The Farce Called the Trump Impeachment Trial

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

In impeachment trials in the US Senate, the 100 senators are not bound by any legal precedents or any law books. The senators are guided by the political calculus of the day — how their votes will be perceived by their heavy-weight political establishment, donors, and vocal constituents in their states, and whether they face their reelections in the next 2, 4, or 6 years, or if they are retiring. Besides, in impeachment trials, 67 out of 100 Senators need to convict the president. The merits/demerits of the case in terms of probity, ethics, and (in)discretions in the behavior/conduct of the person holding the highest office in the nation are only peripheral.

That is how the US Senate acquitted former president Donald Trump in the last February impeachment trial —  it now looks as if it happened  fifty years ago — for the January-6 attempted insurrection of the US Capitol by hoodlums, inspired or instigated by Trump’s exhortation in his public address in the Washington Mall area. It surprised no one that 43 Republican Senators voted against the conviction with their tribal instincts of fear of retribution by their political masters, donors, and supporters back home, irrespective of the merits of the case.

This is in sharp contrast to the trials of ordinary mortals in courts, or in military court martials, where the judges are governed by statutes, guidelines, and precedents in giving their judgments. And, unlike any court decisions, the verdict of the US Senate in impeachment trials is final. 

So, next time around, when elected representatives in the wretched Second and Third World countries in Central and South America and in Asian democracies vote purely on the basis of their tribal/ethnic/caste or religious affinities (Communists vs Reformers in China and Russia, Shias vs Sunnis, Christians vs Muslims, Hindus vs Abrahamics) even in cases with no grey areas between right and wrong, the US should remember not to pontificate using highfalutin hyperbole. After all, when it was their turn, the members of the self-proclaimed greatest debating body in the world, the US Senate, behaved no differently. Critics of the US would only retort by asking the US to look at itself in the mirror.    END


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