Trump Acquitted in Impeachment Trial

Photo courtesy of NowThis.

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 9, 2021 (Updated Feb. 13)

The impeachment trial is over. The Senate has voted to acquit Donald Trump of incitement of insurrection charges for his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. The Senate voted 57-43 in favor of acquittal. Seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting to acquit. They are: Sens. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) and Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania). But the Senate ultimately fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for acquittal.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke after the verdict. “The former president inspired, directed and propelled a mob to violently prevent the peaceful transfer of power, subvert the will of the people and illegally keep that president in power,” Schumer said. He declared that Jan. 6 would live on as “a day of infamy”.

Schumer also pointed out that today’s impeachment vote was the most bipartisan vote for an impeachment trial in American history. Schumer added: “I pray that while Justice was not done in this trial. It will be carried forward by the American people who above any of us in this chamber determine the destiny of our great nation.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also spoke.

“Jan. 6 was a disgrace,” McConnell began. “Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president. They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth because he was angry he’d lost an election.”

McConnell squarely blamed Trump for the events of Jan. 6: “There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” he said. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags, and screaming their loyalty—to him. It was obvious that only Pres. Trump could end this.” But he still insisted that there was no constitutional basis to convict Trump because he is now a private citizen. But he added a telling caveat:

The impeachment trial of Donald John Trump commenced earlier this week. Led by Senate president pro tempore Patrick Leahy, the trial began with a warning. The Acting Sergeant of Arms proclaimed that all senators are required to remain silent “on pain of imprisonment” during the trial.

Rep. Jamie Raskin began by noting that there would not be a lengthy civics-class explanation about the Federalist Papers. “I know there are a lot of people who are dreading endless lectures about the Federalist Papers here. Please breathe easy, OK? I remember well W.H. Auden’s line that a professor is someone who speaks while other people are sleeping,” Raskin wryly noted. “Our case is based on cold, hard facts.”

As noted by New York Times correspondent Paul Hulse, “The fundamental argument of the House managers is that if trying a president or any official once they are out of office is unconstitutional, a person could act with impunity in the last stages of their tenure and not be held accountable.” Accordingly, Raskin argued that excusing Trump from impeachment simply because he left office on Jan. 20 would create a “January exception”. Raskin called that move dangerous: “It’s an invitation to the President to take his best shot at anything he may want to do on his way out the door, including using violent means to lock that door, to hold on to the Oval Office at all costs,” Raskin said.

What came next was video evidence. The House managers played an exhibit: scenes from the violent uprising on the Capitol on January 6, intercut with scenes of the orderly Electoral College vote inside. There’s footage of the crowd reacting to Trump’s speech in real time. There’s a clip of Sen. James Langford (R-Oklahoma) being interrupted by the clearing of the House floor. There’s a moment where one insurrectionist says they need “30,000 guns up here”. There’s footage of the mob storming the Capitol, chanting “Traitor Pence!” and fighting the police. “Fuck these pigs,” one of the rioters says.

“If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing,” said House manager Jamie Raskin. “The Senate has the power — the sole power — to try all impeachments.” He further stated that the vast majority of constitutional scholars — including Reagan’s solicitor general and the president of the Federalist Society — agree that this impeachment is legitimate.

Rep. Joe Neguse took the stage next. Elected to the House in 2018, he was once a litigator in private practice. He, too, noted the broad consensus among scholars about the legitimacy of the impeachment trial. Over 150 constitutional scholars — conservative and liberal — agree that the Senate can try, convict, and remove, Neguse said. He then presented historical precedent: the case of former Secretary of War William Belknap.

“In 1876, the House discovered that he was involved in a massive kickback scheme,” Rep. Neguse said. Belknap literally rushed to the White House to resign to avoid being impeached. But that was unavoidable. “The House moved forward and immediately impeached him,” Neguse noted. And when they did? Belknap “made the exact same argument that President Trump is makign today: that you all lack jurisdiction any power to try him because he’s a former official.” Belknap was ultimately not convicted, but only after a full trial. “The trial served important constitutional purposes,” Neguse said.

