By Jacob Derin
With only a week left to go before Donald Trump’s impeachment trial begins, his legal team has quit. So far, Republicans in the Senate have proven themselves unwilling to even entertain the trial’s claims and have voted to declare it unconstitutional. In this way, the proceedings are a fitting coda to a Presidency defined by abuses of power and blind eyes turned to each of them.
It seems hard to believe that it was only a month ago that a violent mob attempted to overthrow the United States government, endangering the lives of congressional representatives, law enforcement and the Vice President. Apparently, this fact was insufficient to awaken those same representatives to the necessity of impeachment. Indeed, it is an open legal question as to whether a former President can be subject to an impeachment trial, but there are some precedents.
Yet, the vast majority of Republican members of the House of Representatives voted against impeachment in the first place.
The symbolism of a conviction would be just as important as its practical effect of disqualifying the former President from ever again holding federal office. From its inception, the American government has been designed with potential tyranny in mind. There are remedies for virtually every abuse of power, but the President has always been different. He may only be held to account by the process of impeachment.
Not convicting Trump would firmly establish that there is virtually nothing a sitting President can’t get away with so long as he retains his party’s support.
But this was his modus operandi for four years. The President’s job is to lead and to build the country up stronger and better than he found it. Instead, the legacy of the Trump years is anger, division and corruption.
I’m never ceased to be amazed by the simultaneous absurdity and seriousness of Trump’s attacks against democratic institutions. The tireless refrain of “fake news” was silly enough without the revelations of the Mueller Report and its documentation of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian agents. The picture which emerged was of an organization that desperately wanted to be corrupt but wasn’t quite smart enough to pull it off.
As amusing as the President’s suggestion that people inject disinfectant was, there was nothing funny about the ineptitude this spoke to amid a genuine health crisis.
Nothing was surprising in his lies about the election. Anybody who had paid any attention to him could have guessed that this was how he would react. These claims, too, were patently absurd.
His surrogate, Rudy Giuliani, claimed that Hugo Chavez had somehow been involved in the fraud despite being dead for seven years. Giuliani proceeded to give a masterclass in self-immolation, from misunderstanding his own court filings to literally melting before our eyes.
Unfortunately, as ridiculous and hilarious as these things were from outside the Trump cult, they gained significant traction and ultimately led to the deadly Capitol Riots.
At the end of all this, I find myself thinking about the anguish Jesse Pinkman expresses about his former mentor Walter White on Breaking Bad: “He can’t keep getting away with it!”
Jacob Derin is a third-year English and Philosophy major at UC Davis.
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