House to impeach Trump again, divides US
Published: Jan 13, 2021 10:13 PM Updated: Jan 13, 2021 11:23 PM

A protester carries a sign calling for Congress to impeach US President Donald Trump, near Washington, DC on Sunday. Trump faced fresh calls Sunday from some members of his own party to resign over the violent incursion into the US Capitol, as the threat builds for a historic second impeachment effort in his final 10 days in the White House. Photo: VCG

 The world is going to witness more historic moments in the US, as Donald Trump becomes the first US president to be impeached twice after the Capitol riot, and he made history in just one term, though it's almost impossible for Congress to finish the impeachment process by January 20, the date that Trump steps down. 

US House of Representatives opens session to impeach Trump on Wednesday, setting up an impeachment vote one week after rioters overran Capitol police and breached some of the most secure areas of the Capitol.

But even after the power transition, Trump could still be impeached and if convicted, he would be unable to run for election anymore. Observers warned that this could further anger the Trump loyalists and more conflicts and divergences could occur.

Chinese analysts also said that impeaching Trump won't restore the credibility and image of the US which have been severely damaged during Trump's four years' rule and the incoming Biden administration would need more than four years to fix it, and Americans really need to rethink how to reform its problematic and outdated political system.

The House of Representatives voted Tuesday night to approve a resolution calling for Trump to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment in the wake of the violent siege of the US Capitol last week, CNN reported. 

The vote amounts to a symbolic rebuke after Vice President Mike Pence made clear earlier in the evening that he has no plan to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the President in a letter released just hours ahead of the House vote.

Long impeachment

In the US, it is difficult and complicated to impeach a president. First, the House votes on whether to impeach — the equivalent of indicting someone in a criminal case. 

If a simple majority of the House votes in favor of pressing charges, the Senate must consider them at a trial. The House prosecutes the case, appointing impeachment managers to argue before senators, who act as the jury, and the president is traditionally allowed to mount a defense. The chief justice of the Supreme Court oversees the trial, according to the New York Times.

In the Senate, the threshold for conviction is much higher. Two-thirds of the senators seated at any given moment must agree to convict; otherwise, the president is acquitted. At this moment, if all 100 senators were seated at the time of trial, that means 17 Republicans would have to join Democrats to obtain a conviction — a high bar to clear, said the New York Times.

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that since Democrats have controlled the House so the first step is not hard, but it takes a long time for the part in the Senate.

"Newly elected Democrat senators are not yet in office. It will be difficult to pass the impeachment in the Senate where Republicans still hold a majority," he said.

According to NPR, when Trump get impeached for the first time in 2019 December, the vote in the House was 230 to 197 on the first of two articles of impeachment — abuse of power — with one member voting present. The House then passed the second article — obstruction of Congress — with a vote of 229 to 198, with one member voting present. The vote was largely along party lines. Every Republican opposed impeachment.

But this time, the situation would be more complicated when the process moves to the Senate, said Diao Daming, an expert on US studies at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, noting that if Trump gets convicted, he would have no chance to interrupt the next presidential election.

"Due to the Capitol riot, Republicans won't nominate Trump again but if Trump runs for election independently, he could take about 40 percent of the votes away from the Republicans' base. So Republicans in the Senate would face a more complicated situation than those in the House," he said.

Only a simple majority of senators would have to agree to successfully disqualify Trump, who is contemplating another run for president in 2024, from ever holding office again. Following a conviction, the Constitution says the Senate can consider "disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States," the New York Times reported.

"But if Trump gets convicted, it would be a 'huge blow' to the image of the Republican Party as a whole. So although there is controversy on the impeachment in the GOP, most Republicans would be reluctant to play key roles to realize the impeachment. If the impeachment is successful in the end, it could trigger deeper rifts and more violent conflicts in US society," said Li Baiyang, an expert from Wuhan University.

US President Donald Trump leaves a news conference on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on May 11, 2020. Photo: AFP

Fixing image?

Impeaching Trump has been regarded as not only punishment for his behavior of challenging the election result by inciting his supporters to storm Capitol Hill, but also an act to show that the US has the determination to cut "Trumpism" from the country's political system, to fix and recover the national credibility and image damaged by the Trump administration in the past four years, said some observers.

"Serious divisions between countries and the rising extreme anti-globalization sentiment, as well as unilateralism and protectionism have been hyped during the Trump administration," Li Haidong said. 

"The US needs to rethink carefully that there must be something wrong with its political system that it could elect such a selfish, opportunist, arrogant, immature and untrustworthy leader and give him and his officials massive power to harm the interests of not only America but also other countries," he noted.

But unfortunately, even if the impeachment is successful, it will take long to repair the US' already damaged image and credibility. Biden's four-year term is definitely not enough, said experts.

After taking office, Biden will face multiple issues such as trade, the environment and the COVID-19 epidemic, and his focus is likely to be domestic issues, and that's why Biden has not shown support for impeachment as he has a lot of work to do, and he hopes Congress is not distracted by other issues, said Diao.

Repairing the US image of so-called "responsible leader of the world" is not a top priority for Biden, Li Haidong said. Fixing the mess created by Trump and recover the economy amid the serious epidemic situation would be difficult enough for the Biden administration. "The US will never come back to the position as 'the City upon a Hill' and 'the beacon of the democracy' again. The world is experiencing a profound change."  

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