The first impeachment of Donald Trump was an act of self-preservation by Democrats. The second is an act of self-preservation by Congress.
In 2019, the Democratic congressional leadership initially resisted the cries for impeachment that had been building since the party gained control of the House of Representatives; Speaker Nancy Pelosi memorably and ineffectually quipped that Trump was “almost self-impeaching” in May of that year.
But when a whistleblower revealed that Trump had attempted to strong-arm the leader of Ukraine into falsely implicating then-aspiring Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a crime, the House had to act. Allowing Trump to use his authority as president to coerce foreign leaders into doing his bidding would leave the country vulnerable to similar acts in the future. The sustained public attention to Trump’s corrupt motives also substantially neutralized his planned attack on Biden, who ultimately prevailed in November.
Every Senate Republican—except for Mitt Romney of Utah, who described Trump’s attempt to rig the election as “the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine”—voted to acquit the president. The rest of the Republican caucus either approved of Trump’s conduct or concluded that the political benefits of allowing him to continue to abuse his authority were greater than the cost of removing him. Tragically, Romney’s remarks turned out to represent a failure of imagination.