Former President Donald Trump’s political future rests on the Senate


A week following the insurrection against the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. House impeached then-President Donald Trump with incitement.

Katherine Kealey

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

The U.S. Senate will begin conviction trials Tuesday determining whether former President Donald Trump will be barred from serving in public office.

A spokesperson for Trump announced he will not testify in an “unconstitutional proceeding” as Trump makes history as the first president to be impeached twice. 

Impeachment is one of the few checks Congress has on a president, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a president will be convicted. While impeachment is sometimes used as a blanket term for the whole process, Dirk Deam, teaching professor in the political science department, describes the impeachment process as the House formerly calling into doubt a president’s credibility.

Article 1 of the Constitution grants the House the authority to impeach and the Senate is granted the power to try the impeachment. Article 1 section 3 of the Constitution describes the sanctions Congress can impose when impeachment is agreed by both the House and Senate.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law,” according to the Constitutional law reporter.

Republicans argue because Trump has already left office the trial is moot. Deam said in an email, this argument comes from deceptively selecting, focusing only on removal of office while ignoring the powers of disqualification.

Conviction is a bigger stretch for Democrats in the Senate. While the House only requires a simple majority for impeachment, a vote for conviction requires a two-thirds vote, meaning 17 Republicans would need to cross party lines.

The Senate blocks Republicans’ previous efforts to dismiss trying former President Donald Trump of “incitement of insurrection.” The motion, led by Sen. Rand Paul, was voted down 55-45 with five Republicans crossing partisan lines.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell was among those who voted in favor of the motion. The vote could potentially foreshadow the outcome of Trump’s trial, but there are still many unknowns that come from the unprecedented action. 

After the insurrection against the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the House quickly impeached Trump a week later. Ten House Republicans, including House Republican Congress chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo, voted in favor of the articles of impeachment, charging Trump with incitement. 

Director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center, Karen Kedrowski, said impeachment will be a stain on Trump’s legacy as president but it is unlikely he will be convicted because of the steep number of Republican votes Democrats need.

Because Trump is no longer in office some Republicans view impeachment as unnecessary. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, said he would vote to end the trial at the first chance he has. 

“I think the trial is stupid, I think it’s counterproductive,” Rubio said, according to the Associated Press.

Regardless of the Senate’s vote, the House’s vote to impeach Trump will remain as formal record. Rubio, along with other Republicans, argue impeachment could further divide the country, but Kedrowski said Congress can impose sanctions on Trump to disqualify him from running for federal office in the future.

“It is important people know they are accountable for their actions up until the point that they leave office,” Kedrowski said. “Actions have consequences.”

Determining whether Trump’s actions were criminal will be the job of the Senate. It is unsure just how long the trial, which could quickly impact the Biden administration, will be able to accomplish their agenda. Kedrowski said the first 100 days in office is somewhat like a honeymoon phase for new presidents but it is likely Congress will be distracted. 

“In criminal law, a complete crime means no matter how bad you feel about it or what the extenuating circumstances afterwords, you did something that was a crime and needs to be recognized as such,” Deam said.

Deam said it is possible impeachment could further divide but a polarized country doesn’t change the charges brought against Trump.

“The fact that the Capitol was breached by a violent mob and because people died as a result of this is something the country needs to reckon with,” Kedrowski said.