Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined 42 other Republican senators in voting to acquit former president Donald Trump on the charge of incitement of insurrection. The 57-43 vote in the Senate failed to meet the two-thirds majority required, and Trump was acquitted in his second impeachment trial. But the theater didn’t end there. Nor do the consequences for Trump.
Shortly after casting his “no” vote, McConnell took the Senate floor. In a presentation that could have been co-written by the House managers, McConnell excoriated the former president, saying he was “practically and morally responsible” for the attack on the Capitol on Jan 6. McConnell went on to explain that he voted to acquit only because he does not believe that the Constitution permits the impeachment of a president who is no longer in office.
Reasonable people can debate the constitutionality of the impeachment effort, and even whether the Senate should have voted to convict. But it doesn’t really matter. The tightly orchestrated trial led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) was an overwhelming indictment of Trump, beginning with evidence that made clear (in McConnell’s words) “the intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”
The House managers painted a vivid picture — aided in part by the selfie-happy mob — of how close members of Congress and the vice president came to the guns, baseball bats and bear spray carried by the attackers of the Capitol who tried to stop the counting of Electoral College ballots. All of this while the commander in chief did nothing to end the attack.
The House managers’ presentation was polished and prepared, and was tighter and more compelling than in Trump’s first impeachment trial a year ago. Contrast that with the last-minute Trump defense team, all of whom seemed remarkably out of their league. Nonetheless, the defense did present arguments that seemed to satisfy their demanding client and provided cover for Republicans reluctant to convict.
But in the end, Trump has been thoroughly discredited. And he has shattered the Republican Party. It will be interesting to see how party faithful go about putting the pieces back together over the next two years. In the meantime, Trump is in for some rough times ahead. In addition to reported criminal and regulatory investigations being pursued in multiple states, the Trump brand itself is under siege. Banks and businesses have cut ties, and Trump is reportedly struggling to find quality professionals to work with him.
For the good of the country, however, it is time to move on. We don’t need further investigations of Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack, or the distraction of Congressional committees trying to extract their pound of flesh. Instead, the Biden administration needs to focus on its packed agenda, and efforts to reinstate some degree of bipartisan governance in Washington.
As for Donald Trump — even though the Senate exonerated him, we suspect that history and the vast majority of the American electorate will judge him much more harshly.