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Trump's impeachment trial is Democrats' effort to prevent people from voting for him again

But Congress shouldn't have the power to decide which private citizens can run for president.
Trump supporters sing the national anthem in Washington during a protest challenging the results of the presidential election on Jan. 6.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

Let’s get two things straight: Not only is the impeachment case against former President Donald Trump wrong on the facts, it is blatantly unconstitutional.

But more to the point, the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump isn’t about Donald Trump’s presidency at all — and Democrats have been clear on this from the get-go. House Democrats knew when they impeached then-President Trump on Jan. 13 that there was no way to complete a trial before his term of office came to its legal end.

This impeachment, and trial, is all about making sure he cannot run for president again — or, more to the point, that the more than 74 million Americans who freely and fairly exercised their constitutional franchise and cast their ballots for Trump can never do so again.

The Senate trial of the article of impeachment against Trump, then, is an unconstitutional act of political vengeance aimed as much at Trump’s voters as it is aimed at Trump himself.

This appalling abuse of our Constitution will further divide our nation at a time when we should be coming together to tackle the pandemic.

Were Democrats to succeed in convicting Trump on this article, Congress — not the state parties who conduct caucuses and primaries, not the political parties who nominate candidates, and not the states, which conduct presidential elections — would have claimed the right to disqualify a private citizen from running for federal office.

This whole proceeding, then, is a backdoor effort to transform the solemn impeachment process laid out by our Founding Fathers into a mechanism for asserting congressional control over which private citizens are and are not allowed to run for president. And Democrats have repeated, over and over again, that this is their exact intention.

No one outside some brave Republicans seem to care, because attacking Trump has been a fully sanctioned sport in Washington for over half a decade at this point.

But this appalling abuse of our Constitution will further divide our nation at a time when we should be coming together to tackle the pandemic and other issues of national importance.

This trial is simply about Democrats trying to disqualify their future political opposition from running at all.

Beyond that, the Constitution of the United States is clear about the purpose of impeachment: It is simply to remove an offending civil officer from office. Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution says, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Article 1, Section 3, which is cited in the article of impeachment, does specify 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” — but, keep in mind, that the Constitution is meant to be interpreted as it is written, meaning that every word and every punctuation mark matters.

Since the 45th president is no longer in office, it is literally impossible to currently remove him from office and then disqualify him from running again. That “and” is not extraneous; the lack of an “or” is not an oversight. Being unable to accomplish the first part of the punishment for impeachment set out by the Constitution means the Senate is not permitted to just impose the second half of the punishment foreseen in the constitution.

But they are trying anyway because they know — or, at least, they worry — that the Democratic candidate in 2024 could have a real fight on her or his hands were Trump to pick up the gauntlet once again. They know that there are more than 74 million Americans who already turned out at historic levels to re-elect Trump once and might well do so again. And they believe they have the power to keep that from happening.

This trial is simply about Democrats trying to disqualify their future political opposition from running at all. The history books that Democrats claim so much to care about will record this shameful effort as a deliberate attempt by the Democratic Party to not just smear Trump, but to pre-emptively disenfranchise the more than 74 million Americans who voted for him in 2020.

The entire Senate should reject this divisive and unconstitutional effort to convict the president and disenfranchise conservative Americans and allow the nation to move forward.