated it all.
Swift action is further justified – indeed required – by the clear and present danger the President poses to the nation. Trump has spent months embarking on a desperate, lawless plan to overturn the results of an election he lost. He then summoned his supporters to Washington, DC and instigated violence that threatened an equal branch of government and the line of succession in the form of his vice president. While this insurgency was unfolding, Trump inexcusably failed to defend the Capitol; since the attack, he has called his actions “appropriate” and has expressed no remorse. With rumors of further violence from his supporters across the country and reports that he may be forgiving himself or engaging in other abuses, Trump must not stay in office for a second longer.
In light of these considerations, excessively lengthy procedures which would slow down or block the proceedings of the House are unjustified. As the House Judiciary Committee explained in a detailed analysis, the facts and the law are indisputable – and the circumstances are dire. The president came dangerously close to a coup. He threatened the peaceful transfer of power. And when the House offered him a solid set of procedural privileges on the final indictment, including the ability to have his lawyer make a case and question witnesses on the House Judiciary Committee, he rejected those privileges out of control to engage in the impeachment process). There is therefore no doubt that the House is authorized to act diligently in approving trial charges in the Senate.
Tacitly acknowledging this, some Republicans withdrew to make a makeshift claim that Trump could not be impeached because his speech at the rally was somehow protected by the First Amendment. As the late Judge Antonin Scalia might say, it is apple puree. It fails at all levels.
For starters, he overturns the First Amendment: the free speech clause exists to protect private citizens of government, not to protect government officials from liability for their own abusive statements. The Supreme Court ruled that government officials and public sector employees enjoy significantly reduced First Amendment protection for speech related to the performance of their official duties. As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
More importantly, any “free speech” defense is wrong about the impeachment clause. The articles of impeachment against Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Trump (just over a year ago) all stemmed, in part, from statements they had made. Yet in none of these cases has anyone claimed that the First Amendment prohibited impeachment. This is not surprising. Indictment does not inflict punishment or prevent speaking; it is rather forward-looking, protecting the nation from a president whose continued office threatens the republic.
As a result, even though Trump’s statements would not be seen as an “incitement” in matters limiting the government’s power to punish private speakers, the House is fully entitled to conclude that Trump’s actions constitute a felony and an offense. high. This is really not a close question. Trump’s statements In reality prompted the crowd to besiege the Capitol – and was part of a larger effort to overthrow the democratic process. If anything, the impeachment article against Trump justifies fundamental interests of the First Amendment. The right to participate in our political process means little if the president can use violence and threats to overturn election results.
As a bipartisan majority in the House will recognize today, Trump must immediately face responsibility for his constitutional crimes. The indictment article against him correctly and legally sets out the charges. It is now incumbent on each Member to remember the oath they took and to act courageously to defend the Constitution.