Rep. Neguse displayed an excerpt of the Constitution” “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor,” the Constitution says. Disqualification obviously applies to both former and current officers. Neguse countered the Republican argument that disqualification must follow removal from office (which is now impossible, since Donald Trump has left office). Sen. George Edmunds said, “A prohibition against doing more than two things cannot be turned into a command to do both or neither.”

Sen. David Cicilline (D-RI) said that the argument about impeaching a former official was “a purely fictional loophole, designed to allow the former president to escape accountability for conduct that is truly indefensible.” He noted that the rioters “could have killed all of us” and chided Trump for inciting them to riot. “This was a disaster of historic proportion,” Rep. Cicilline said. “It was also an unforgivable betrayal of the oath of office by President Trump, the oath he swore, an oath he sullied and dishonored to advance his own personal interest…”

Rep. Cicilline countered the Trump team’s deflection: playing videos of incendiary language by Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters or Rep. Cory Booker. “Let me be crystal clear: President Trump was not impeached because the words he used, viewed in isolation without context, were beyond the pale. Plenty of other politicians have used strong language, but Donald J Trump was president of the United States,” Rep. Cicilline said. “President Trump was not impeached because he used words that the House decided are forbidden or unpopular. He was impeached for inciting armed violence against the government of the United States of America.”

“After a betrayal like this, there cannot be unity without accountability,” Rep. Cicilline said.

Rep. Raskin returned to the mic. He grew emotional as he remembered having his son-in-law and daughter at the Capitol with him on Jan. 6. (Raskin had just buried his son the day before. His son Tommy committed suicide on New Year’s Eve.) He’d invited his daughter Tabitha and her husband to join him. They asked him whether it would be safe to do so. “They asked me directly, ‘Would it be safe?’ Would it be safe? I said, ‘Of course it should be safe. This is the Capitol,” Raskin recalled.

He had no idea that an angry mob would descend on the Capitol. But they did. While rioters besieged the Capitol and stormed the halls, the congressman and his family took shelter, fearing the worst. A day after burying his son in a graveside service, Raskin huddled under a desk with one of his two daughters and his son-in-law.

“They thought they were going to die,” Raskin said. “My son-in-law had never even been to the Capitol before. And when they were finally rescued, over an hour later by Capitol officers, and we were together, I hugged them and I apologized and I told my daughter Tabitha — who’s 24 and a brilliant algebra teacher in Teach for America now — I told her how sorry I was, and I promised her it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with me. You know what she said? She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.’ Of all of the terrible, brutal things that I saw and that I heard on that day, and since then, that one hit me the hardest.”

Raskin reminded his colleagues of the toll from a day in which five people died and one was nearly crushed to death by the mob. “People died that day. Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage. People’s eyes were gouged. An officer had a heart attack. An officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives. Senators: This cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of the America. We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people,” Raskin concluded.

Trump Banned From Twitter; House Dems Prepare to Impeach Him (Again)

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 8, 2021

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, holds her weekly press conference at the US Capitol on January 7, 2021, in Washington, DC. Pelosi called for the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to be invoked, following the attack on the US Capitol. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

“In calling for this seditious act, the President has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people. I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the Vice President to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment. If the Vice President and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.”

With these words, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made clear her intention to hold the President accountable for inciting a deadly, seditious riot on Wednesday afternoon. But Democratic Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland have already distributed a draft article of impeachment titled “Incitement of Insurrection,” according to NBC News. The article, which at present is singular, begins: “Resolved, that Donald John Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Article I: “Incitement of Insurrection,” reminds the reader that the House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach a President, based on the rather nebulous “high crimes and misdemeanors”. It continues as follows: “In his conduct of the office of President to the United States — and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States,” they write, “Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.”

