The top Senate Republican explained the unexpected turnabout at the end of a five-day impeachment trial, by declaring it unconstitutional to convict Trump of misconduct now that the former president has left office and become a private citizen.
- There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, no question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president and having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.
As Justice Story explained, the Senate upon conviction is bound in all cases to enter a judgment of removal from office. Removal is mandatory upon conviction. Clearly, he explained, that mandatory sentence cannot be applied to someone who's left office. The entire process of revolves around removal. If removal becomes impossible, conviction becomes insensible.
Impeachment, conviction, and removal are a specific intragovernmental safety valve. It is not the criminal justice system where individual accountability is the paramount goal. We have a criminal justice system in this country, we have civil litigation, and former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.