The Senate on Monday prepared to launch a historic second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump on the accusation that he instigated the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, with Democratic and Republican leaders agreeing on a rapid timetable that could bring the proceedings to a close within a week.
The charge is serious, and the circumstances are unprecedented — it is the first impeachment trial for an ex-president as well as the first time any president has been impeached and tried twice. But there is little drama surrounding its outcome: Most Republican senators have signaled that they will not be voting to convict a former president.
As much as I would love to see the Senate unanimously vote to convict him and grind his legacy into the dirt, the prediction that he will get away with it yet again is the most likely outcome. The arguments about the constitutionality of the trial or the charges of suppressing his First Amendment rights are his legal team’s attempt at distraction. Unlike the first impeachment a year ago, the facts of the case are clear, the evidence still marring the walls of the Capitol, and the rioters are still posting their videos on YouTube. But the majority of the Republicans will vote to acquit because they are more interested in saving their political future as well as having legitimate fears about their own safety; what happened on January 6 in the Capitol could happen in their own home town, wrought by the nutsery that Trump unleashed.
The question of Trump’s guilt or innocence isn’t what’s being considered here. The question is whether or not the senators believe more in the rule of law than the rule of party and politics. Based on what we’re seeing so far, the answer is clear, and the next week in the Senate will be little more than a study in foregone conclusions. More’s the pity.