There's a historical analogue to the deranged hate behind former President Trump's second impeachment trial. It features Oliver Cromwell who ruled England after overthrowing and beheading King Charles I during the English Civil War. He died of natural causes and his successor son was quickly dethroned, leading to the reign of King Charles II. In revenge the new king had Cromwell's corpse dug up, tried at trial and convicted, hung in public, and then beheaded.
Likewise, Democrats wouldn't settle for watching Trump ride off into the sunset. Instead they executed a “snap impeachment” with no witnesses, evidentiary hearings, or chance for a presidential response, typical components of impeachment procedure. They complained that they didn't have time for such niceties despite sitting on the impeachment for 12 days before forwarding it to the Senate for trial. Perhaps they feared what an adversarial hearing would reveal about their protests against electoral ballots cast in Trump's favor in 2017, or their calls for violence during the street riots of 2020, or facts such as Trump asking for 10,000 National Guard soldiers to keep order before the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, according to his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
If you thought Trump had a mound of absurd ideas about election fraud and what to do about it, try the left's “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” approach to removing him. The 25th amendment's removal of a president when “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”--a comical idea given the impeachment trial's presiding officer (not the constitutionally mandated Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) Democrat Patrick Leahy's slurred speech and thick mental fog—was bruited about. Or the 14th amendment's prohibition, meant for Confederate officials, that those who swore to uphold the Constitution and the United States could not hold office if they engaged in insurrection or rebellion. The latter idea was so lunatic it gained little traction.
Forget the absurdity of removing a president from office who is already out of office. Whether through fear of a Trump comeback or just plain hatred, what Democrats hoped for in a second impeachment was to disqualify him from ever running for “any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States,” per the Constitution. Unfortunately for the hatemongers experts still debate whether an elected office is included in this list.
Nineteenth century U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Story remarked while parsing Article 1, Section 3, that the Constitution's language leaves doubt whether disqualification “can be pronounced without being coupled with a removal from office.” That is, the option of disqualification arguably must accompany removal from office, thus if the impeached officer is already out of office he then cannot be disqualified as a private citizen, although he's still liable for civil penalties. Modern lawyer Jonathan Turley notes that the Democrats' notion would make those such as Barack Obama or Bill Clinton liable to disqualification by Republicans for the rest of their lives, even as private citizens.
Or maybe disinterred someday for further trial like Cromwell.
Nelson lives in Casselton, N.D., and is a regular contributor to The Forum’s opinion page. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.