Opinion: Trump must be held accountable for his actions in order to mend our democracy

Lucy Sullivan, Opinions Editor

Art by Katie Lew

With President Biden having taken office, many say that going through with Senate impeachment hearings for former president Trump is pointless, but taking into account his recent behavior, a Senate conviction is an absolutely necessary step in healing our country.

It is crucial that Trump is charged in the Senate, although the prospects of that are currently unlikely. If Trump is acquitted, like he was in 2019, he will be eligible to hold public office in the future, but more importantly, his case would set a precedent that former presidents could not be held accountable for their actions, even when those actions lead to property damage, loss of life, and a loss of our integrity as a nation. Even when those result in treason.

Trump is the only president in US history to be impeached twice. Other than pandemic-related deaths and sexual-assault allegations, impeachment seems to be one of the few areas in which Trump has exceeded former presidents. 

He was first impeached on Dec. 18, 2019 on the charges of Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Those charges came about after he solicited the help of the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation of his then opponent, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, in an attempt to weaken Biden’s credibility. Trump then obstructed Congress by using his influence to suggest that other members of the executive branch ignore subpoenas to be questioned in the Ukraine investigation. Although he was charged in the House of Representatives, he was acquitted in the Senate, allowing him to remain in office. 

This time around, Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives with a simple majority on the basis that he incited the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. His Senate hearing began Tuesday, and the verdict will determine whether or not he can hold public office in the future. In order to be convicted, there must be a ⅔ majority vote in the Senate, which is currently not likely as 37 senators openly oppose impeachment (as of Wednesday night), meaning four would have to jump ship, along with all undecided parties, to reach the needed majority.

On Jan. 6, with just two weeks left in his presidency, Trump appeared at a rally titled the “Save America March” in Washington, D.C. There, he furthered the lie that Joe Biden’s election victory was fraudulent. 

Despite Trump constantly pushing the narrative that Biden cheated his way into the White House, this claim completely lacks evidence. The courts–many of them–agree. The Trump administration has lost 61 out of the 62 lawsuits that they have filed trying to overturn election results. 

Prior to the riots, Trump posted to Twitter, informing supporters of the protest in D.C. on Jan. 6, ending the tweet by saying “be there, will be wild!”

During the event, Trump spoke for more than an hour, calling upon his supporters to march to the Capitol building and make their cause known.

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” Trump said.

He further stoked the crowd with remarks like, “We fight. We fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” and, “We will never give up, we will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.” 

Along with things said by Trump himself, his personal lawyer, Rudy Guilani, spoke at the event, saying, “let’s have trial by combat.” 

Trump ended his infamous speech with, “Let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Well, the protesters followed the President’s instructions and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. Rather, they stormed down Pennsylvania Avenue straight to the Capitol building. Several hundred angry Americans broke into the Capitol, leaving five dead, and dozens wounded. When asked why they committed these treasonous acts, many rioters cited the President’s speech from earlier that day as their inspiration.

One rioter was caught on video saying, “We were invited here! We were invited by the president of the United States!” 

Another rioter, Texas real estate agent Jenna Ryan, appeared on local news saying, “I thought I was following my president,” and, “I thought I was following what we were called to do… He asked us to fly there. He asked us to be there. So I was doing what he asked us to do.”

The fact that Trump has been credited as inspiration for these rioters demonstrates that he personally incited the insurrection. His incitement violates 18 U.S. Code § 2383 which states that it is illegal to incite, assist, or engage in “any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States,” making his offense impeachable as it fits into the high crime or misdemeanor category.

In the week after the insurrection, articles of impeachment were written and passed in the House, but have yet to be voted upon in the Senate. Trump’s legal team is alleging that The Constitution does not allow for an impeachment to proceed once a president leaves office.  In addition to that, his team has cited the First Amendment, freedom of speech, as justification for Trump’s tirade on Jan. 6. According to precedent set by the Brandenburg v. Ohio case (1969), Trump’s speech is not protected, as, at the time, it incited imminent violence.

A president getting away with insurrection opens the door to future abuses of power, as it demonstrates that with enough blind support, political figures can get away with just about anything.

It is an understandable concern for Republican senators that voting to impeach might tarnish their political futures, especially taking into account Trump’s anti-impeachment efforts. Trump has threatened to turn his support against senators who vote to impeach, and according to some he has even gone so far as to consider creating his own political party, the Patriot Party, to challenge moderate Republicans. That said, these public servants must act on their consciences for the sake of our country. They were the ones who had to hide from a mob as their place of work was attacked and defaced, and were witness to a riot that killed five Americans. 

Senators need to vote as a united front to avoid future attacks like the one we saw on Jan. 6. This cannot be a partisan issue, because it could happen on either side of the aisle, and it hurts everyone

Events like the insurrection chip away at our democracy and reveal that if a leader continually lies, people will believe them and might even go so far as to kill in their name. Trump fed his supporters the baseless lies implying that violence was the only way to “save” our country, and they, in turn, took the action that they felt was necessary. Now, the fate of this conflict lies solely in the hands of Republican senators.