And so it is over. The second trial of Donald J. Trump, the only president to have been impeached twice, has adjourned. And Trump is now also the only president to have been found not guilty twice by the U.S. Senate. In the final tally, 57 senators, including 7 Republicans, found Trump guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors for inciting the mob that went on to breach and vandalize the Capitol, and to injure and kill law enforcement personnel. Forty-three senators found Trump not guilty. A supermajority of 67 being constitutionally required for conviction, the result was not guilty.
But only a handful of Trump’s most loyal supporters rushed to the cameras to proclaim that their leader had been exonerated by what goes down as the most bipartisan impeachment in history. The senators, and the world, saw the video of senators and members of the House fleeing for their lives during the attack on January 6th. They saw the Vice-President, Mike Pence, and his family being ushered away from the senate chamber by the Secret Service. They viewed Trump’s tweet of rage following Pence’s refusal to attempt an unconstitutional coup by rejecting of the voter’s will saying, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” They heard testimony that Trump had sent that tweet moments after receiving word that the Vice-President’s life was at risk.
It was too much even for Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky senator who, as Republican leader, had been solidly behind Trump for four years. Following the vote, McConnell took the the floor to declare that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for provoking the Capitol riot. He added: Trump “did not do his job. He did not take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored.”
I felt a momentary pang of sympathy for poor old Mitch. But after a second, two at the most, it passed. For unlike the seven Republicans who voted to impeach, Mitch voted “not guilty.” And he did so with his usual display of hyprocracy, stating that it was unconstitutional to try a president after his term of office had ended.
I have discussed before why this argument is without merit. But just to point out the latest addition to that list of arguments consider that before beginning the formal trial, on Tuesday, the Senate spent the entire day debating this very issue. It finally voted, 55-45, that the proceeding was constitutional and should proceed. So the Senate itself made the decision in the manner determined by its own rules. And the hypocrite McConnell, who claims he is the guardian of the Senate’s rules and traditions, proved once again that he will ignore procedure and precedent when it suits him.
McConnell complained that the House, which impeached Trump which he was still in office, had failed to deliver the impeachment to the Senate in time for a trial. But in fact, the secretary of the Senate had informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the Senate was on recess and would not return until January and, while on recess, would not accept the House’s papers. McConnell was in effect saying ‘the only time we could have convicted Donald Trump is when I prevented it.’ So McConnell delayed the trial until Trump was out of office and then said he couldn’t vote to convict because Trump was out of office. Talk about trying to have his cake and eat it too. I suppose it keeps some of the big Republican contributors from fleeing completely.
As for the trial, it was obvious that Senators’ minds had been made up. Several obnoxiously ignored Senate rules by ignoring or even boycotting the proceedings. Trump’s third string lawyers, several more prominent attorneys having resigned prior to the trial, argued the big lie that Trump had really won the election. It is a lie Trump, the liar in chief, will be telling for the rest of his days.
A Little History
Just a little history. Six (later) senators impeached Clinton in the House but acquitted Trump: Blunt, Portman, Thune, Crapo, Moran, and Wicker. Five senators voted to convict Clinton but they acquitted Trump: McConnell, Graham, Grassley, Inhofe and Shelby. Consider, is lying about oral sex is worse than insurrection?
McConnell did suggest the Trump could still face criminal charges as a result of the riot. There is some support for such a move. I have mixed emotions on the wisdom of what would be seen by many as an unprecedented partisan action. It will be interesting to see if Attorney General Merrick Garland, who Mitch McConnell so famously snubbed, pursues the matter.
And About Trump
In the end, McConnell did not do any better with Trump than Pence did. Trump issued a statement responding to McConnell, “Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again,” Trump wrote in a statement released by his political action committee. He later added: “The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm.”
First Pence, then McConnell. And of course the seven Republicans who voted guilty. And don’t forget the ten Republicans in the House who voted to impeach. There will be very little room left under the bus once Trump is finished throwing Republicans under it.