Senate acquits Former President Donald Trump

Despite seven Republicans crossing party lines, the Senate did not reach the two-thirds threshold required to convict the former president


Samantha Horowitz, Staff Writer

Former President Donald Trump was acquitted Saturday, Jan. 13 by the United States Senate on charges relating to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

On Jan. 13, Trump became the only president in US history to be impeached twice and the first to be tried while no longer serving in office. The trial lasted five days, with defense lawyers and managers (advocates for the House of Representatives) presenting their arguments and giving evidence to support their respective positions.

Some House Republicans criticized the rapidity of the proceedings and the lack of a formal investigation or hearing. Ranking member of the House Rules Committee Rep. Tom Cole finished his remarks by arguing that Democrats, “should be taking steps to unite us. Instead, they are only dividing us further.” 

Democrats, on the other hand, asserted that the impeachment process must move quickly to maintain a functioning democracy. Rep. Ilhan Omar urged Republicans to vote to impeach Trump, saying that those who stormed the Capitol building were “specifically incited by the President of the United States.”

Despite Republican disapproval, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump, with 10 Republicans crossing party lines and voting to impeach, including Republican Conference Leader Rep. Liz Cheney.

Once the House sent the single article of impeachment to the Senate, the trial began. On Jan. 26, Senators took an oath of impartiality. Almost immediately, several Republicans tried to end the trial on constitutional grounds including Senator Rand Paul, who introduced a motion to dismiss based on the fact that Trump was no longer in office. Forty-five Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, supported Paul’s position.

When the trial formally commenced on Feb. 9, Trump’s attorney’s gave over four hours worth of arguments as to whether “Donald John Trump is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of impeachment for acts committed while President of the United States, notwithstanding the expiration of his term in that office.” The debate ended with a 56-44 vote which cleared the way for the trial to proceed.

After several days of questioning by senators and final arguments, the Senate voted to acquit Trump on the charge that he incited the insurrection at the Capitol. Despite seven Republicans crossing party lines and voting to convict former President Trump, the Senate did not meet the two-thirds vote threshold required for conviction.

Reactions to the decision erupted from both sides. Despite voting to acquit Trump, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell condemned Trump’s actions and said he held him directly responsible for the events of Jan. 6.

“There is no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said. “The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”

McConnell also dispelled the Trump attorney’s argument that the impeachment was meant to “disenfranchise the 74 million-plus American voters” who voted for Trump in the 2020 Election. 

“That’s an absurd deflection,” McConnell said.

In the end, McConnell said that the Constitution did not allow the Senate to convict the former President, and so he voted to acquit Trump.

President Biden issued a statement following the Senate vote. The statement emphasized the bipartisan vote to both impeach and convict Trump. Although the outcome did not lead to a conviction, Biden maintains “the substance of the charge is not in dispute.” Biden also sought to remind the American people that democracy is fragile and demands vigilance. He urged people to see that they have a “duty and responsibility” to defend the truth and reject lies.

Finally, former President Trump released his own statement, stating that the Democratic Party is “given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance.”

Trump continued, saying that the impeachment was “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”