Updated: Feb 24
After a short impeachment with large amounts of evidence against former president Donald J. Trump, Republicans vote to acquit.
By Matthew Royer, Staff Writer
Former president, Donald J. Trump was acquitted Tuesday, Feb. 13 despite a majority of the Senate voting in favor of conviction, with the vote fell beneath the 67 vote threshold needed to convict.
The vote fell mostly along party lines, with seven Republican senators crossing over for a 57-43 vote in favor of conviction, according to govtrack.us, an independent legislation tracker.
The vote to acquit came quicker than expected. On Feb. 13, impeachment managers sought to call upon witnesses who could give their say on what Trump was doing during the incitement of insurrection. In a brisk turn of events, both the prosecution and defense agreed to a first-hand account of the Jan. 6 insurrection by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA). Beutler’s written statement as posted on her website confirmed the President’s discussions with Republican leaders.
“To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president,” said Beutler. “If you have something to add here, now would be the time.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) requested that the vote on conviction begin at 3:40 p.m. that day, according to CSPAN’s transcript of the events. Shortly thereafter, the vote began and the former president Trump was acquitted.
Prosecutors, led by the House Impeachment Managers, concluded their case on why former Trump should be convicted by the United States Senate, while the former president’s defense team provided the Senate with a case of their own.
The Senate convened as a jury with Patrick Leahy (D-VT) serving as president pro tempore instead of Chief Justice John Roberts. According to SCOTUSblog.com, an independent site that reports on the Supreme Court. Roberts had no comment on the matter. Leahy, however, posted a statement on his website.
“The president pro tempore has historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents,” said Leahy. “When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws. It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously.”
On Jan. 13, seven days before the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the House of Representatives voted to impeach then-President Trump on one count of “Incitement of Insurrection.” The basis of the charges stems from his supposed role in the domestic terror incident at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The incident led to the death of five individuals, including one Capitol officer, with at least 15 officers hospitalized, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The charges claim Trump directed his supporters, through a speech and tweets, to march towards the Capitol during the period in which the House of Representatives and Senate were certifying the election results of the 2020 Presidential Election. What followed was a riot that broke out between the former president’s supporters and Capitol Police, in which the Capitol was breached and lawmakers were put into harm’s way. Trump and his allies had previously coined the event, the “Stop the Steal” rally, according to Just Security.
The House of Representatives voted to pass the articles of impeachment along bipartisan lines, according to records from the House Clerk. It did, however, have the most members of a sitting president’s party voting with the opposition -- 10 Republicans.
The president’s supporters, including some senators like Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), have questioned the legality of the trial, hypothesizing that a former President cannot be tried once their term has ended. This hypothesis even went up to a vote in the Senate chambers at the beginning of the trial, subsequently being voted down 57-43, with seven Republican Senators voting with the Democratic Senators, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), made the case that the former president mobilized the crowd.
“We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions,” said Raskin, according to the Baltimore Sun, “because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States.”
The case presented on Tuesday, Feb. 9 by Raskin, is that a president should be held accountable for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” even if they were subsequently leaving office. If not held accountable, there could be a lame-duck period between presidential administrations allowing for a “January exception,” a term used by Raskin to explain this possible loophole, according to Newsweek. This flaw could allow a president to commit impeachable offenses without accountability.
While, another impeachment manager, Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), laid out the House’s case using video documentation of the riots on Jan. 6, as shown in a video from PBS, and how the former President’s words and actions directly incited the insurrection.
Trump’s lead attorney, David Schoen, pushed back against the charges during his opening statement to the Senate, making the case for acquittal, according to CNN.
“Many Americans see this process for exactly what it is,” said Schoen. “A chance by a group of partisan politicians seeking to eliminate Donald Trump from the American political scene.”
Some Republican senators were flanked by the press for their different actions taken during the trial. With some senators seen putting their feet up, sleeping, doodling, and reading books during the proceedings according to The Independent.
Dr. Anthony O’Regan, professor of political science at Valley College, explained what this trial could mean for American democracy. Many experts, like O’Regan, do not believe there are enough votes to convict Trump.
“The argument you’re hearing about setting a precedent, there’s a lot of caveats,” said O’Regan. “There’s a consensus from experts on this, I think beyond this trial, cause this trial reflects where we are, that American democracy is being challenged in ways we haven’t seen since the Civil War.”
On the House’s case against the former president, O’Regan observed.
“I think they’ve done a very good job in making the case,” said O’Regan. There’s plenty of folks who are pretty horrified by what took place on January 6. To quote Roosevelt, it was ‘A day that went down in infamy.’ Just unbelievable what took place.”