Most recently, on the phone with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, he said, “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.” He added: “We won this state,” even though he didn’t. In a democracy, you don’t find votes. You count them. Most strikingly, Mr. Trump threatened the Georgia officials with criminal prosecution if they didn’t comply, saying leaving the vote counts intact would be a “big risk.”
This kind of threat may sound familiar, because an eerily similar abuse of power led to Mr. Trump’s impeachment just over a year ago. Senator Susan Collins of Maine explained her vote to acquit him by saying she thought he had learned “a pretty big lesson.” Clearly, Mr. Trump learned a different lesson — that he was above the law. It’s just as William Davie from North Carolina, discussing the position of the presidency at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, predicted: A president who viewed himself to be unimpeachable, he said in 1787, would “spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected.”
It’s time for Congress, once and for all, to put an end to this.
No one wants to put the country through the turmoil of another impeachment. But we also can’t afford to look the other way — for several reasons.
For one, we must establish a precedent that a president who tries to cheat his way to re-election will be held accountable. Sure, this attempt may not have succeeded, but a failed coup should itself be alarming enough. And who is to say there won’t be a closer election in the future, with a more competent authoritarian candidate — whose party also has control of the House of Representatives? We need to make sure that Congress has ensured that candidates cannot strong-arm their way into re-election.
We also need to set a precedent that a lame duck president can still be held accountable. If an incumbent, say, threatened to nuke Iran unless the Electoral College sided with him, we would want to have a mechanism by which we could remove him from office. In our Constitution, impeachment is that mechanism, but it is worthless if we never use it.