February 16, 2021

Trump Acquitted by Senate

The U.S. Senate acquitted Donald Trump on Saturday of inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol last month… The Senate voted 57-43 in favor of convicting the former president, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to do so.” Reuters

Read our prior coverage of the impeachment trial here. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left criticizes Republicans who voted to acquit Trump.

“For the first time in the history of the United States, a defeated president attempted to overturn the election’s outcome to keep himself in office. Trump’s effort to try to steal the election was multifaceted. He spent months lying that there was massive voter fraud. He pressured state officials and state legislators not to certify President Joe Biden’s win. He filed dozens of frivolous lawsuits. He urged members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to throw out valid electoral votes on January 6. And, that same day, he encouraged supporters to gather in Washington and egged them on. The violence at the Capitol ensued. It was stunning conduct that flew in the face of the US tradition of peaceful transition of power

“An impeachment of a US president has never ended with conviction, but surely, if one ever would, one would think that Trump’s conduct would merit it. But instead, partisanship triumphed, Republicans mostly closed ranks around Trump, and the vote fell well short of the two-thirds threshold needed for conviction. The result is that Trump will face no consequences — from Congress, at least — for his effort to defy the will of the voters and stay in power. That has ominous implications for the political system’s future stability, and seems to invite Trump or someone similar to try something like it again.”
Andrew Prokop, Vox

“‘There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events’ of Jan. 6, [Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)] said. The attack on the Capitol, he argued, was an effect of the ‘intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.’ Once it began, said McConnell, Trump ‘watched television happily, happily, as the chaos unfolded.’ The senator’s excoriation could have doubled as the House managers’ closing summation…

“To [Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)] and the eight other [House] managers, McConnell’s speech was at once a vindication and an insult, showing that they’d proved their case, and that it didn’t matter. McConnell voted to acquit on a manufactured technicality, arguing that a former president is ‘constitutionally not eligible for conviction.’ His bad faith is awe-inspiring; it was he who refused to move forward with a trial while Trump was still in office. With his split-the-baby solution to Trump’s manifest guilt, McConnell seemed to be trying to stay on the right side of his caucus while calming corporate donors who’ve cut off politicians who supported the insurrectionists.”
Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

“[Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)] justified his vote to acquit Trump by expressing concern that doing otherwise would put a metaphorical bullseye on every former president. ‘Establishing the precedent that the Senate has jurisdiction to convict a former president would cause extreme damage to our country and the future of the presidency,’ he said in a written statement. To which the proper response is: Hey, if Jimmy Carter someday inspires a deadly insurrection at the Capitol in order to seize power by overturning the legitimate results of an election, by all means go ahead and impeach him…

“[Republicans aren’t] wrong to suggest that impeachments are partly the result of opportunity. Trump probably never would have been impeached once — let alone twice — if Democrats hadn't won control of the House of Representatives in 2018. It is also true, though, that Trump was impeached for doing extraordinarily bad, selfish things.”
Joel Mathis, The Week

“Some in the media and some progressive activists initially directed their outrage not at the Republican senators who failed their responsibility but at the Democratic managers and leaders for not calling witnesses. Some charged that the managers ‘caved,’ suggesting that more facts were needed, or that more witnesses might have changed minds. This is silly. As McConnell and [Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)] recognized, the reality wasn’t secret. The senators were direct targets of the riot. The trial took place at the crime scene, where the mob rifled through senators’ desks…

Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors were brazen, not hidden. But Republican senators knew they would face a blowback from Trump supporters in their own states if they held him accountable… No parade of witnesses could have changed the minds of senators voting to save their own seats rather than to defend the republic.”
Katrina vanden Heuvel, Washington Post

From the Right

The right is generally critical of both Trump’s conduct and the impeachment process.

