Former President Trump will once again make the kind of history you do not want your name associated with on Tuesday when his second impeachment trial commences in the U.S. Senate. As with Trump’s first trial (barely more than a year ago, if you can believe it), the outcome is not in doubt. But just because we know how it will end doesn’t mean the trial won’t be gripping. Members of Congress narrating their terrifying Insurrection Day ordeals will be a riveting spectacle. And just as we did in the House last month, Americans will get a quick and dirty head count of how many Republicans value democracy itself more than their own political fates.
Don’t get your hopes up on that score. While the political and evidentiary cases for GOP senators to convict Trump and bar him from ever holding federal office again are straightforward, the path to 67 votes is not. Instead, viewers should brace themselves for torturous arguments about how it is unconstitutional to impeach a former president, and some extremely “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” galaxy logic about how Trump did not incite the crowd to insurrection because he did not literally say the words “please go and lay violent siege to our national legislature.” Gathering more than one Republican in a room these days is a plain invitation to this kind of sophistry.
It is possible to imagine a world where Trump would have no defenders. After all, the 45th president of the United States exited the White House in a state of objective disgrace so thorough that it wasn’t even particularly remarkable that he and his wife slipped away hours before Joe Biden’s inauguration in a kind of Helicopter Ride of Shame.
Trump spent his last months in office conspiring to overturn the clear results of the 2020 election with a slimy pillow company executive and a group of awful lawyers in painfully obvious cognitive decline, all while ignoring his responsibility to help manage the rampaging pandemic that has now claimed nearly 500,000 American lives in a year. Had he succeeded in his dark quest, he would have triggered at minimum the violent breakup of the United States of America and God knows what else.