posner10_Samuel CorumGetty Images_trump trial Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Why Try Trump?

The case that the former US president incited an insurrection is not open and shut, which gives Republican senators all the justification they need to acquit him. But the real reason for convicting Trump and disqualifying him from holding office again is that he is reckless, irresponsible, and a menace to the public.

CHICAGO – Former President Donald Trump’s trial in the United States Senate has begun, but already a great deal of confusion has arisen about fundamental questions. Trump’s lawyers argue that the Senate is not permitted to hold a trial at all. The Constitution says that, “The President … shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Trump, according to his lawyers, cannot be removed from an office that he no longer occupies.

But the Constitution also states that, “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.” The House impeachment managers (who act as prosecutors in the Senate trial) note that disqualification can apply only to a former officeholder.

The reason is that removal is automatic upon conviction by the Senate, while disqualification would require a further vote on the fate of the now-former officeholder. A person who is impeached and removed no longer holds office, and yet the Senate would be entitled to vote that he be disqualified.

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