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‘The Rule of Law Is at Stake’: Harvard Law School Faculty Weigh In On Impeachment

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As House Democrats prepare to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time as early as Wednesday, several Harvard Law School faculty said the second impeachment is more likely to be successful than the first.

Following the events of Jan. 6 — during which a violent pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol building, prompting an evacuation of government officials — House Democrats introduced an article of impeachment Monday against President Donald J. Trump on the grounds of “incitement of insurrection.”

The push has since received support from several Republican lawmakers, including House GOP third-ranking member Liz L. Cheney.

Law School professor Jeannie Suk Gersen said a key motivation for impeaching Trump is to prevent him from holding elected office in the future.

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“There certainly is one concrete purpose, which is that if he is convicted by the Senate, the Senate can also choose, upon conviction, to strip him of any ability to run for office again,” she said. “And that is a possibility that will be appealing to many people who really believe that the offenses he has committed should disqualify him from holding office, particularly in light of his talk of running again in 2024.”

In an email to The Crimson, Law School professor Michael J. Klarman said one reason Democrats may be pursuing impeachment is to require elected Republican officials to take a public position on the president’s actions.

“I suspect the real reason to pursue impeachment is to force Republicans in Congress to go on record defending or criticizing the president,” Klarman wrote. “The fact of the matter is that 94 percent of Republicans voted to re-elect Trump, over 70 percent of them think he actually won an election that is being stolen from him, and equal numbers of Republicans approve and disapprove of the mob’s effort to rush the Capitol last week.”

Barring Trump from being elected to office in the future “would not be a trivial accomplishment,” he added.

Given the widespread condemnation of Trump following Wednesday’s events, Law School professor Kenneth W. Mack predicted the House of Representatives will “complete its impeachment proceedings before the end of Trump’s presidency.”

According to Mack, the current push boasts considerable support from representatives across the political spectrum in contrast to last year’s impeachment proceedings.

“Unlike in the previous impeachment of President Trump, if there is in fact a Senate proceeding, that Senate proceeding is likely to get some additional Republican support in favor of some measure of discipline for President Trump that was not there last time,” he said.

Mack added that impeachments are meant to reflect public opinion and protect constituents from leaders unfit for office.

“Impeachment has always been a popular remedy — ‘popular’ as in it was intended to be the voice of the people against dictatorial or corrupt government officials,” Mack said. “This particular impeachment in the House, should it go through, appears to have much more popular support than the impeachment last year. And that’s quite noteworthy.”

Law School professor Tomiko Brown-Nagin, who also serves as dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, wrote in an email that the mob that stormed the Capitol did so at President Trump’s “bidding.”

“There should be no question that this attempt to impede the will of the people and the lawful transfer of power constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors,” she wrote. “Donald Trump must be held accountable for his actions using the tools of impeachment and removal laid out in the Constitution. The rule of law is at stake.”

—Staff writer Emmy M. Cho can be reached at emmy.cho@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at isabella.cho@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.

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