Former President Trump Acquitted in Second Impeachment Trial
by Madison Jarnot
On Feb. 13, former President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate for the second time. The senate voted 57-43 in favor of conviction, but a two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, is required for conviction.
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Jan. 13 and charged with incitement of insurrection.
Both of Pennsylvania’s senators, Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R), voted to convict Trump.
In a statement after the trial, Sen. Casey said, “this case was not merely about the former President’s speech on Jan. 6. This was about a pattern of conduct. It was about the former President’s autocratic leadership and calls for political violence throughout his presidency. It was about a President who regularly condoned or encouraged violence at political rallies against protestors and members of the press.”
In a press release, Sen. Toomey said, “as a result of President Trump’s actions, for the first time in American history, the transfer of presidential power was not peaceful” and Trump’s “betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction.”
Democratic reps. Joaquin Castro (Texas), David Cicilline (R.I.), Madeleine Dean (Pa.), Diana DeGette (Colo.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Joe Neguse (Colo.), Jamie Raskin (Md.), Eric Swalwell (Calif.), and Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), served as impeachment managers and argued in favor of conviction during the Senate trial. Rep. Raskin was the lead manager.
Although Trump was out of office by the time the trial began, the Senate voted 56-44 to continue the proceedings. Ultimately, the Senate determined the case was still within its jurisdiction because he was impeached while in office, and thus starting the trial was not unconstitutional.
Lawyers Michael van der Veen, David Schoen, and Bruce Castor, led by van der Veen, presented Trump’s defense and argued in favor of his acquittal.
Throughout the trial, the impeachment managers argued Trump had advance knowledge of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building and purposefully encouraged violence against legislators who planned to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“You will see, during this trial, a man who praised and encouraged and cultivated violence,” Rep. Raskin said in his opening statement. “He told them to ‘fight like hell,’ and they brought us hell on that day. Incited by President Trump, his mob attacked the Capitol.”
During their arguments, impeachment managers presented video footage, audio recordings, Twitter screenshots, and photographs to display the brutality of the riots and connect former President Trump to the escalation of violence.
Among the footage from Jan. 6 was one clip in which seemingly hundreds of rioters are pushing against a line of police officers in an attempt to breach the west side of the building.
The video shows D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges pinned against a metal doorway by a rioter’s shield, crying and screaming “help” as blood flows from his mouth. He later suffered from broken ribs and a concussion. (The footage is available here from the New York Post; please be warned that it is extremely graphic.)
“Officer Hodges’s experience reminds you of what he and many other officers experienced that day,” Rep. Swalwell said during his opening statement. “May we do all we can in this chamber to make sure that never happens again.”
Five people died at the Capitol on Jan. 6, including one police officer, Brian Sicknick. At least 138 other officers were injured in the riots, and 15 of them needed to be hospitalized. Capitol Police Officers Howard Liebengood and Jeffrey Smith also committed suicide shortly after the riot.
The impeachment managers also constructed a map of the Capitol building and charted the course of the rioters compared to where legislators and former Vice President Pence were located. The managers alleged that Trump sent his supporters to assassinate former Vice President Mike Pence.
During her speech on the second day of proceedings, Delegate Plaskett said, “extremists reportedly coordinated online and discussed how they could hunt down the Vice President. Journalists in the Capitol reported they heard rioters say they were looking for Pence in order to execute him.”
At one point, there was a group of rioters only 100 feet away from where Pence and his family were hiding.
“The mob was looking for Vice President Pence because of his patriotism,” Delegate Plaskett said, “because the Vice President had refused to do what the President demand and overturn the election results.”
The impeachment managers’ entire opening statement is available from C-SPAN here.
Trump’s lawyers disputed the impeachment manager’s claims and argued that the trial was altogether unconstitutional, despite the Senate voting that the proceedings were constitutional.
In his opening statement on Feb. 12, van der Veen called the article of impeachment filed against Trump “constitutional cancel culture” and “a preposterous and monstrous lie.”
Trump’s team also denied that Trump’s speeches, tweets, and videos surrounding the event could’ve escalated rioting because the Jan. 6 attack was pre-planned.
“The fact that the attacks were apparently premeditated, as alleged by the House managers, demonstrates the ludicrousness of the incitement allegation against the President,” van der Veen said on day four of the proceedings. “You can’t incite what was already going to happen.”
Additionally, they played a video montage of Democrats using phrases like “fight” and “fight like hell,” arguing that their language was no different from Trump’s Jan. 6 speech the House managers claimed escalated the rioting.
“These are metaphorical, rhetorical uses of the word fight. We all know that, right?” van der Veen said. “Suddenly, the word fight is off-limits? Spare us the hypocrisy and false indignation. It’s a term used over and over and over again by politicians on both sides of the aisle.”
Trump’s lawyers’ complete opening statement is available here from C-SPAN.
The trial took place over four days. The House managers’ opening arguments lasted for about 11 hours, and the defense team’s lasted for about three hours.
After opening statements were finished, senators were able to submit questions to either side. The Senate then held a four-hour question and answer session to respond to senators’ submissions. (Every question that was asked and its answer can be found in the Congressional Record for Feb. 12.)
The House managers initially decided not to call witnesses after Trump declined to testify in front of the Senate. Later, the House managers reversed their decision and attempted to summon Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) to testify about a phone call.
Rep. Herrera Beutler told the House managers that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told her about a phone call he had with Trump. Allegedly, he told Rep. Herrera Beutler that Trump insisted the rioters were members of “Antifa,” and when Minority Leader McCarthy refuted Trump’s claim, Trump said, “well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
After negotiating with Trump’s defense team to add Rep. Herrera Beutler’s testimony to the trial record, the House managers decided to retract their request to call witnesses, and each side presented closing arguments.
Six Republicans voted to convict Trump. Besides Sen. Toomey, Republican Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Mitt Romney (Utah) voted in favor of his conviction.
Trump is the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. Although there were not enough votes to convict him, the verdict was the most bipartisan impeachment verdict in history as well.
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