Trump acquitted in impeachment, draws GOP wrath

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Saturday acquitted Donald Trump of inciting the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial that exposed the fragility of America’s democratic traditions and left a divided nation to come to terms with the violence sparked by his defeated presidency.

Barely a month since the deadly Jan. 6 riot that stunned the world, the Senate convened for a rare weekend session to deliver its verdict, voting while armed National Guard troops continued to stand their posts outside the iconic building.

The quick trial, the nation’s first of a former president, showed how perilously close the invaders had come to destroying the nation’s deep tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power after Trump had refused to concede the election. Rallying outside the White House, he unleashed a mob of supporters to “fight like hell” for him at the Capitol just as Congress was certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. As hundreds stormed the building, some in tactical gear engaging in bloody combat with police, lawmakers fled for their lives. Five people died.

The verdict, on a vote of 57-43, is all but certain to influence not only the former president’s political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors. Seven Republicans joined all Democrats to convict, but it was far from the two-third threshold required.

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Numerous GOP senators said the their vote was not a reflection’s of Trump’s innocence, but rather a outcome that he no longer holds office.

“The impeachment trial is over and former President Trump has been acquitted. My vote to acquit should not be viewed as exoneration for his conduct on January 6, 2021, or in the days and weeks leading up to it. What former President Trump did to undermine faith in our election system and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power is inexcusable,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. 

“But he is no longer president. The Constitution is clear that the primary purpose of impeachment is removal from office, and that’s what I believe the Founders intended. I have great concerns with the Senate punishing a private citizen with the sole intent of disqualifying him from holding future office. Our Founders designed impeachment to be an extreme remedy and cautioned against its use as a political weapon. We should heed their caution. In our democracy, matters of representation should be left with the people, as the Founders intended.”

“I’ve said all along that impeaching former President Trump is a moot point as the Constitution is clear that removal from office is the primary purpose of impeachment,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D. “Our Founding Fathers intended the process of impeachment to remove public officials from office, not to punish private citizens. After carefully listening to every minute of the presentations made by the House Managers and the former president’s legal team, I am convinced that the Senate does not have jurisdiction to render a judgement against the former president. Therefore, I voted not guilty. It is now time to get back to the work of the American people.”

The outcome after the uprising leaves unresolved the nation’s wrenching divisions over Trump’s brand of politics that led to the most violent domestic attack on one of America’s three branches of government.

“Senators, we are in a dialogue with history, a conversation with our past, with a hope for our future,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the House prosecutors in closing arguments.

“What we do here, what is being asked of each of us here in this moment will be remembered.”

Trump, unrepentant, welcomed the his second impeachment acquittal and said his movement “has only just begun.” He slammed the trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country.”

Though he was acquitted, it was easily the largest number of senators to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment charge.

Voting to find Trump guilty were GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Even after voting to acquit, the Republican leader Mitch McConnell condemned the former president saying there is still “no question” that Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

McConnell said he could not vote to convict Trump because he is “constitutionally not eligible for conviction” because he is no longer president.

The trial had been momentarily thrown into confusion when senators suddenly wanted to consider potential witnesses, an hours-long standoff Saturday that stalled the momentum toward a vote. Prolonged proceedings would be politically risky, particularly for Biden’s new presidency and his emerging legislative agenda.

The nearly weeklong trial has delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.

House prosecutors have argued that Trump’s was the “inciter in chief” stoking a months-long campaign, and orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims they called the “big lie” that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Trump’s lawyers countered that Trump’s words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

The senators, announcing their votes from their desks, were not only jurors but also witnesses. Only by watching the graphic videos — rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the January certification tally — did senators say they began to understand just how perilously close the country came to chaos.

Many senators kept their votes closely held until the final moments on Saturday, particularly the Republicans representing states where the former president remains popular. Most of them ultimately voted to acquit, doubting whether Trump was fully responsible or if impeachment is the appropriate response.

“Just look at what Republicans have been forced to defend,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Look at what Republicans have chosen to forgive.”

In closing arguments, lead prosecutor Michael van der Veen fell back on the procedural argument that Republican senators have embraced in their own reasoning of the case what he said is a “phony impeachment show trial.”

“Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him,” said Michael van der Veen. “The act of incitement never happened.”

The House impeached trump on the sole charge of incitement of insurrection one week after the riot, the most bipartisan vote of a presidential impeachment.

The delay Saturday came as senators wanted to hear evidence about Trump’s actions during the riot.

Fresh stories overnight focused on Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, who said in a statement late Friday that Trump rebuffed a plea from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to call off the rioters.

Impeachment trials are rare, senators meeting as the court of impeachment over a president only four times in the nation’s history, for Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and now twice for Trump, the only one to be twice impeached.

Unlike last year’s impeachment trial of Trump in the Ukraine affair, a complicated charge of corruption and obstruction over his attempts to have the foreign ally dig up dirt on then-campaign rival Biden, this one brought an emotional punch displayed in graphic videos of the siege that laid bare the unexpected vulnerability of the democratic system.

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(1) comment

Mr. Silppyfist

I'd call this an absolute joke, but I've come to expect this from our spineless senators.

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