N.C. political science, law experts break down what’s next in Trump’s impeachment

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 9:31 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Ten Republican House lawmakers joined Democrats to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

More than a hundred Democratic lawmakers called for President Trump’s removal by impeachment or by invoking the 25th Amendment after the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week.

Vice President Mike Pence refused to invoke the 25th Amendment on Trump and in one week, several Republican lawmakers publicly supported impeachment, including No. 3 House Republican Liz Cheney, making her the highest-ranking official in the party to vote for Trump’s second impeachment.

“When you have a member of the leadership signal that, not just signal, but straight out say that she would vote for impeachment, that tells other Republicans that “A, it’s okay for Republicans to do this, somebody in the leadership has done it,” ECU political science professor Brad Lockerbie said. “Each additional one added to the mix makes it safer for the next person to come out against the President, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a strong stream of Republicans [come out against the President].”

Lockerbie discussed options such as censure, which some Republicans weighed, but Lockerbie said censuring, which is a vote condemning the President for what he had done, would have little to no practical consequence other than just a public statement of House Republicans’ attitudes.

The next step in the impeachment process is now up to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who will send the impeachment article to the Senate for a trial to convict President Trump.

The Senate trial is unlikely before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

“Some are arguing that she should do it [send it to the Senate] right away because of the seriousness of the matter,” Lockerbie said. “Others are suggesting that she wait a number of days to let President-elect Biden get his team in place before they vote on impeachment.”

By waiting, Biden would have time to form his Cabinet and have those people voted on by the Senate before they’re involved in an impeachment trial, which Lockerbie said could theoretically, be quite lengthy.

“If they tried to do it before Trump is out of office as a result of just a term, they’re gonna have to have a very quick trial which gives pause to some people because he wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to mount a vigorous defense,” Lockerbie said.

With less than a week left until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in, President Trump will go down in history as the first president in the United States to be impeached twice.

“Even without a conviction, that is a stain upon a President’s record and in this case, it would be a unique stain,” UNC law professor Theodore M. Shaw said. “History will judge the significance of a double impeachment but given that it’s never happened before, it’s not something that I think Donald Trump would want, regardless of what happens with respect to a trial in the Senate.”

Shaw mentioned Congress using Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to prohibit President Trump from office by voting he “engaged in, or is responsible,” for the attack on the Capitol but said all eyes will be on the impeachment process.

Shaw said there are new details about the response to the Capitol riot that can affect how long the impeachment process will take.

“How long this is gonna take, I think, is [important] of how much more there is to find out about what happened last week and to investigate what the President did and to investigate the actions of others whom he encouraged.”

Many things have changed in one week and Shaw expects it to continue.

“This keeps unfolding and keeps changing and will continue to do so I think until he’s out of office one way or another.”

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