With a few exceptions, perhaps, Republican senators were not overjoyed to see a delegation of House Democrats show up at the Senate door on Monday to deliver the articles of impeachment against ex-President Donald Trump. This is not a vote most of them want to take, but now they are stuck with the task.

The impeachment approved by all House Democrats and 10 House GOP members – including two from Washington – charges Trump with inciting a mob of right-wing militants and election conspiracy dupes to storm the U.S. Capitol and attempt to disrupt the formal accounting of Electoral College votes that made Joe Biden president and sent Trump back to his Florida golf course. 

This is an unusual circumstance where all of the senators were witness to the event at the center of the case against Trump. It is also unusual in that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, after four years of enabling and coddling Trump, made public his belief that impeachment was a proper response to what happened and has left open the possibility that he might vote to convict. This has led to speculation that other members of the GOP caucus could follow McConnell’s lead providing enough votes to make Trump the first president ever convicted by the Senate in an impeachment process.

Such a result still seems unlikely. The GOP senators know the majority of their party’s voters remain rabidly loyal to Trump and so they are loath to provoke their constituents’ anger, even though most of the senators surely believe the ex-president is guilty, guilty, guilty. As a result, they are offering a litany of lame arguments to say impeachment is unwise and unnecessary.

The most common contention is that, since Trump is already gone, the primary penalty of impeachment – removal from office – is a moot point and so, for the sake of unity and healing, everyone should just move on to other business. This ignores the second penalty for a criminal president that is written right into the Constitution: a lifetime ban from holding any federal office. Trump not only deserves such a punishment for his seditious actions, the country needs to have confidence that he will never be able to mount a campaign to recapture the White House.

If the Republicans cared about returning their party to sane conservatism and wished to save it from the violent extremism Trump exploited, they should desire Trump’s permanent retirement, as well. But it seems more than likely that most of them care only about saving their own jobs and, thus, will let Trump escape with no consequences for being America’s least patriotic and most criminal president.

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