There is no joy in impeaching a sitting president for a second time, or at least there shouldn’t be. There likely is not much personal or political gain for those who made that historic choice, especially for the stalwart 10 House Republican members who Wednesday voted to impeach Donald Trump. Yet one by one, most of the Republican members on the House floor questioned what impeachment accomplishes with so little time left in his term of office. The question they should have asked: How can Congress ignore such blatant misconduct? Because time is running out? Because it’s inconvenient to do so? It is one thing to condemn and prosecute those who stormed the U.S. Capitol, sought to overturn the election and caused the death of at least five individuals including a police officer. True justice demands some level of accountability from the individual most responsible for this act of domestic terrorism — the 45th occupant of the Oval Office.
Impeachment is not a criminal proceeding. Conviction might have little practical effect other than to remove the possibility that Mr. Trump will seek elected office in the future. But again, that is no excuse. A nation of laws, a nation of principles, a nation that does not cater to a vainglorious individual who sought to overturn the results of an election on lies of fraud, demagoguery, and exhorting a rabble, does not let such behavior slide. And subsequent video statements such as Mr. Trump’s more full-throated condemnation released one week later are thoroughly unconvincing. The criminal docket at Baltimore’s Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse has witnessed far more credible sentencing day claims of transformation by defendants disavowing their confederates.
As for the threat posed by those who claim fealty to Donald Trump and may scurry across the nation’s streets in the coming days to continue this nonsensical “stop the steal” campaign? Precautions ought to be taken proportionate to the potential threat even if it means temporarily turning Capital Hill into a veritable Green Zone. The alternative, to cater to terrorists, to delay the impeachment process, to take anyone off the hook in response? That is cowardice, not justice. At this unprecedented moment, it is vital that Congress prove itself resolute and uncompromising when this country’s governance is so threatened by someone who pledged to uphold it. That’s why the Senate must move forward with dispatch. Waiting until next week only makes matters worse, lessening the likelihood of Senate action, raising the prospect of interference with the transition — particularly if it’s determined that the chamber can’t simultaneously act on Joe Biden’s cabinet nominations and conduct a trial.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s actions in this regard have been so far disappointing. On the one hand, he has not defended Mr. Trump’s behavior but on the other, his refusal to bring his members back before Jan. 19 has only served to threaten a conflict with the Biden transition. This has lead to much speculation: Do Republicans want their party to remain subservient to their celebrity cult leader or not? Surely, many still fear repercussions from ardent Trump supporters. Yet, day by day, the public shaming of Mr. Trump continues far beyond loss of his beloved Twitter account. The list now includes the PGA’s withdrawal of its championship tournament from a Trump golf club, the termination of Trump business contracts with New York City, and banks and business partners cutting ties to the Trump organization. And then there are the Republicans who voted against him Wednesday, the most notable being Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranked party member in the House. “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” the congresswoman observed. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
Putting this sad chapter of history behind us, demonstrating to fellow Americans that we do not tolerate domestic terrorism, defending the U.S. Constitution requires the Senate to stand up and take the necessary action with dispatch. As a truly great Republican facing insurrection once observed, the U.S. will never be destroyed from the outside but perhaps from within. “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow,” Abraham Lincoln said, “by evading it today.”
The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.