Trump impeachment trial ‘a hot potato,’ occupy resources in Congress, divide parties
Case may divide parties, delay new admin's governance: observers
Published: Jan 21, 2021 10:38 PM

Trump Photo:AFP

Donald Trump's second impeachment trial is a "hot potato" to the new administration of Joe Biden and the Democrats, as the trial could further divide the two parties, which is against Biden's idea of unifying the country, and will occupy resources and time in  Congress, which would slow down hearings for Biden's cabinet members, said experts.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Trump's impeachment trial remains in limbo as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed triggering a proceeding that could slow down the Senate's new Democratic majority and delay confirmation of key Biden administration officials.

That decision rests with Pelosi, who hasn't tipped her hand on when the House will formally transmit the single article of impeachment to the Senate, and multiple House officials said it wasn't clear how long she would wait, the report said. 

The House last week impeached Trump for inciting an insurrection on January 6.

Sending the article to the Senate would require an almost immediate start for the trial, inevitably drawing attention away from Biden's first days in office and slowing confirmation of his cabinet picks as most other Senate action gets shut down unless the Senate agrees to Biden's request to dual-track the trial and other business, Bloomberg reported.

Diao Daming, an expert on US studies at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, said it's hard to predict to what extent the trial could impact Biden's governance in the first 100 days, and if the Senate could finish the trial and vote as soon as possible, the impact would be limited, but if the whole process takes several weeks like the first impeachment, then the impact would be serious as Biden's nominees would have to wait. 

Only one of Biden's nominees has been confirmed, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence. Votes on the others are likely to stretch into next week - leaving him sitting atop a US government filled with acting chiefs, Bloomberg reported.

Chinese analysts said the Trump impeachment trial would be a "hot potato" for the new government and the Democrats, because this key to cracking down on Trumpism and cut it off from the political system, but it will create more conflicts and slow down governance.

Biden wants to "look forward, not back," said the New York Times. His often-expressed desire not to dwell on the sins or even the potential crimes of Trump, in the name of national unity, is clashing with the will of Democratic voters who want to fully air any wrongdoing and punish Trump and his enablers, after an election in which many Biden voters were inspired less by passion for him than by rage at Trump, the New York Times reported. 

Although Biden has vowed unity, the reality is the task to unify Americans would be extremely difficult. "Many of us voted to get Trump out, not necessarily to get Biden in," Nancy MacEoin, 47, a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia, told the New York Times. "Backing off any sort of prosecution of Trump is going to alienate those people."

Trump is leaving office with the lowest approval rating of his presidency at 29 percent, and a majority of Democrats, 62 percent, said Biden should try his best to work with Republican leaders in Congress. But a majority of Republicans, 59 percent, want their leaders to "stand up" to Biden rather than seek consensus, according to the Pew Research Center on January 15.

Lü Xiang, an expert of US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times Thursday that the data shows that although this survey was conducted after the Capitol Hill riot, about 30 percent of Americans continue to support Trump.

"If Republicans want to ensure Trump will not interrupt their plans for 2024, they would eventually choose to cooperate with Democrats to convict Trump and bar him from ever holding office again; otherwise Trump could ruin the Republicans' plan to regain power," Lü said.

Trump did not pardon himself and members of his family in his final hours in office, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

In the Senate, the threshold for conviction is high. Two-thirds of the senators seated at any given moment must agree to convict. If all 100 senators were seated at the time of the trial, that means 17 Republicans would have to join Democrats to obtain a conviction — a high bar to clear, the New York Times reported. There is no sign any Republican senator will firmly stand with Democrats yet.

If the impeachment trial fails again, this would seriously damage the authority of Democrats, because even as Democrats have retaken the majority in the Senate and Trump made a huge mistake like the Capitol riots, this would be humiliating and embarrassing, Diao noted.

This is also the reason why Pelosi is still holding the process because Democrats might find a conviction difficult, which shows that the Biden administration has weak control over the inner-party agenda setting, and the president's task of unifying the country would be in trouble, said Chinese analysts.