Words by Luke Thomson

Former US President Donald Trump has been acquitted by a vote held in the senate on Saturday 14 February. The Democrat-led vote failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority.

A total 57 votes were sent to convict the former President for his role in inciting the violent riot on the US capitol back on the 6 January, falling short of the 67-vote threshold.

Of the 57 votes, just 7 votes came from the Republican side of things. The ever-moderate Mitt Romney being the most notable of such. He was also the only Republican who voted with the Dems back in Trump’s 2019 impeachment trial.

The trial was much shorter than most. The process lasted one month exactly, beginning on 13 January, and concluding with Saturday’s vote. In contrast, Trump’s first impeachment lasted from 14 September to 3 December 2019.

Part of this shortened time frame was due to Mr Trump’s defence team taking just a small fraction of the total 16 hours allotted to them for the former President’s case.

In the defence, Mr Trump’s team pointed to how his words of “fight like hell” were merely an encouragement for his supporters to go out and vote, rather than giving permission to commit violent acts.

They displayed videos to the senate showing other senior Democratic leaders using the same sort of rhetoric to boost support for their causes.

Yet another reason that the vote was sped up on this occasion was the decision made by the Senate to deny any personal witnesses, deciding to go straight towards the written testimonies only.

After the vote was gathered, Republican senate minority leader Mitch McConnell ripped into Mr Trump, placing full responsibility for the attacks in January on the then-president and believing justice needs to be dealt.

Despite this, Mr McConnell voted against convicting Mr Trump, citing the supposedly unconstitutional nature of impeaching a president after their time in office.

This reasoning is particularly confusing considering Mr McConnell was one of the leading voices in pushing the trial until after Mr Trump had left office.

Current President Joseph Biden stated his immense disappointment in the result, calling it a “sad chapter in our history, one that reminds us that democracy is fragile”.

Indeed, whilst the Capitol riots were contained, by not convicting Mr Trump, we have tolerated the attacks on democracy “incited by a sitting president who […] lied about the outcome of a lawful election”, as former US President Barack Obama stated.

As is typical with his moderate politics, Biden was also hesitant to attack the Republicans for their non-action, instead calling for unity – “each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans to defend the truth and defeat the lies”.

Rather than placing the responsibility on political leaders to become accountable, Biden chooses to place the task of upholding democracy on the shoulders of normal citizens.

In contrast to this, the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was quick to attack, calling the GOP senators “cowardly, afraid to defend their job and respect the institution in which they serve”.

There is speculation as to what the fallout of this will be. Mr Trump responded with glee to the result, relieved that the supposed “greatest witch hunt in political history has concluded”.

The former President also seemed to declare his intention to continue his career in politics. Because he was acquitted, he can still run for office. Indeed, Mr Trump declared that his MAGA campaign “had only just begun”. 

The failed process also bears badly for the act of impeachment as a whole. Half of all impeachments have now occurred in the Trump presidency, with both failing.

The value and weight of the action has surely now fallen, with it being next to impossible to break down the partisan politics that exist in modern American politics.

Indeed, the only Republican senators that did vote for Trump’s conviction were either due to retire, or had just been elected and therefore need not worry about facing the voters for another 6 years.

One moment that was received with more optimism by some was the speech made by the Democratic congressman Joe Neguse.

The congressman has had a massive popularity surge since being elected in Colorado back in 2019, and he stole the spotlight once more with his closing speech and remarks. 

Picture Credit: Gage Skidmore

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