The greatest indication of tanking was the language of the article itself. Even a single day of hearings would have allowed experts to discuss the potential impeachable conduct and the crafting of articles of impeachment. There was credible impeachable offenses in Trump’s conduct on January 6th and its aftermath. Instead, the House leadership insisted on impeachment for “incitement of insurrection.” The House is not alleging reckless or negligent conduct leading to a riot. It is alleging incitement to actually seek rebellion or overthrow of the country. The article specifically refers to section 3 of the 14th Amendment in its prohibition of anyone holding office if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States. Even moderate senators who condemned Trump for his speech would be highly unlikely to convict on such an article.

The House made it easy on those seeking acquittal. It could have crafted an article that would appeal to broader bipartisan support. Instead, it sought the most extreme language alleging incitement to an actual insurrection — virtually guaranteeing a partisan vote and likely acquittal.

The House also included language that only strengthened the expected challenge facing the House in seeking a trial for a former president. The article declared Trump “has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.” Yet, the House was virtually certain that he would already be out of office when he came to trial. The language magnified concerns over the constitutionality of retroactive trials.