What Next?

The January 6, 2021 insurrection designed to disrupt Congress from fulfilling its Constitutionally proscribed powers that was incited by President Trump, and enabled by numerous persons, some known and others not is a departure from the rule of law and norms that must be answered forcefully. Next steps:

The President should resign. He has committed at least two impeachable offenses since New Years Day. If the Republican Party were functioning in the interests of the nation, they would insist as they did with Richard Nixon.

The House is correct to push the Vice President to invoke the 25th Amendment, which is cludgy, but nevertheless would immediately remove the President, almost certainly until January 20, 2021 at Noon.

The House of Representatives should impeach the President, who has not only violated his Oath of Office, but there is also a separation of powers issue–the Executive Branch sought to stop the Legislative Branch from exercising its Constitutional duties. The President’s own words on the January 2, 2021 call and the January 6, 2021 rally are enough for him to be removed. It would not take such a long trial.

The Senate has said they will not be in session until January 19, 2021, which is that bodies Constitutional right (each chamber makes its own rules). They could of course reconvene earlier.

The worry about an all-encompassing trial of the former President during the first weeks of the Biden administration is a reasonable one, though elected Republicans are using it to try and rehabilitate their culpability in everything from joining him, enabling him, or turning a blind eye because they liked his judges, their taxes being lower, or just to “own the libs”. If all the Republican Senators called for his resignation today, it would happen. The route to healing is accountability, confession and repentance meaning a change in behavior and telling the truth.

The Speaker of the House openly discussing an end run of the President’s Article II powers with the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while comforting when looking through the lens of the next ten days, is worrying and perhaps illegal. This is why impeachment is needed–that is how the House can best be heard per the Constitution.

The House of Representatives could delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, perhaps for the first 100 days, allowing the Biden Administration to get going, and giving Republicans in the Senate a chance to show their desire for national healing by supporting a full inquiry and not gumming up the works in the Senate for nominees and covid19 relief. A trial after the President is out of office is apparently allowable since an available penalty is barring him from seeking federal office again. A conviction in the Senate would also remove the President’s pension, lifetime travel budget, and Secret Service protection. He deserves far more punishment. My guess is that in 100 days there will be lots more known about what transpired and who was involved. A Senate impeachment trial might be quite a good way to lay out exactly what happened, who is responsible, and what consequences should be imposed, and to whom. Do it on the floor of the Senate, divided 50-50, seeking to tell the truth so that we can move ahead as one nation.

The Biden Administration’s three most important tasks are: (1) getting control of the COVID19 pandemic, by accelerating pace of innoculations, invoking the Defense Emergency Authorization powers to mass produce low cost in home tests, and to get high quality masks to the entire country. (2) An economic relief/infrastructure package to further support the nation through COVID19, and to address some bread and butter infrastructure needs. (3) Re-professionalizing and de-politicizing the Department of Justice, FBI, and undertaking a full investigation of not only the insurrection of January 6, 2021, but the build up to it. This must include a frank truth-telling about White Supremacist domestic terrorism in the United States, and a strategy to combat same, including acknowledging the problems in the military, and in the military to police pipeline that is a key source of police forces nationally. The double standards in policing are anathema to the anthem of “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence. This is best understood as unfinished business, a task deferred for 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. We have another chance to live into the promise of these Reconstruction Amendments, and there is a winding, but identifiable trail from the 1877 ending of Reconstruction to today. We must reckon with this Century and a half re-creation of White Supremacy after the ending of Slavery.

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University https://academiccouncil.duke.edu/ . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

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