There was a startling attack on democracy in the United States Jan. 6, and as a result of his constant violent imagery and call for supporters to “fight like hell,” former President Donald Trump found himself directly responsible.
After an insurrection at the Capitol took the lives of five citizens and endangered many others, Congress voted to impeach Trump just seven days before the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
As the Senate was not scheduled to return to session until the day before, Jan. 20, the timeframe given to convict and remove Trump before a new president is sworn in was impossible. Now, many wonder whether it is worth it for the Senate to go through with impeachment trials for the former president.
There is no specific constitutional language pertaining to impeachment of a former president. This means any benefits Trump may lose as a result of conviction would be subject to another vote by the Senate. If Trump is convicted ,however, he could lose certain benefits, such as his eligibility to run for office again in 2024 and any pensions he may receive.
In other words, if convicted, there is no guarantee Trump will lose privileges afforded to other former presidents, but the chances are much higher if he is tried by the Senate.
Given Trump’s seemingly endless hateful rhetoric, disregard of science and constant oscillation between foreign policy decisions, it is important for the safety of us all that he loses the ability to run for office again.
Furthermore, he misses no opportunity to remind us all just how wealthy he is. Does he really need an annual $200,000 pension? Is it possible that taxpayers’ money would be better spent elsewhere? Perhaps on climate crisis or antiracism legislation efforts?
It is also worth considering that a law addressing a situation like this is necessary. The presidency is not the only impeachable office. The vice president, cabinet positions and other civil offices can be impeached as well. If a similar situation to this one occurs in the future, Congress can be prepared with a set precedent of what impeachment trials are like after holding office and which benefits convicted officers may lose.
Accountability is key, if the U.S. is to move forward in these seemingly never-ending times of turmoil. The Senate can begin that process by choosing to go forth with the former president’s impeachment. By setting this new precedent, Congress can continue to hold civil officers accountable for years to come.