Impeachment Didn’t Hurt Trump. The Fourteenth Amendment Can.
But that will only happen if lawmakers feel the heat from voters to do something to hold Trump accountable.
Donald Trump is finally out of office and already threatening to run again in 2024 to reclaim his supposedly “stolen” presidency. Polls show a clear majority of Americans want the former president convicted and banned from running again, yet the U.S. Senate acquitted him again in his second impeachment trial, failing to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for conviction. With new evidence of Trump’s callous disregard of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s desperate pleas for help as the mob laid siege to the Capitol, can something more be done to hold Trump accountable?
The answer is yes—if there is the political will. There is the option to censure Trump with a majority vote in the Senate and the House that would include the proviso based on the 14th Amendment that he never be allowed to hold federal office again. Asked about censure at a post-acquittal press conference, Speaker Pelosi waved it away as ridiculously insufficient. “We censure people for using stationery for the wrong purpose. We don’t censure people for inciting insurrection.”
But what’s under consideration has a lot more heft constitutionally and morally. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine floated the idea last month along with Republican Susan Collins, who saw it as an alternative to a trial, and the blowback from Democrats was negative. Kaine was accused on social media of undercutting the Senate trial and the possibility of conviction. That wasn’t his intention. He thought he was being practical and making a good-faith effort to find a way out of the looming trap where Trump gets to proclaim his innocence after a second impeachment.