On Jan. 6, 2021, Trump addressed his supporters at a rally, ahead of a congressional vote that would cement the victory of his opponent. During that rally, he repeated a variety of false claims. “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide,” he lied. “They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before.” He encouraged the crowds to march on the Capitol in protest of what he insisted was a “stolen” election: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” He spoke to the misplaced anger and victimhood the supporters felt, inflaming it further: “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore […] You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

While Congress was meeting to certify Biden’s win as President-Elect,, the mob of Trump supporters showed their strength — by swarming the Capitol building and bursting inside. The House members credit Trump with emboldening the mob, writing that he “willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol.”

“Incited by President Trump, a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol, injured law enforcement, menaced members of Congress and the Vice President [and] engaged in violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts,” the Article of Insurrection reads. Indeed, the mob stormed the steps, forced their way into the building, and even scuffled with law enforcement (on video!). They climbed the walls and broke glass windows. They trespassed into government offices and put their feet up on desks. They vandalized doors and even stole furniture. In the end, five people died in the melee yesterday, including a Capitol Police officer.

But far from being upset by the fracas, Trump seemed to relish it. A video has emerged of him and his family watching the carnage onscreen, with son Don, Jr. live-streaming the event; his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle is seen dancing to the ’80s hit “Gloria”. And CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins said the President was “enthusiastic” about it: “He did not come out outright and condemn it. Actually, they had to convince him to send in the National Guard. He was very resistant to that at the beginning. And I’m told by one person that he was borderline enthusiastic over watching people wearing his sweatshirts, waving his flags going up to Capitol Hill and derailing the certification process, which is what the president wanted,” she told Don Lemon.

One Republican senator backed up Collins’ account. “As this was unfolding on television, Donald Trump was walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt in an interview. “That was happening. He was delighted.”

House Reps. Lieu, Raskin and Cicilline write that Trump’s actions were part of a pattern of behavior intended to subvert the election. “Those efforts include, but are not limited to, a phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, in which the President of the United States urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia presidential election results and threatened Mr. Raffensperger if he failed to do so.” Now, a bombshell CNN report reveals that Trump made other calls to achieve his goal.

CNN says that while riots raged at the Capitol, Trump was calling senators in yet another attempt to overturn the election. Trump called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) Wednesday afternoon, thinking he was calling Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama). “Trump first called the personal cell phone of Lee, a Utah Republican, shortly after 2 p.m. ET. At that time the senators had been evacuated from the Senate floor and were in a temporary holding room, as a pro-Trump mob began breaching the Capitol. Lee picked up the phone and Trump identified himself, and it became clear he was looking for Tuberville and had been given the wrong number. Lee, keeping the President on hold, went to find his colleague and handed Tuberville his phone, telling him the President was on the line and had been trying to reach him.”

Tuberville spoke with Trump for less than 10 minutes, CNN says. Trump tried to convince him to object further to the Electoral College vote, in a futile effort to block Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win, according to a source familiar with the call. The call was cut off because senators were asked to move to a secure location.

In the wake of this seditious activity, social media platforms are taking action. After temporarily suspending him, Twitter announced today that it is banning Donald Trump from posting on the platform. “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said. “In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action.” The ban does not apply, however, to the @POTUS account.

But it’s the latest in a series of blows to Trump on social media. After Trump recorded a video urging protesters to go home — saying, “We love you. You are very special” — Facebook and YouTube took down the video, with Facebook also banning Trump from posting for 24 hours. Snapchat and Instagram locked Trump’s account.

UPDATE: Trump has begun tweeting from the @POTUS account, insisting that “We will not be SILENCED!!!” He added that he would “also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future.” Twitter has taken the tweets down.

UPDATE (Jan. 11, 2021): The representatives have introduced an updated version of the impeachment resolution. The language is largely reminiscent of the earlier draft. As in the previous version, this version alleges that Trump’s incitement of the riot is part of a pattern of behavior: “President Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, 2021, followed his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election. Those prior efforts included a phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, during which President Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so.”

UPDATE (Jan. 12, 2021): A bombshell new report from the New York Times alleges that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is actually pleased with House Democrats’ impeachment of President Trump. “Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking. The House is voting on Wednesday to formally charge Mr. Trump with inciting violence against the country,” the Times reports.

