clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

4 takeaways from ex-President Trump’s Senate impeachment acquittal

“What we saw in that Senate today,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after Trump’s acquittal, “was a cowardly group of Republicans.”

Second Impeachment Trial Of Donald J. Trump Continues In Senate
Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) speaks at a press conference alongside the House impeachment magangers at the U.S. Capitol on February 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate voted 57-43 to acquit Trump of the charges of inciting the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Ex-President Donald Trump beat the rap again on Saturday.

Trump was unrepentant after being acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial of inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol siege in a bid to overturn the election.

He’s already plotting a political comeback.

That he was found not guilty does not mean Trump didn’t do it.

He did.

The roll call was 57 guilty and 43 not guilty, a majority, but not enough to meet the two-thirds, or 67 votes required by the Constitution to convict.

Seven Republicans joined with Democrats in declaring Trump guilty.

After Trump was acquitted, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said a mob attacked the Capitol because “they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth because he was angry he had lost an election.”

He added, “Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people that stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”

You might have figured from that declaration McConnell was one of those seven Republicans.

He was not.

Takeaways:

Trump avoided conviction with the help of a legalistic fig leaf McConnell created

It was always a long shot Democrats would find 17 Republican senators to convict Trump.

McConnell designed an out to have it both ways without excusing Trump’s contemptible conduct.

After piling on Trump, McConnell said he did not vote to convict because “the entire process revolves around removal. If removal becomes impossible, conviction becomes insensible.”

He let the disgraced Trump off the hook because Trump remains politically powerful.

Today, the Senate is divided 50-50.

The Democrats are in the majority because Democrat Joe Biden is president and Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote.

McConnell only needs to pick up a seat in 2022 to win back Senate control.

However, when the House impeached Trump on Jan. 13, the Senate was in GOP hands.

The two majority-making Democratic Senators from Georgia would not be sworn-in until Jan. 20, the same day Trump’s term ended.

The House impeachment managers, or prosecutors, hoped for a short, speedy trial while Trump was still president to make it harder for Trump to get off on a technicality.

If Trump were convicted while still president, the removal remedy could have been used. As important, after a conviction Trump would have also faced a vote to disqualify him from future office.

But McConnell would not order the Senate back into session. He let the clock run out on Trump claiming there was not enough time for a trial.

The Democrats powerfully argued during the trial that Trump needed to be convicted to prevent him from running again.

Calling the logic police

In case I was not clear, McConnell:

  • said Trump was guilty;
  • and then complained he could not convict Trump of inciting the insurrection because the removal option was off the table. He just didn’t want to deal with the disqualification option.

“What we saw in that Senate today,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi afterwards, “was a cowardly group of Republicans.”

Breaking down the arguments and the ‘big lie’

The House approved a single article of impeachment, charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”

Trump’s attorneys, with not much to use to defend Trump, insisted the narrow issue was only what Trump said at a Jan. 6 rally before the attack, which left five dead.

That ignored the weeks of tweets and remarks Trump made — called the “big lie” in the trial — that the election was rigged and his supporters needed to come to Washington on Jan. 6 to “stop the steal” and prevent electoral college votes from being counted for Biden.

Said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., “We are not suggesting that Donald Trump’s Jan. 6th speech by itself incited the attack. We have shown that his course of conduct leading up to and including that speech incited the attack.”

With dignity and grace, Rep. Raskin grappled with son’s suicide as he led impeachment

The impeachment put a spotlight on lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

His son, Tommy Raskin, 25, took his own life on Dec. 31. He had a history of depression. Tommy was buried the day before the Capitol attack. Raskin’s daughter and son-in-law were at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Raskin quoted Thomas Payne during the trial, the political philosopher for whom he named his son.

Raskin told the story of how his family feared for their lives as rioters hunted for Pelosi and ex-Vice President Mike Pence — bringing home the danger of Trump’s insurrection.