The Trump impeachment was a historic event. Only the third presidential impeachment in the history of American politics, the Trump impeachment proves that we have already begun to disregard the rules and procedures that made this process so important. Regardless of one’s personal opinion on Donald Trump or his administration, the impeachment trial itself was warped and unconstitutional. The Trump impeachment trial was unconstitutional because it did not allow witnesses, did nothing to combat bipartisan voting and neglected the history of Republican politicians blatantly acting outside or above the law.
The Trump impeachment process was unique; it was the first not to follow trial procedure, specifically by refusing to hear testimony from key witnesses. According to “An Impeachment Trial Without Witnesses Would be Unconstitutional” by Paul Savoy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that the Constitution does not provide any guidance on the impeachment process. This allowed McConnell to foster the idea that impeachment procedure can be determined by a Senate majority vote. However, according to Savoy, the Supreme Court has already ruled otherwise. In the impeachment of federal Judge Walter Nixon, Supreme Court Justice Byron White found that Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution limited the Senate’s power over impeachment procedure. According to the Legal Information Institute, this passage states, “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.” White claimed that the use of the term “try” implied a judicial trial that followed judicial procedures. Therefore, the impeachment trial needed witnesses to follow proper judicial procedure. Not including witnesses in a judicial trial is unconstitutional, therefore, not including witnesses in the impeachment trial was unconstitutional. Savoy also noted that White’s interpretation was supported by Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who described the impeachment process as a judicial process in “Federalist No. 65”.
According to Savoy, Hamilton also did not believe in a bipartisan Senate. Hamilton claimed that the senate was the ideal place to conduct impeachment because it was supposed to be an impartial arena for the accused and the representatives of the People, according to Savoy. It is obvious that the Republicans just want to win as a party by any means necessary and will therefore vote solely on party lines. Even when faced with evidence, they refuse to admit or accept that the president did anything wrong. Their loyalty to their party clouds their judgement, leading them to deny the truth. The Senate was supposed to exist as a fair and impartial arena but voting based on party lines has become the norm. The impeachment trial should have rectified this somehow to ensure a constitutional and fair trial.
The final issue here is the “stark partisanship” outlined by Ephrat Livni in “Why the Trump and Clinton Impeachments are nothing alike”. This is emblematic of a recurring issue in Republican politics: that the Republicans are above the law. Trump’s impeachment trial inevitably draws connections with that of Clinton’s, however, Clinton’s trial was on the matter of the obstruction of justice in his personal affairs, while Trump’s impeachment is a matter of national security. The aforementioned partisan alliance, in which all Republicans banded together to bar witnesses, shows the flagrant disregard for the judicial system and the Constitution. Under Republican leadership, the United States has a record of bypassing the law to progress an agenda. During George W. Bush’s presidency, the United States declined to join the UN Human Rights Council, citing that the Council was politically biased and protected human rights abusers. Looking back upon this, this was a flimsy veil to mask various war crimes and invasions committed in pursuit of American interests at the expense of the Middle East. Domestically, there are dozens of accounts of Republicans obstructing justice by closing the government in retaliation for unfavorable results, hurting thousands of government workers. Once again, Republicans are challenging and abusing systems of checks and balances to further maintain power, defeating challengers by delegitimizing the grounds for their opposition. Trump’s defense is entirely based on loopholes and emotional reactions, rather than following the process of the law. Savoy postulated that, if Trump was acquitted, the United States would have “blundered its way into creating an accidental autocracy… beyond the reach of the rule of law.” Republicans have a history of resorting to dirty tactics and abusing the law to remain in power and have been increasing in their belligerence as their grip wanes in the modern age.
Therefore, the Trump impeachment trial was unconstitutional because it did not allow witnesses, did nothing to combat bipartisan voting and ignored the history of Republican politicians disregarding the process of law. Given context, it is important to acknowledge that the founders of this country were not perfect: not everything they did or said was right or fair by any modern standard. However, it is also essential to admit that they had valuable insight into the world of government and politics. We should look to the Constitution for guidance and preserve its focus on impartiality, fairness and honesty, especially during such an influential political process.