Trump’s Impeachment Acquittal: A Disappointing Inevitability
It was no surprise that the US Senate voted to acquit Trump in the 2020 impeachment trial. Two main factors guaranteed Trump’s acquittal, and both of them working together may point to the alarming possibility that any federal impeachment is not a realistic prospect.
Firstly, the partisan voting in both Congress and the Senate is evidence enough that politics is no longer about right vs wrong, but rather red vs blue. Republican Senator Susan Collins stated she would vote for Trump’s acquittal because while she believed he was guilty, she felt he had ‘learnt his lesson’. Or in other words, she’d like to keep her position as senator by pleasing the Republican Political action committee(PAC)’s and ensure her campaign receives its funding. No party wants the stain of an impeached president on their record, and therefore have vested interest in keeping the president in power.
The mere fact that the Republican majority senate voted against hearing the testimonies of key witnesses in a legal trial points to the party’s disregard for hearing the truth; their minds and votes were already decided. This is the real obstruction of justice, the lack of bipartisanship in American politics has prevented the electorate and country from hearing the testimonies, and has stripped the senate of a meaningful vote in an important decision. If Trump had faced the consequences for his actions, there would have been an opportunity to learn that no-one truly has unlimited power. However, his acquittal has only proven the opposite, no matter what Trump does, he will always have the blind allegiance of the Republican Party.
Secondly, the institutions and requirements for a successful impeachment are completely unrealistic. The process for federal impeachment requires first a majority vote for impeachment in the House of Representatives. If reached, the Senate has the power to try this impeachment in a trial presided over by the Supreme Court Chief Justice. For the impeachment to lead to a removal of office, the Senate must reach a two-thirds majority. This process was written into the constitution to safeguard the separation of powers intrinsic to American politics and support the systems of checks and balances. The American political system is incredibly flawed in that it is likely there will never be a true impeachment. The two-thirds majority requirement was put in place to prevent the impeachment being decided on solely by the majority party in the Senate. However, if senators consistently vote along party lines, regardless of what is right, a two-thirds majority is an unrealistic requirement for impeachment.
This can only be taken advantage of by President Trump and any future residents of the White House, as it becomes more and more apparent that a President of the United States will have uncapped power and absolutely no room for accountability. This becomes more evident as the news that Trump fired the impeachment witnesses Alexander Vindman and Gordon Sondland is announced, sending a message that there is zero-tolerance for siding against the president. This is a major worry. While accountability for government policy is often reflected in election results after a president’s term, one would like to think a president can be held accountable for illegal activity at any time. Instead, Trump has escaped impeachment and has punished those willing to recount his actions in his trial under oath.
America is supposed to be a country of freedom and liberty. When comparing themselves to China and Russia, Americans pride themselves on their western democracy and ideals, and yet this impeachment trial has only indicated the opposite; that the executive can do whatever they please, whether legal or illegal, moral or immoral, right or wrong, without fear of legal repercussions. The result was a disappointment; however, it was certainly not a surprise.