Despite 44 members of the U.S. Senate having agreed with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s objection to the upcoming trial of former President Donald J. Trump, it remains scheduled to begin on Feb. 9.
If it goes ahead, the dark days we have recently experienced will grow darker. The Founders intended impeachment and trial as safeguards against tyranny, as the ultimate sanction for those holding offices of public trust who had abused their power and authority.
It can be argued — indeed it was in the House — that Mr. Trump did just that by offering support for and speaking to a rally of people prepared to march on the U.S. Capitol in support of the misguided theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence was constitutionally empowered to reject certified electoral ballots submitted by several of the states. This would have created a situation where the House would have selected the president.
That the rally turned into a riot has been used as an excuse to accuse Mr. Trump of insurrection and attempting to overthrow the legitimately elected government of the United States. If true, these are impeachable offenses.
But are they true? They are specific acts that, under the rules of due process, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have been committed. The Democrats who led the snap impeachment of President Trump say they have done that.
Others are not so sure, as they are not sure the Senate has the authority to put Citizen Trump on trial. One can be forgiven for thinking the agency to do so was the kind of thing the Founders would have mentioned specifically in a document intended to both enumerate and limit the powers of the federal government.
We suspect political gamesmanship is again at the heart of the whole business. The impeachment document itself was thin at best and should not have been taken seriously. Those who demand Mr. Trump be “held accountable” for the events of Jan. 6 consistently refer not to the power to remove him from office upon conviction, but to the Senate’s power to ban him from ever again seeking office. Can they be so afraid that the man who won 74 million votes might attempt a comeback? Do they believe they must secure his disqualification from running in 2024 now just to be sure he can’t? If so, they’re making a mockery of the Constitution and the principles they say they are trying to defend.