The lodestar of these columns is the Constitution of the United States. The document is the enduring foundation for protecting freedom, and this week it again showed its virtue. Although it was moved for a while by a crowd, Congress returned the same day to ratify the Electoral College vote and

Joe bidenthe election of. Congratulations to the elected president, who will be inaugurated as the Constitution stipulates at noon on January 20.

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That still leaves Wednesday’s disgrace and what to do for the remaining 13 days

Donald trumppresidential term. Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and

Nancy Pelosi

demand that Mr. Trump be removed from his post immediately – either by Cabinet under the 25th Amendment or through new articles of impeachment. There is partisan animosity at work here, but Mr. Trump’s actions on Wednesday raise constitutional questions that are not overlooked.

In summary, on Wednesday the head of the executive branch prompted a crowd to march on the legislative branch. The explicit aim was to demand that Congress and Vice President Mike Pence reject voters in a sufficient number of states to deny Mr Biden a Electoral College victory. When some of the crowd turned violent and occupied the Capitol, the President caved in and refused to call them for far too long. When he spoke, he covered his plea with an election complaint.

It was an attack on the constitutional process of transfer of power after an election. It was also an assault on the legislature by a sworn executive to uphold the laws of the United States. It goes beyond simply refusing to concede defeat. In our view, this crosses a constitutional line that Mr. Trump has not crossed before. It is impeccable.

Mr. Trump’s many opponents sing with satisfaction that their predictions turned out to be correct, that he was never fit to be president and should have been impeached long ago. But Mr. Trump’s character flaws were readily apparent when he ran for president.

Sixty-three million Americans voted to elect Mr. Trump in 2016, and that constitutional process should not be easily overturned as Democrats and the press have demanded since almost his first day in office. You do not indict for anticipatory offenses or for those that do not reach the level of constitutional violations. This week’s actions are a far greater dereliction of duty than his clumsy Ukrainian interventions in 2019.

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The related but separate question is whether impeachment or forcible removal under the 25th Amendment is now in the best interests of the country. The latter seems reckless unless Mr. Trump threatens another reckless or unconstitutional act. After Wednesday, he promised to help in an “orderly transition” of power. A Cabinet cabal that ousted him would amount to a Beltway coup and give Mr. Trump more reason to play the political victim.

The indictment has the merit of being transparent and politically responsible. If there were enough votes to condemn in the Senate, that would also seem less partisan. The best case for impeachment is not to punish Mr. Trump. It is to send a message to future presidents that Congress will protect itself against populists of all ideological stripes wishing to agitate a crowd and threaten the Capitol or its members.

But indictment so late will not be easy or without resentment. It would further enrage Mr. Trump’s supporters in a way that would not help Mr. Biden govern, let alone heal partisan divisions. He would spill political gasoline on the dying embers of Wednesday.

Especially since Democrats are unlikely to behave responsibly or with restraint. They are already balking at articles of impeachment that include a litany of anti-Trump grievances spanning four years. Ms Pelosi’s ultimatum on Thursday that Mr Pence triggers the 25th Amendment or that she also imposes will not attract GOP votes.

Democrats would now have more impeachment credibility if they had not abused the process in 2019. An impeachment parade that includes representatives of Russian collusion promoters Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler would fend off more Americans than ‘he would not persuade. The mission would look like political revenge, not constitutional enforcement – and Mr. Trump would play it as such until his last breath. Mr Biden could gain a lot of goodwill if he quashed the accusers in the name of withdrawing from the annihilationist policy.

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If Mr. Trump is to avoid a second indictment, his best course would be to take personal responsibility and resign. This would be the cleanest solution as it would immediately hand over the presidential duties to Mr Pence. And that would give Mr. Trump a Richard Nixon-style agency over his own fate.

It could also stem the tide of White House and Cabinet resignations that are understandable as acts of conscience, but could leave the government dangerously unmanned. Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, should notably remain in his post.

We know that a pardon from Mr. Trump is unlikely. In any case, this week probably ended him as a serious political figure. It cost Republicans the House, the White House and now the Senate. Worse yet, he betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence to overthrow it. He refused to accept the fundamental bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.

It is better for everyone, including himself, if he leaves quietly.

Potomac Watch: A politician must work hard to destroy a legacy and a future in one day. President Donald J. Trump did it. Image: John Minchillo / Associated Press

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