A “fait accompli.” That’s what the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is being called by many in the media and on both sides of the political aisle.
It’s more than likely true. A whopping 17 Republican senators would need to join Democrats to convict Trump, and all but five wouldn’t even vote in favor of holding the impeachment trial, so it’s a steep climb.
But that fact doesn’t mean the impeachment trial is unimportant. In fact, it’s absolutely crucial. Here are five reasons why.
Accountability. What happened in the wake of the November 2020 elections was likely a crime. The president of the United States and his allies tried to overturn the results of a democratic election. They pressured election officials to find votes that weren’t there, threatened criminal reprisals if they didn’t, and spread lies and conspiracy theories about voting machines, stolen ballots, suspicious suitcases and dead voters.
What happened next was a tragedy. After whipping his supporters into a frothy frenzy over those lies, he unleashed them onto the U.S. Capitol, where four of them died and a police officer was killed. After the blood was spilled, Trump said to these violent insurrectionists, “Go home, we love you, you’re very special.”
Trump must be held accountable for all of his actions following the election, and it’s the job of Congress to do that. That accountability may not come in the form of a conviction. But it could lead to other actions outside of Congress.
Trump could very well face criminal charges. He’s also reportedly been warned that he could face considerable civil damages, with one adviser telling him to “think O.J.” — as in, Simpson.
This trial is the first step in holding Trump and his enablers responsible for their abuse of power.
The truth. This trial will also be the first real accounting of what happened over those two post-election months. Through sworn witness testimony, court filings, new evidence and never-before-seen video, we’ll learn more about the attempted election fraud and Capitol insurrection than we would have otherwise.
If sunlight is the best disinfectant, this procedure is hugely important in getting to a consensus narrative about what actually occurred and why.
Get Republicans on the record. While politics is less important than justice, impeachment is inherently a political act. And so, it has political consequences. One of those is forcing each and every member of the Senate to go on record, to put their names in the history books next to Right or Wrong. That decision can have consequences as soon as the 2022 midterms, and for decades to come. If Republicans believe Trump shouldn’t be held accountable for his clear abuses of power and inciting a violent insurrection, thereby excusing future presidents for doing the same, they need to stand up and say so.
Rooting out extremism in the military. Right-wing extremism is a growing problem in all corners of the country. But we’ve since learned that many of the Capitol rioters have a military background. A troubling NPR analysis found that nearly 1 in 5 people charged for their involvement have either served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. That’s deeply disturbing.
Extremism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism have infiltrated the military at alarming rates. If this trial can bring to light the involvement of former or current military members and help expose this scourge inside our armed services, that’s an important first step in rooting it out.
Chip away at QAnon. Similarly, this trial can help expose the dangers of QAnon, the conspiracy theory cult that has attached itself to Trump and recruited untold numbers of supporters to spread baseless lies on his behalf.
QAnon came out of the shadows on Jan. 6, and its members were some of the most visible and vocal. But as we learn more about the irrational and self-destructive nature of the group, we’ve seen some escapes.
Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon Shaman” who was arrested for his involvement in the Capitol riots, released a statement in which he didn’t go so far as to renounce QAnon, but suggested he’s questioning it: “Please be patient with me and other peaceful people who, like me, are having a very difficult time piecing together all that happened to us, around us, and by us.” QAnon is a dangerous cult, and the more we learn about the people inside and what motivated them on Jan. 6, the better we can try to dismantle it.
Let’s be honest, the craving for a Trump conviction likely won’t be satisfied this week. But it’s important to see the forest for the trees: The nation needs this reckoning for many reasons.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.