YOUR VIEW: Readers respond to Portman’s statement on impeachment

NOTE FROM COMMUNITY IMPACT EDITOR AMELIA ROBINSON: Senator Rob Portman of Ohio was interviewed by CNN’s Dana Bash Sunday, Jan. 31. Portman told Bash that he thought former President Donald Trump was partly responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, but he questioned the constitutionality of trying Trump after he has left office. Readers were asked their thoughts on Portman’s decision. A transcript of Portman’s comments published Feb. 1 is linked below.

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite


Senator Portman wore a fig leaf covering responsibility to convict Trump for jeopardizing democracy in his interview. His fig leaf has two sides: timing precludes conviction and we have to move on.

The argument the Senate can’t convict an impeached person after leaving office collapses under scrutiny of the impeachment language and the history of its application.

The Constitution is structured to prevent a monarchy and provides impeachment, trial, and disqualification as protection against it. It doesn’t define a grace period. Without that accountability, an officeholder could get away with anything if he times it right. He’d be above the law.

Beyond that logic, precedent proves the timing argument false. An executive branch officeholder (cabinet secretary) was impeached. He attempted to preclude Senate trial by resigning, but the Senate tried him after leaving office.

The argument that Trump’s behavior “was wrong and inexcusable” but we have to move on is self-contradictory. If behavior is wrong but there is no substantial consequence, it is excused. If wrong behavior draws no consequence, it is repeatable with impunity. We haven’t moved on if that jeopardy remains.

I served as a military officer sworn to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” My oath required I give my life if required in that defense. Senator Portman also swore an oath to defend the Constitution. It’s time for him to live up to it. His life isn’t on the line, but democracy is.



Sen. Portman has shown us how well he will fight for democracy in the United States. He will again sit as a juror in an impeachment trial as an unbiased senator, but again before each trial has stated that he thinks they are a waste of time.

Portman has been a strong enabler for many of the past presidents’ false statements. I am surprised he is willing to finish his term as a senator. Is he afraid to let the people decide his political fate in two years. Portman stated that an impeached president should be allowed to have the people decide instead of voting to uphold the impeachment.

The people decided. It will be interesting to see how he votes again.



Sen. Portman’s statements on the constitutionality of an impeachment trial of former President Trump omits an important addition to removal from office in the Constitution’s provisions regarding the extent of judgment in cases of impeachment.

The entire provision in Article I, Section 3 reads: “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States ….”.

Clearly, “disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit” is understood in this provision to be an important penalty for commission and conviction of impeachable offenses by any Officer of the United States who is subject to impeachment because, in the archaic form of the language used in the provision, the placement of a comma between the phrases should not be construed to trivialize or negate the uniting force of the conjunction “and.”

Former President Trump was impeached while he was still in office, and the fact that he was required to leave office before the impeachment trial does not exhaust the provisions in Article I, Section 3 regarding the extent of judgment in cases of impeachment.

Thus, fulfillment of the Senate’s responsibility to render judgment in cases of impeachment requires a trial to determine the former President’s guilt or innocence of impeachable offenses while in office and, if found guilty, imposition of the full extent of the provisions of penalties for conviction of such offenses by the United States Senate.


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