Rule of Law

RELEASE: In Second Trump Impeachment Trial, Senate Republicans Face Stark Choices

“Senate Republicans will either punish sedition, or they will defend it. It really is that simple.” — CAC President Elizabeth Wydra

WASHINGTON – Ahead of next week’s historic second Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Constitutional Accountability Center President Elizabeth Wydra issued the following statement:

As James Madison’s notes concerning the Constitutional Convention debate over the inclusion of the impeachment remedy explain, Elbridge Gerry made clear that impeachment proceedings were necessary to prevent abuse of power and perversion of democracy. “A good magistrate will not fear them. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.” Gerry “hoped the maxim would never be adopted here that the chief magistrate could do no wrong.”

Senate Republicans will basically decide in this second impeachment trial whether they are adopting Gerry’s dreaded maxim that the president can do no wrong. Certainly, Mr. Trump’s brief makes clear he thinks his incitement of last month’s attack on the US. Capitol, attempting to thwart an essential function of our constitutional democracy, was fine. He doubles down on his false election claims. He makes spurious constitutional arguments.

By refusing to accept reality, however, Trump opened himself up to the entirely appropriate call from Rep. Raskin, the lead House impeachment Manager, to testify under oath next week in his impeachment trial. No one is better positioned than Trump himself to explain what was in his mind when he incited last month’s bloody insurrection.

Heading into next week, therefore, President Trump’s lawyers have left Senate Republicans with a series of stark choices.

Either they will defend our nation and our Constitution from an unrepentantly lawless former official, or they will shield him from accountability for the second time—this time after he incited an insurrection against America.

Republican Senators will either atone for the grievous error they made one year ago that taught Trump the lesson of impunity, or they won’t, giving a green light to future presidents who incite attacks on our government.

Either cold, hard facts still mean something to Senate Republicans—very much in question in the era of GOP officials like Marjorie Taylor Greene—or they don’t.

Senate Republicans will either punish sedition, or they will defend it. It really is that simple.

Senator Rand Paul’s motion last month created a false narrative that the Senate’s ultimate vote on President Trump’s guilt or innocence is baked in. Some pundits thought they knew how a vote on conviction or acquittal would turn out. But it’s simply not possible to draw accurate conclusions from last month’s procedural vote. And this week, President Trump’s own lawyers might have further scrambled any calculus.

In addition to the question of whether Trump himself will provide testimony under oath, Trump’s own attorneys are apparently prepared to argue from the Senate floor—the same floor that the January 6 mob occupied, and from which they threatened the lives of former Vice President Pence and members of Congress in an attempt to stop the count of electoral votes—that Trump was actually justified in claiming the 2020 presidential election was “stolen.”

We should all let that sink in. It is time to absorb the fact is that this trial is going to take place. The evidence—the damning, incontrovertible evidence—of President Trump’s guilt will be presented to one and all, as will Trump’s self-damning defense, one way or another.

That will strip Republican Senators of their fig leaves and pretexts. Neither Mitch McConnell’s failed leadership, nor their own consciences—and certainly not the Constitution—will absolve them of yet another failure to uphold their oath of office, protect our country and, at long last, do their duty. We should all fear the consequences if they refuse to attach any here.


RELEASE: “Historic Second Impeachment of President Trump: A ‘Critical Step Forward, But Congress’s Work Is Not Done’,” Elizabeth Wydra, January 13, 2021:

RELEASE: “Impeach, Remove, and Bar Donald Trump From Holding Federal Office Again,” Elizabeth Wydra, January 7, 2021:


Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit CAC’s website at