Impeachment process is political by design, experts agree

Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 8:18 PM CST
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On Capitol Hill, there's a busy week ahead for the U.S. Senate.
On Capitol Hill, there's a busy week ahead for the U.S. Senate.

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana’s two U.S. Senators, Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, will serve as jurors during the impeachment trial starting on Tuesday for former President Donald Trump and a local constitutional law professor and a political analyst say the process is designed to be political.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump on January 13, while he was still in office, alleging that he had violated his oath and incited insurrection on January 6, the same day a joint session of Congress was underway to count the Electoral College votes from the presidential election.

But Trump’s defense team calls the trial political theater and unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.

Professor Stephen Griffin is a Tulane University constitutional law expert.

“There are good arguments on each side, but the arguments being made on behalf of President Trump show a certain weakness in failing to acknowledge that this has happened before and it’s not clearly prohibited by the text,” said Griffin.

Dr. Robert Collins is a Dillard University political analyst. He also worked in the U.S. Senate and knows the impeachment process well.

“Once they begin the actual trial the procedures will be the same because the procedures are basically standard in every impeachment trial,” said Collins.

For Trump’s second impeachment trial, Chief Justice John Robert will not preside.

House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors are expected to use videos of Trump urging his supporters to walk to the U.S. Capitol building and telling them, “You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

Griffin said in doing so the Democrats will be reminding Republicans about what they already know.

“Many Republicans already know. Many Republicans have already said the president’s conduct was unacceptable. It’s a high bar to get to impeachment but I think it’s an appropriate trial tactic, sure,” Griffin stated.

Griffin was asked in terms of the body politic whether there is an appetite for a second impeachment trial for Trump and whether it is partisan.

“Well, there’s no question that it was more partisan the first time. This time Democrats were able to get more votes in the House,” he said.

Collins says impeachment trials are different from trials in a court of law.

“An impeachment is not a judicial process, it is a legislative process which means it is a political process,” Collins stated.

“The process was set up to be political, the framers did not give the judiciary a role in removing or chastising a president, they gave it to Congress, Congress is a political body,” Griffin said.

Senator Cassidy has been saying for weeks he will keep an open mind as a juror.

“I just tell people I’ll listen to the evidence and seek out as much as possible what the truth is and that will determine how I vote,” said Cassidy.

Kennedy has said he will vote to dismiss the impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Both Collins and Griffin expect most Republicans to vote to acquit Trump. Seventeen votes by GOP senators are needed to win a conviction.

“In the states where the polling shows that the president is popular, I think you can expect those senators to vote to acquit,” said Collins.

Trump won Louisiana in the last presidential election.

“There are lots of procedural excuses that people can always use on any impeachment to justify voting to acquit. The procedure is never perfect, it couldn’t be because it’s not fully spelled out in the constitution and because it’s being run by a political party, not by a judge,” said Griffin.

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