Former U.S President Donald Trump has now been acquitted of ‘incitement of insurrection’ in his second impeachment trial after the Senate failed to meet the 67-vote threshold needed to secure a conviction.
In total, a majority of senators, 57, convicted him while 43 lawmakers acquitted him of the one charge he faced — inciting an insurrection at the Capitol — after a brief five-day trial in which neither side used its full time for arguments and no witnesses were called.
Unlike Trump’s first impeachment trial, when Sen. Mitt Romney was the only Republican to find him guilty, seven Republicans did so this time around, making this the most bipartisan Senate conviction vote ever.
These Republicans were Sens. Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey.
House impeachment managers repeatedly argued that convicting Trump would set a precedent for future presidents and Congresses about the type of conduct that cannot be condoned: In this case, Trump for months perpetuated unfounded lies about election fraud and stoked outrage among his supporters, ultimately fueling a deadly attack on the Capitol, during which five people died. An acquittal, they argued, would mean presidents have the power to engage in this sort of behaviour — and that there’s nothing wrong with doing so.
“Decisions like this will define who America is as a people,” Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) said.
The two sides ultimately took very different approaches in the trial: The prosecution laid out a case showing how Trump undercut the democratic process and emphasized the degree of violence that resulted, while the former president’s defence largely questioned the Senate’s jurisdiction over impeachment and tried to divert the attention from his actions.
The outcome of the trial is not particularly surprising: Although Republicans expressed horror about the attack, many had signalled that they didn’t think what Trump did was impeachable, or took issue with the constitutionality of the trial. Because the outcome was somewhat known, both parties were looking to move through the proceedings quickly, with Republicans uninterested in dwelling on Trump and Democrats eager to advance their legislative agenda. (Senators will now take a week-long recess following the trial.)
In the end, a majority of Senate Republicans opted to stand by Trump, rather than confronting him — a sign that most of the party isn’t distancing itself from the former president at all.