The right is generally critical of both Trump’s conduct and the impeachment process.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) writes, “I side with the early constitutional scholar Justice Joseph Story. He observed that while disqualification is optional, removal is mandatory on conviction. The Constitution presupposes that anyone convicted by the Senate must have an office from which to be removed. This doesn’t mean leaving office provides immunity from accountability. Former officials are ‘still liable to be tried and punished in the ordinary tribunals of justice.’ Criminal law and civil litigation ensure there is no so-called January exemption…

“There is no question former President Trump bears moral responsibility. His supporters stormed the Capitol because of the unhinged falsehoods he shouted into the world’s largest megaphone. His behavior during and after the chaos was also unconscionable, from attacking Vice President Mike Pence during the riot to praising the criminals after it ended… [but] The Senate’s duty last week was clear. It wasn’t to guarantee a specific punishment at any cost. Our job was to defend the Constitution and respect its limits. That is what our acquittal delivered.”
Mitch McConnell, Wall Street Journal

“Looking at the record as a whole, reasonable people can disagree about whether Trump’s behavior crossed the line for purposes of impeaching a president. Reasonable people can also disagree about whether a former president can be tried by the Senate. (In my view, a former president can be tried, but Trump stopped just short of the impeachable offense line.) But it’s unreasonable to view this impeachment as a ‘witch hunt’ (and Trump should freshen up his language). Senators like Bill Cassidy and Pat Toomey aren’t witch hunters. Neither is Mitch McConnell, who made it pretty clear that, although he doesn’t think Trump could be tried by the Senate, he believes the former president committed a serious offense.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“The path forward for the GOP is the path that takes elements of what Donald Trump did that blue collar voters appreciated and wraps it with a happy warrior veneer — someone who fights, but with a smile and a laugh, not a wink toward QAnon. One thing is for sure. As we move forward, impeachment will not be an albatross around the GOP’s neck and neither will Trump. As much as some of the media and Democrats want to tie the GOP to Trump and sink it all, Chuck Schumer had 55 votes to call witnesses at an impeachment trial and declined. Schumer’s sham shows the path forward for the GOP — a path that begins with not worrying about what Democrats think about them.”
Erick Erickson, Substack

“For the second time in a year, Pelosi bungled Trump’s impeachment while blaming everyone else. When she crashed her impeachment managers’ post-verdict news conference Saturday to label 43 Senate Republicans ‘cowardly’ for acquitting Trump, she tried to spin the press — busily preparing the first draft of history — with the message that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Trump’s other GOP enablers evaded their constitutional duty by relying on their ‘Trump’s a private citizen’ excuse…

“I was waiting for a reporter to ask: ‘Madam Speaker, since it is your opinion that it is constitutional to impeach and try a president who has left office, why didn’t the House carry out a full investigation, as you say should be done with a 9/11 style commission? Why didn’t you spend weeks or months interviewing witnesses and building a case, instead of rushing a snap impeachment? Why is the Senate taking the heat for not doing things that should have happened in the House?’”
Gary Abernathy, Washington Post

“Democrats seeking to justify their about-face here will no doubt insist that witness testimony would not have changed the mind of a single Republican. This is probably true. But it elides the more important question of why they bothered going ahead with the trial in the first place in full knowledge that conviction was not just unlikely but virtually impossible…

“What Democrats have shown us is that there is no real downside to these proceedings for an opposition party with a majority in the House. I expect that in the years to come impeachment will become a tedious ritual whenever the White House and the lower chamber are held by opposing parties. So far from being a victory for opponents of presidential malfeasance, the normalization of impeachment will undermine our only constitutional mechanism for checking the power of the executive.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

A libertarian's take

“This proceeding could have made a definitive case that Donald Trump incited an insurrection. And I think that evidence could have shown conviction was warranted… But this impeachment was rushed through, which ultimately made it ineffectual… The House did not hold any hearings, accept any sworn statements, subpoena former administration officials or request official documents…

“[The House managers] had no actual evidence that proved Trump’s state of mind. When the managers tried to introduce a second-hand account of Trump’s intent based on a conversation he had with Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Lee claimed it was inaccurate—and the managers ultimately had to withdraw the evidence. Still, the House managers could have called witnesses to build a record during the Senate trial, and even threatened to do so on Saturday. But they didn’t.”
Josh Blackman, Politico

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