The House voted to impeach Donald Trump on Wednesday, 13 January, a week after the Capitol riot which tried to derail the certification of the Electoral College votes and left five people dead. On Monday, 25 January, the article of impeachment was delivered to the clerk of the Senate, and the second impeachment of Trump is set to get going around February 8.
Constitutionally, the impeachment starts the day after the article is read in the Senate, but Republican leader Mitch McConnell asked for more time, which the Senate majority leader agreed to.
It will be the fourth impeachment trial of a president in the history of the US. It is also the first time a president has been impeached twice and the first time one has faced an impeachment trial after he has left office.
Unlike the first, the second trial will not be presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts, since Trump is no longer a sitting president and the constitutional requirement of a chief justice presiding falls away. The most senior Senator and President Pro Tempore (the Senator in the majority party with the longest record of continuous service), Patrick Leahy, will preside.
Leahy, despite having called for Trump’s conviction earlier, pledged on Monday to be impartial.
Some American political analysts have said Roberts does not like being involved in political cases and is probably pleased he doesn’t have to preside.
The article of impeachment – the charge of incitement – was read to the Senate by the lead House impeachment manager, Republican Senator Jamie Raskin:
“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government… President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of trust, honour or profit under the United States.”
A Senate conviction could lead to another vote – to block Trump from holding “any office of trust, honour or profit under the United States” in future and ensure he cannot run for office again in 2024, as he has stated.
Trump is losing more than the presidency – the cachet of being “in his circle” is gone. His country club, Mar-a-Lago, is reported to be rapidly losing $200,000-a-year members who apparently paid for the privilege of being associated with a sitting president and “the food’s no good”.
The Senate also voted on Monday to confirm economist Janet Yellen as the US’ first woman Secretary of the Treasury in the department’s 230-year existence. The vote was an overwhelming 84-15 (with one abstention) for the 74-year-old former chair of the Federal Reserve (the Fed), where she was also the first woman in the position from 2014 to 2018. She also headed former president Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers in the late 1990s.
Before Senate approval, Yellen received a unanimous green light from the Senate Finance Committee last week.
In a radio interview in 2019 she said Trump did not understand economic policy or the Fed’s responsibility: “I doubt that he would even be able to say that the Fed’s goals are maximum employment and price stability… ”
It is expected Yellen will shape President Joe Biden’s economic policies and, more immediately, be a central figure in getting Congress to approve his $1.9-trillion coronavirus relief plan. She has been vocal in her support for more stimulus measures, telling the Senate Finance Committee that “more must be done”. She said: “Without further action we risk a longer, more painful recession now.”
While acknowledging the US needs to move towards fiscal sustainability and work on reducing its debt, Yellen says the problem at hand must be dealt with first: “Right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is to act big.”
On Monday, Biden also said he was hoping to be able to increase his 100 million vaccinations in 100 days to 150 million in 100 days as soon as distribution issues are resolved. Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has urged New Yorkers to be patient while they wait for more doses: “We have the operational capacity to do more than 100,000 doses a day – we just need the dosages.”
According to Johns Hopkins University, the US closed Monday with 25.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 420,000 deaths. DM
An Wentzel is Night Editor and specialist reporter for Daily Maverick, she went to the US to visit family as the pandemic struck and is currently marooned in the land of the “free”.