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Letter: Portman’s excuse for failing to impeach Donald Trump flawed

The Daily Record

People in Ohio should ponder Sen. Rob Portman’s explanation of his not guilty vote in the Trump impeachment trial. It is very revealing. 

“I have said that what President Trump did that day was inexcusable because in his speech he encouraged the mob, and that he bears some responsibility for the tragic violence that occurred. I have also criticized his slow response as the mob stormed the Capitol, putting at risk the safety of Vice President Pence, law enforcement officers, and others who work in the Capitol complex. Even after the attack, some of the language in his tweets and in a video showed sympathy for the violent mob. In response, I called on President Trump to ‘explicitly urge his supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from violence.’”

Following his description of Trump’s actions, Portman presents a feeble excuse for not finding Trump guilty. Impeachment, said Portman, “does not apply to former officeholders or former presidents.”  

Portman, however, is wrong regarding the constitutionality of subjecting a government official to a Senate impeachment trial after leaving office. It happened in 1876, when the Senate tried William Belknap after he had resigned his position as Secretary of War.  Unlike the Trump case, even Belknap’s impeachment by the House also took place after he had left office.

Portman rejects a fundamental principle of democratic voting by basing his excuse on an argument specifically rejected by a majority of his Senate contemporaries and by senators in 1876. In both the Belknap and Trump cases, the Senate voted that it had the constitutional right to try both officials after they left office. 

As a citizen, when I am on the losing side of a vote, I am expected to live with the result until I can assemble a majority to overturn it. Sen. Portman should have had the integrity to do the same. 

Unless the losers learn to live with the results of a vote, American democracy can not survive, and I find our senator’s flawed excuse for voting ”not guilty” shameful. 

John M. Gates, Wooster

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