The Struggle for the Soul of America: Senate Republicans Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The long-awaited, second impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins in just a few days. While Trump is the sole defendant in this case, the Republican Party will clearly be on trial as well.

Senate Republicans must decide: Will they vote to convict Trump and reaffirm the declaration of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, “that government of, by and for the people, shall not perish from the earth”? Or will they vote to acquit the worst president in our history and renounce the bedrock democratic principle that No one is above the law.

The House Democrats will present a very strong case before the Senate that Trump did, in fact, incite an insurrection against the government. If the trial were decided on the facts and senators could cast a secret ballot, Trump would very likely be found guilty. Unfortunately, neither option is what will take place.

The Republicans want to avoid the evidence against Trump at all cost. Some have already admitted that Trump is, at least in part, responsible for the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Instead, they are dismissing the case by claiming that it is unconstitutional to impeach and convict a president once he has left office. Even though “most scholars who have closely examined the question have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office.”[1]

However, a primary reason for the impeachment trial after Trump has left office is to bar him from holding public office in the future. “If impeachment does not apply to former officials,” according to a recent Congressional Research Service brief, “then Congress could never bar an official from holding office in the future as long as that individual resigns first.”[2]

Another compelling argument that the Senate must be able to conduct an impeachment trial after the president has left office is exemplified by Trump’s own actions. If an ex-president cannot be tried and convicted, then he or she will have free reign to do the most egregious, treasonous acts just before leaving office. When, by design, there is no time for a trial. That is exactly what happened here.

Senate Republicans cannot hide from the truth or use the Constitution as an excuse. The evidence will show that Trump agitated his ardent supporters by continuously, falsely asserting that the election was stolen. He tried again and again to have state officials, like the Georgia Secretary of State, and the courts overturn the results. And, when all else failed, Trump conspired with his cronies to incite an assault on Congress, after taking measures to leave the Capitol defenseless.[3]

If Senate Republicans fail to convict Trump, their party will be dominated by a disgraced former president and his immoral ways for the foreseeable future. An outcome many of them would like to avoid since it will portend a great many conservative voters abandoning their party, as will numerous donors.[4]

But, if Senate Republicans somehow find the nerve to convict Trump, their party will split apart and many of them will be primaried by Trump-backed candidates. Which is precisely why they are unlikely to convict him. And it is why they find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at

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[2] Ibid.



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