At the same time, House Minority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), has asked other Republicans whether he should call on Mr. Trump to resign after the riot at the Capitol last week, according to three Republican officials briefed on the conversations. Despite being one of Trump’s most steadfast allies in Congress, McCarthy is considering joining fellow Republicans like Sen Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger in requesting the President’s resignation. While Mr. McCarthy has said he is personally opposed to impeachment, he and other party leaders have decided not to formally lobby Republicans to vote “no,” the Times added. An aide to Mr. McCarthy said he was open to a measure censuring Mr. Trump for his conduct.

And one House Republican says he will even vote for impeachment. According to syracuse.com, U.S. Rep. John Katko said today he will vote to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting a riot last week at the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Katko is the first House Republican to acknowledge that he will join at least 218 House Democrats who signed onto an impeachment resolution. “To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” Katko said in a statement. 

BREAKING: Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (of Wyoming) says that she will vote to impeach the President. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President,” Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

JUST IN (7:11 pm): In a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Mike Pence says he will not invoke the 25th Amendment to have Trump removed from office: “Every American was shocked and saddened by the attack on our Nation’s Capitol last week, and I am grateful for the leadership that you and other congressional leaders provided in reconvening Congress to complete the people’s business on the very same day,” Pence writes. “But now, with just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment.”

“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Pence declares. “I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our Nation.” Pence argues that invoking the 25th now would “set a terrible precedent”. He concludes:

“I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment. Work with us to lower the temperature and unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States.”

This move sets up a showdown in Congress, as the House is set to vote on impeachment tomorrow. Today, Rep. Adam Kinzinger joined fellow Republicans Liz Cheney and John Katko in saying that he would vote for impeachment. They join over 100 House Republicans who have pledged to do the same.

Tonight, in a statement on her website, Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Impeachment Managers. “Tonight, I have the solemn privilege of naming the Managers of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump,” said Speaker Pelosi.  “It is their constitutional and patriotic duty to present the case for the President’s impeachment and removal.  They will do so guided by their great love of country, determination to protect our democracy and loyalty to our oath to the Constitution.  Our Managers will honor their duty to defend democracy For The People with great solemnity, prayerfulness and urgency.”

The Impeachment Managers include:

Congressman Jamie Raskin, Lead Manager: Congressman Jamie Raskin is a member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, where he serves as Chair of Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and on the Judiciary Committee, where he serves as Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution. Before his time in Congress, Raskin was a three-term State Senator in Maryland and a professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law for more than 25 years.

Congressman David Cicilline: Congressman Cicilline is a member of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee.  He is serving his sixth term in Congress.  Early in his career, Cicilline served as a public defender in D.C. He served two terms as Mayor of Providence and four terms in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

Congressman Ted Lieu: Congressman Lieu serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  He is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force who served as a prosecutor in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and currently serves as a Colonel in the Reserves.  He is serving his fourth term in Congress.

Congressman Joaquin Castro: Congressman Castro serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he is also Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  He is serving his fifth term in Congress.  Prior to his election to Congress, he served five terms in the Texas Legislature and served as a litigator in private practice.

Congressman Eric Swalwell: Congressman Swalwell serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and on the Judiciary Committee.  He is a former prosecutor and is the son and brother of law enforcement officers.  He is serving his fifth term in Congress.

Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Congresswoman DeGette serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee as Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  She is serving her 13th term in office. Before serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, DeGette was an attorney focusing on civil rights.

UPDATE: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will transmit the article of impeachment on Monday. The House still plans to deliver its impeachment charge at 7 p.m. Monday evening, per the New York Times, and senators will be sworn in for the trial the following day. But the trial will not begin for some time.

Newly installed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the chamber will pause until the week of Feb. 8 to give the prosecution and defense time to draft and exchange written legal briefs. “During that period, the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as cabinet nominations and the COVID-19 relief bill, which would provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering during this pandemic,” Mr. Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Please watch this space for any continuing updates.