Impeachment: Why the Senate Will Acquit Trump

US House of Representatives votes on Trump's second impeachment. Public Domain.
US House of Representatives votes on Trump’s second impeachment. Public Domain.

As I write this, the US Senate is cranking up for its trial of former President Donald J. Trump. The House impeached Trump on January 13, a week before the end of his term, on one article charging him with “incitement of insurrection” in the form of the January 6 riot at the US Capitol.

Even Trump’s most ardent opponents hold out little hope of conviction. That would require the votes of 67 US Senators, at least 17 of whom would have to be Republicans. And 45 of 50 Republican Senators have already voted against holding the trial at all, on grounds that it would be “unconstitutional” because Trump is no longer president.

It’s not unconstitutional. The Constitution’s plain language,  precedent in both US and pre-revolutionary British practice, and a common sense holding that the founders would not prescribe a penalty (disqualification from future office) that could be rendered toothless by resignation, make it clear that an official can be tried (and impeached) after leaving office. In fact, some Republicans advocated doing exactly that to former Vice-President Joe Biden only months ago over his alleged corruption vis a vis Ukraine and Burisma.

Nor do other Republican excuses — that trying the impeachment would violate Trump’s First Amendment rights, for example, or that Chief Justice John Roberts is constitutionally required to preside at the trial — hold water. Impeachment is a political, not criminal, proceeding, to which the First Amendment is irrelevant. The Chief Justice presides at the trials of presidents, not former presidents (Democratic US Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont will preside at Trump’s trial).

Nor do those excuses explain why Republicans will almost unanimously vote to acquit, any more than an honest belief in Trump’s guilt explains why Democrats will unanimously or almost unanimously vote to convict.

What does explain the nearly inevitable outcome? That the trial is, as I mentioned, a political proceeding.

House Democrats voted to impeach, and Senate Democrats will vote to convict, because they believe doing so improves their personal political prospects and the political prospects of their party.

Most House Republicans voted against impeachment, and most Senate Republicans will vote to acquit, because they believe it’s the least bad option available where their personal and party political prospects are concerned.

“Least bad” isn’t “good,” but this is a “heads the Democrats win, tales the Republicans lose” situation.

Voting to convict exposes Republican Senators to primary challenges from Trump loyalists come next election, and possibly even a fatal split in the GOP itself.

Voting to acquit leaves them right where they were, with the rotting albatross of the Trump presidency hanging around their collective neck. It’s a tough call and probably leaves them in the congressional minority and out of White House contention for the next few years either way.

Trump’s actual guilt or innocence — which you may notice I’ve offered no opinion on — is as irrelevant to his second impeachment trial as it was to his first.

The moral of the story: Politics is very expensive, but not very suspenseful, dinner theater.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Brave New World Wide Web Revisited

Deadheads preparing to enjoy Barlow’s lyrics in his Rocky Mountain region. Photo by Mark L. Knowles. GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.

February 8 marks the silver anniversary of an iconic early manifesto defending the Internet as a space where personal liberties and social cooperation might flourish free of political control … just in time. John Perry Barlow emailed “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” from the World Economic Forum the day Bill Clinton signed into law restraints on free expression via the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Barlow couldn’t have foreseen that on February 2, 2021, The New York Times would print a call for incoming President Joe Biden to appoint a “reality czar” to verify online information.  He did predict that national administrative substitutes for “parental responsibilities” would fail to contain “the virus of liberty” in “a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.”

Barlow’s Declaration promptly became ubiquitous in the cyberspace it extolled, its text reposted on tens of thousands of web pages (no mean feat when websites numbered in the hundreds of thousands). Detractors penned multiple Declarations of the Dependence of Cyberspace on governmental oversight, misinterpreting Barlow’s ideal of a World Wide Web freed from rulers as a Wild West Web un-moored by rules.

Barlow himself noted on his Declaration’s twentieth anniversary that it had become largely remembered as “an example of the sort of wooly-headed hippie thinking we could entertain in more innocent times.”  He admitted that he had overly high hopes for the amount of “horizontally networked consensus” that would result, and that he had underestimated the new medium’s potential for abuse.

Yet if Barlow under-emphasized the basis of his confidence in voluntary agreement to those who lacked his experience with the “unwritten social contracts” undergirding everyday life in his home state of Wyoming, he himself failed to fully appreciate its power.  He told Reason magazine in 2004 that the very nation-states he had famously declared “weary giants of flesh and steel” eight years before were now “the only force I know that is fairly reliable” at “countervailing against monopoly.”

