Donald Trump has accumulated novelties and has once again entered American history. This Saturday (13), the former US president followed the expected scenario and was acquitted by the Senate during his second impeachment trial.
With 57 votes in favor of conviction and 43 against in a roll-call vote, Trump dismissed the charge of inciting the violent invasion of Capitol Hill on January 6 in the country’s biggest attack on democracy since civil war. The US Senate is now divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, and for impeachment 67 of the 100 House votes were needed.
The result crystallizes the strong power and influence that the most controversial leader in American history still has over the Republican Party, radicalized to the right.
Trump has become the first president to face two impeachment processes – one concluded with him already out of office – and now his challenge is to remain in charge of the American populist until 2024, if he wants to again report to the White House.
Republican Senate leader and one of the most influential members of Congress, Mitch McConnell voted for Trump’s acquittal, though he publicly said the former president caused the Jan.6 episode. McConnell warned his colleagues of the contents of his vote shortly before the start of Saturday’s session, in a signal that the party establishment is still under Trump’s shadow.
The former president was accused of inflating his supporters to invade the US Congress just over a month ago, in a violent action that left five people dead.
The impeachment process passed through the House, with a Democratic majority, in January, and went to the Senate for a speedy trial, which lasted just five days.
A turnaround at the start of Saturday’s session, however, gave the impression that the verdict could be delayed by a few days. That’s because the prosecution made an unexpected move and said they wanted to call at least one witness, Republican MP Jaime Herrera Beutler, to be heard in the process.
On Friday night, Beutler said he was told Trump joined the crowd in the attack on Capitol Hill, which drew the prosecution’s attention.
By 55 votes to 45 – five Republicans joined the Democrats – the summons of witnesses passed the Senate, even under protest from Trump’s defense.
With that, a series of adversarial debates began to try to find the best way to proceed with the trial that both sides were eager to complete. After nearly three hours of uncertainty, Democrats backed down and waived calling witnesses, including only Beutler’s depositions on the record.
One of ten Republican MPs who voted for Trump’s impeachment in the House last month, the MP says that on the day of the attack, Trump spoke to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and said says, “Well, Kevin, I think these people are more upset than you are about the election. “
None of this, however, was enough to convince 17 Republican senators to raid Trump. Even though there are moderate-profile Republicans tired of the ex-president’s aggressive stance, the political calculation has been meticulous in the face of numbers that show that much of the party’s base is still entrenched in the deceptive rhetoric.
On the eve of next year’s legislative elections, Republican lawmakers are unwilling to take any chances.
Despite the difficult scenario to predict, the Democratic prosecution used twelve hours of the trial, which began on Tuesday (9), to mark an affirmative argument that Trump led and facilitated crowd access to Congress on January 6 – and had to be punished for it. .
The goal was to make the trial a historic record, betting on emotional tone and institutional demonstration that an attack on Capitol Hill and American democracy could not be repeated.
With unpublished videos and audios recorded by congressional security cameras, Democratic MPs – who are acting as prosecutors in the case – have argued that Trump is a danger to democracy and could incite more violence s ‘he was not sentenced and sent back to the White House.
If convicted by two-thirds of the Senate, Trump could lose his political rights and be barred from running for office.
Democrats are betting on evidence showing the invaders can only march to Capitol Hill after Trump’s approval. The prosecution’s effort was to create some sort of timeline to argue that the Republican incited violence for several months and made it easier for the crowd to access the path which resulted in the most brutal attack on the Congress in 200 years.
Friday was Trump’s defense day on the ground, in a quick display of just over three hours.
Lawyers for the former president argued that the Republican was a victim of political persecution and was not responsible for inciting the invasion of Congress. According to them, the Senate trial represented “the culture of constitutional annulment”.
Trump’s lawyers knew they were unlikely to lose the case and presented a defense based on political arguments, with few objective details of the former president’s position on the action on Capitol Hill. They tried to rewrite what the Republican said, on the grounds that his speech – which called on supporters to “fight like never before” – was part of common political rhetoric, used even by Democrats and protected by the right to freedom. freedom of expression.
The speed of denunciation of the defenders was already expected, as well as the main axes of his thesis: the ex-president could not be held responsible for the action of the group which invaded the Capitol; his speech was figurative and is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which deals with freedom of expression; an indictment case against a former president is unconstitutional.
This last point had already been won on Tuesday, the first day of the trial, when the Senate decided, by 56 votes to 44, that Trump could indeed be tried even out of office.
In the Senate, the two parties wanted to end the trial in record time. Biden’s co-religionists did not want to further delay the president’s attempts to approve a $ 1.9 trillion ($ 10 trillion) economic pandemic relief package, while Republicans were in a hurry to bury the issue and highlight the division of the former president.
Biden went so far as to say he believed the prosecution’s strong case could have changed “some minds” of Republicans. However, a professional politician, Biden knew Trump’s conviction was unlikely and commented to assistants that he did not expect any surprises in the verdict.
After inciting violence and insisting on the false thesis that the November election was rigged, Trump saw his Twitter account suspended. Without its main platform for grassroots dialogue, it is not yet possible to project how the former president will remain at the head of the far right in the United States.
His absolution on Saturday, however, is the most concrete proof that, at least for now, most of his party colleagues are not betting on his eventual failure.