Trump’s strong influence over GOP continues after second impeachment acquittal

The U.S. Capitol Building. Photo by Matteo Venieri / BU News Service

By Sravan Gannavarapu and James Paleologopoulos
Boston University News Service

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald J. Trump was acquitted for a second time by the U.S. Senate on Saturday, as this week’s impeachment trial ended with a vote of 57-43, short of the two-thirds majority needed for a conviction.

While seven Republican senators voted in favor of conviction, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, all remaining members of the minority party voted “No,” sparking criticism across the board from Massachusetts’s own congressional delegation.

Following her own vote to convict on Saturday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren reiterated the argument put forward by House impeachment managers during the weeklong Senate trial. 

“Donald Trump incited a mob of domestic terrorists to attack our Capitol and overturn the election,” Warren said through her official Twitter account. “Even seven Senate Republicans couldn’t stomach his act of insurrection. Our democracy must be stronger than the former president and the 43 senators who sided with him today.” 

The former president was facing a charge of “incitement of insurrection,” following a Jan. 6 riot in Washington, D.C., that left five dead, including U.S. Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick. The single article of impeachment was adopted by the House on Jan. 13, while Trump was still in office, but was formally delivered to the Senate on Jan. 25. 

Rep. Seth Moulton, one of the 232 representatives who approved the article, said the Republican party “definitively forfeited its credibility on national security” following the vote. 

“The House didn’t impeach Trump because we wanted to; we impeached him because of what he did,” Moulton said. “As the impeachment managers presented so clearly, the president incited his mob to attack America’s lawmakers as we carried out our Constitutional duty to certify the election results.”

Other reactions from the Mass. delegation included statements from Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who considered the impeachment vote a referendum on white supremacist violence, and that by voting “No,” Republican senators were enabling it and “must be expelled.”

Despite voting to acquit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scolded Trump for his actions and indicated he held the president practically and morally responsible for provoking the violence on Jan. 6.

McConnell reiterated his belief that the Senate did not have the jurisdiction to try the case, a view shared by many of the Republican senators who voted against impeaching Trump.

In an interview on MSNBC Sunday morning, Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D-Ma., referred to McConnell’s speech as “a cowardly way out” and that “the right thing to do was clear and apparent.” 

“The evidence was put forward in front of the entire American people,” Auchincloss said. “[It] should have been a 100-0 conviction.” 

The trial formally began on Feb. 9, with House impeachment managers and Trump’s attorneys presenting their cases over the course of four days. The trial appeared to be heading for a close on Saturday evening until a last-minute vote by senators, which allowed witnesses to extend the trial.

However, a deal was reached between the managers and the former president’s defense team, with no witnesses being called in exchange for new information from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wa., being admitted as evidence for the impeachment trial.

Beutler had released a statement the night before, sharing alleged details regarding a phone call between then-President Trump and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy. The call appeared to indicate McCarthy struggled with convincing the president to call off the rioters as they stormed the Capitol, which caused lawmakers to seek shelter while security personnel attempted to defend the building.

Several Republican senators have stated they believe those who participated in the riot should be charged. They also believe that the former president’s words can be protected by the First Amendment. Trump is the first president in U.S. history to face two impeachment trials, and the third to face impeachment in general, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Johnson is the closest to having been removed from office, saved only by the acquitting vote of Kansas senator, Edmund Ross.

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