Thursday, January 27, 2022

Donald Trump Acquitted of Inciting Deadly US Capitol Riot After Second Impeachment Trial

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With 43 Senate Republicans voting to acquit Donald Trump of inciting the bloody insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January, the former president has once again eluded the constitutional consequences of his alleged high crimes and misdemeanors.

The arguments of the nine Democratic impeachment managers, led by Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, were enough to convince seven Republicans — Richard Burr of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania — to join all 50 Democrats in voting to convict Mr Trump.

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But the final tally of 57-43 fell short of the 67-vote threshold to convict the former president, who in just a 13-month span from December 2019 to January 2021 became the first public official to be impeached twice.

Mr Trump is now the second president to gain acquittal with a minority of the votes in his favour. (Andrew Johnson was one vote away from conviction and removal in May 1868.)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s note to fellow Republicans earlier in the day announcing his decision to acquit Mr Trump shed light on the rationale many in the GOP have used when weighing their votes.

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At the heart of their opposition to the former president’s conviction are constitutional quibbles to which they have adhered steadfastly, despite

“While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” Mr McConnell wrote to his colleagues on Saturday. He had been closely guarding his deliberations on the impeachment of Mr Trump for weeks.

“The Constitution makes it perfectly clear that Presidential criminal misconduct while in office can be prosecuted after the President has left office, which in my view alleviates the otherwise troubling ‘January exception’ argument raised by the House,” Mr McConnell.

The minority leader’s note stopped short of saying whether Mr Trump’s conduct — presented over the course of several hours by the House managers during the five-day trial — was worthy of criminal prosecution.

Although the trial was all but guaranteed to culminate in Mr Trump’s acquittal before it was even convened, the managers issued final pleas on Saturday for senators to consider both how American history textbooks would view their vote and what acquittal would mean for the future of the presidency fell mostly on deaf ears for Republicans.

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“This is almost certainly how you will be remembered by history,” Mr Raskin said. “That might not be fair. It really might not be fair. But none of us can escape the demands of history and destiny right now. Our reputations and our legacy will be inextricably intertwined with what we do here and with how you exercise your oath to do impartial justice.”

During their closing argument on Saturday, the managers retraced the evidence they presented over the course of the last week.

Mr Trump’s speech on 6 January inciting the mob that would later overrun the Capitol was the culmination of a months-long effort by the ex-president to undermine his supporters’ faith in the 2020 election results and subsequently whip up their fury against Congress’ certification of that outcome when it had become clear Joe Biden won, the managers argued.

Then, as rioters were breaking into the Senate chamber, bashing police officers with their own anti-riot equipment and sending lawmakers fleeing for their lives, Mr Trump failed to uphold order as commander-in-chief by doing nothing for hours to stop the chaos.

Instead of issuing a public statement to quell the mob and order them to leave the Capitol, Mr Trump called various lawmakers urging them to wipe out Mr Biden’s electoral victory, the managers alleged.

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The president’s “dereliction of duty” during the riot was “part and parcel of the constitutional offence that he was impeached for, namely incitement to insurrection,” Mr Raskin argued on Saturday. Mr Trump’s inaction amid the insurrection provides “further decisive evidence of his intent to incite the insurrection in the first place,” the lead manager said.

Impeachment manager Joe Neguse exhorted senators on Saturday before their vote that the “stakes could not be higher.”

“The cold, hard truth is that what happened on January 6th can happen again. I fear… the violence we saw that terrible day may be just the beginning,” he said.
Photo Credit: Getty

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