Donald Trump acquitted once more

Former president Donald Trump acquitted again.

Photo via wikipedia.

Former president Donald Trump acquitted again.

  Most people probably cannot remember what they were doing on December 18, 2019. However, in an historic decision, Donald Trump became the third president to ever be impeached. Now, more than a year later, he has been impeached yet again.

   On January 13th, the House voted to impeach Trump on the charge of incitement of insurrection. Eight of our 13 North Carolina representatives in the House voted not to impeach, while the remaining five voted to impeach. The vote was straight down party lines with a significant exception of ten Republicans voting to impeach.

  Unlike the first trial, Trump was no longer a sitting president. This made the rules unclear as to how the trial was to take place. The Constitution states that the House has the power to impeach and that the Senate has the power to convict, but the Constitution gives these powers explicitly for a sitting president. And, usually a Supreme Court Justice would preside over the case; however, Chief Justice John Roberts declined to sit over the case, claiming that it is not his civic responsibility to preside over the trial of a citizen who is not the current president. 

   Instead, Senate pro tem Patrick Leahy presided over the Senate trial. Many have brought up the inherent conflict of interest in the fact that Leahy served as both judge and juror. Nevertheless, The trial began on Tuesday,  February 9, and the proceedings took place over the next few days. The trial kicked off with four hours of debate, followed by a vote on the constitutionality of the trial. During the allotted debate time, House impeachment managers presented their arguments followed by Trump’s defense attorneys. 

   Colorado Representative Joe Neguse offered an argument for the constitutionality of the trial claiming, “If Congress were to stand completely aside in the face of such extraordinary crime… it would invite future presidents to use their power without any fear of accountability.”

   Trump’s defense lawyers offered their rebuttal to the claims responding with, “We’re really here because the majority of the House of Representatives does not want to face Donald Trump as a political candidate in the future.”

   Following the debate, the impeachment trial was put to a vote of its constitutionality. After a 56-44 vote confirming the constitutionality, the presentation of evidence followed over the next three days. House impeachment managers revealed graphic footage of the riots at the Capitol which they attempted to link to Trump’s previous statements as incitement of insurrection. The managers only used about ten hours of their allotted 16, while the defense only used roughly three.

   After the presentation  of evidence and oral arguments, the trial moved on to the senator’s questions. Following the questioning, the Senate voted on the motion to call witnesses, and it passed. After a brief stint of confusion on the Senate floor, the Defense lawyers struck a deal to admit a statement from Representative Jaime Herrara Beutler into evidence, and avoid a lengthy trial filled with hours of witness depositions.

   Finally, the trail moved on to the closing arguments. Congressman Raskin argued, “They attacked this building… convinced that they were acting on his [Trump’s]  instructions, and with his approval, and protection.”

   Trump’s lawyer Michael van der Veen rebuked their claims saying, “At no point did you hear anything that could ever possibly be construed as Mr. Trump encouraging or sanctioning an insurrection.”

   The final Senate vote took place shortly after. In the end, Donald Trump was acquitted of all charges by a 57-43 vote, short of the ⅔ majority needed. Interestingly, seven Republicans voted to convict, one of whom is North Carolina congressman Richard Burr, who has been censured by the North Carolina GOP Central Committee for his vote. 

   Burr later issued a statement saying, “My party’s leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation.”