To the contrary, political gigantism is the source of economic monopoly.  United States Steel Corporation chairman Elbert Henry Gary feared the “bitter warfare” of unregulated competition, as have industrialists closer on the cutting edge to U.S. Robotics than U.S. Steel.  Microsoft called for the United States to enact “a broad, nationwide privacy law” in 2005, just as users were abandoning Microsoft Internet Explorer for more secure competing web browsers like Firefox and Opera. Similar regulatory capture tipped the balance away from such alternatives and toward the consolidation of the Internet into a handful of centralized platforms.

Freedom of exit to innovative upstarts can still restore the potential of the early Internet to secure freedom in virtual reality, and in the real world “of flesh and steel” as well.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Brave New World Wide Web Revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, OpEdNews, February 6, 2021
  2. “Brave new world wide web revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, Intrepid Report, February 8, 2021
  3. “Brave New World Wide Web revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, Elko, Nevada Daily Free Press, February 8, 2021
  4. “Brave New World Wide Web Revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, Richmond, North Carolina Observer, February 9, 2021
  5. “Brave new World Wide Web revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, Brattleboro, Vermont Reformer, February 9, 2021
  6. “Brave New World Wide Web Revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, February 11, 2021
  7. “Brave New World Wide Web Revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, Pottstown, Pennsylvania Mercury, February 12, 2021
  8. “Brave New World Wide Web Revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, The Phoenix Reporter & Item [Phoenixville, Pennsylvania], February 12, 2021
  9. “Brave New World Wide Web Revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, The Delaware County [Pennsylvania] Daily Times, February 12, 2021
  10. “Brave New World Wide Web Revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, Mainline Media News [Exton, Pennsylvania], February 12, 2021
  11. “Brave New World Wide Web Revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, Montgomery News [Lansdale, Pennsylvania], February 12, 2021
  12. “Brave New World Wide Web Revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, Daily Local News [West Chester, Pennsylvania], February 12, 2021
  13. “Brave New World Wide Web Revisited” by Joel Schlosberg, The Times Herald [Port Huron, Michigan], February 12, 2021

Better COVID-19 Vaccination Policy: Stick it to’em! Vaccine Photo

As the federal government and state governments around the country roll out their COVID-19 vaccination programs, problems real and imagined abound.

The real problems include bottlenecks caused by limited availability, stringent storage requirements, and, most of all, the confusion and scheduling snafus that inevitably accompany large-scale mobilizations of resources.

The imagined problems boil down to belly-aching about how those who “should” be getting the vaccine aren’t getting it as soon as they “should,” and about how people who “shouldn’t” be getting it as soon are “jumping the line.”

At the extreme we hear claims that old “white” people shouldn’t be getting it before people of color for reasons ranging from the former being more at risk to older people having already lived enough and to payback for past institutional racism, the latter two of which are ghoulish. More on the reasonable side of things are complaints that some younger, less at risk, people are getting it before some older, more at risk, people.

Disclosure: I’ve already received my first jab and will go in next week to get my second, but I’m not displacing anyone else. I’m participating in the Phase III clinical trial for a new vaccine that hasn’t been approved yet. You’re welcome.

The biggest real problem is water under the bridge:  Governments always do things more expensively and less efficiently than markets. The Food and Drug Administration held up approval of the first vaccines for unnecessary months, and government inefficiency is almost certainly holding up your shots for unnecessary weeks.

Retrospectively, the best way to handle things would have been to push the state aside and let the market get this thing done quickly and cheaply. But instead of listening to anarchists like me, people just went along to get along yet again and are likely to continue doing so for some time.

We’re stuck with the worst possible way of doing things. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of it.

How DO we make the best of it? If government policies were written in English, we’d look for something like this from President Biden and 50 governors:

“We’re shipping vaccines to hospitals and doctors and pharmacies as fast as we can, and ask them to put as many two-dose courses as they can in as many arms as they can, regardless of age, sex, race, or other considerations, using whatever scheduling and allocation methods they find work best.”

If the vaccines work, every immunized person is one person less likely to catch COVID-19 or pass it on, and puts us one step closer to hopefully achieving herd immunity.

Every vaccination administered is a win, if the goal is to reduce the numbers of cases, reduce the numbers of deaths, and hopefully bring this ugly era to an end.

Every missed opportunity to stick a needle in an arm is a loss on those same criteria.

Let’s stop letting jealousy over the ages, sexes, and races of the arms in question get in the way.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.