Only thirty-eight days after his violent supporters stormed the US Congress on the Capitol Hill in Washington, former President Donald Trump, accused of inciting this “insurrection”, was exonerated of all the allegations the Democrats had brought against him and impeached him a second time.
This exoneration has thrown up a larger question. Will Trump’s successor Joe Biden become Abraham Lincoln-II?
The impeachment move against Trump came after an angry mob of his supporters stormed the US Congress on January 6, 2021, trying to stop it from certifying the Electoral College results that showed his Democrat rival Joe Biden had defeated him in the November 3, 2020, elections.
On February 13, the Senate (Upper House) acquitted him of all charges of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol after a majority of Republican lawmakers voted him “not guilty”. They refused to vote in favor of the Democrats’ move to punish Trump.
His successor, the 46th President Joe Biden, who took the oath on January 20, was reported to be against Trump’s impeachment as he feared the former President stood to gain, either way: if impeached a second time, his millions of White, conservative supporters could permanently ditch the Democrats; if he won, these same jubilant supporters would make life hell for the new Administration.
Nobody knew it better than Biden as to what Trump’s exoneration means.
Hours after the Senate’s acquittal, he said in a statement: “This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile.”
But he also had to do a balancing act: “While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute.”
Never has America been so divided after Abraham Lincoln’s era in the mid-19th century.
“Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” a triumphant Trump said in a statement, hours after the Senate vote, media reported.
“In the months ahead, I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future.”
While a two-thirds majority (67 votes) was needed in the 100-member US Senate to convict Trump on charges of inciting violence, only 57 Senators voted in favour of holding Trump guilty, while 43 voted ‘not guilty’.
Seven anti-Trump Republican Senators joined the Democrats’ ranks and voted for his conviction in the five-day long trial, making it the most bipartisan impeachment trial in the history of the USA.
Trump described this impeachment trial, his second during his four-year tenure, as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.” “No President has ever gone through anything like it.”
The House of Representatives (Lower House) had impeached Trump on January 13 and sent the charge of inciting an insurrection to the Senate to hold the trial.
“There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” senior Republican leader Mitch McConnell said after voting to acquit Trump.
He said that his vote against conviction was based on a technicality that under the Constitution Trump could not be impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate because he was out of office.
Democrats and their Republican supporters, however, said that although he was no longer the president, he could still be impeached and face the penalty of being barred from running for office.
Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Party leader in the Senate, was shocked. He condemned the Republicans who voted against the Trump conviction.
“The failure to convict Donald Trump will live as a vote of infamy in the history of the US Senate,” he said.
“We saw it, we heard it, we lived it,” he said, calling the January 6 incidents a “constitutional crime” witnessed by Senators.
Trump’s second impeachment was quite shorter that his first in 2020 and relied largely on the video footage of his incendiary remarks and storming of the US Congress. His defense argued that he did not incite “what was already going to happen” that day and that his remarks were protected by his right to free speech, as per the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Trump, who had won more than 74 million votes in the election, had, even after being declared defeated, announced that he will continue to be politically active, hinting that he might run again in 2024. He reiterated it on Saturday as well. His massive support base had made the majority of Republican Senators wary of crossing his way.
Post-exoneration, Trump may prove more dangerous to Biden.
“In the months ahead, I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. There has never been anything like it!”, Trump said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the pro-Trump Senators who voted to acquit him, “cowardly”. She however ruled out censuring Trump saying it would let “everybody off the hook”.
“What we saw in that Senate today was a cowardly group of Republicans who apparently have no options because they are afraid to defend their job… respect the institution in which they serve,” Pelosi said at a press conference after the historic but controversial trial.
“What is so important that the political survival of any one of us that (sic) is more important than our Constitution that we take an oath to protect and defend?” she asked, media reports said.
McConnell said that he voted to acquit Trump because “former Presidents are not eligible for conviction.” Shortly after the vote, however, he said the former President was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the January 6 attack.
They (the mob) did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth,” he said.
Like Biden, he was also forced to do a balancing act!