Trump Acquitted: The Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial Saturday. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Trump Acquitted For Second Time
The Hill reports: “Senate Republicans handed former President Trump his second impeachment acquittal on Saturday, clearing him of charges that he incited the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6. Senators voted 57-43 on whether to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors for ‘willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.’
Every Democrat voted to find him ‘guilty,’ the question technically before the Senate, and they were joined by seven GOP senators — falling short of the necessary 67 votes, or two-thirds majority, needed for conviction.” Here’s what both sides are saying and why this story matters:
On the Right
The GOP is split on impeachment and all things Trump in a manner emblematic of the ongoing struggle for party control. The MAGA wing of the Republican party sees Trump’s acquittal as a full exoneration and the trial itself as nothing more than a political spectacle. Meanwhile, the GOP establishment remains critical of both the Democrat-led impeachment process and Trump’s behavior during his final days in office.
Roger Kimball and Michael Goodwin both characterize impeachment as a purely partisan vendetta. Arguing in American Greatness and The New York Post, respectively, they see the primary goal of impeachment as an attempt to muddy Trump’s political standing. Kimball writes, “They are terrified of the voters—all those embryonic ‘domestic terrorists’ Joe Biden’s Stasi is tracking—who, ignoring the wisdom of their betters, might actually get together and vote someone else like Donald Trump—if not the Bad Orange Man himself—into office again. That mustn’t happen.”
Additionally, Kimball and Goodwin both accuse the Democrats of manufacturing outrage against Trump to distract from their own shortcomings. Goodwin says: “Expect Democrats to be especially creative in trying to keep Trump’s name in the headlines. Nothing unites their fractured party like hating him, and Saturday’s failure will provide more fuel for their perpetual outrage.”
According to Kimball, all of this outrage occurs against a hazy backdrop that lacks details to properly place blame for the “pandemonium at the Capitol,” which he sees as “not the cause but merely the pretext for the unprecedented second impeachment by the US Congress of a single individual.”
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board sees things differently. To them, Trump was acquitted but not exonerated. They agree with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that the Democrats lack a constitutional basis for their efforts but believe this should not be misconstrued as a defense for “Mr. Trump’s words or actions on Jan. 6 or his attempts to overturn the election.” In McConnell’s words, “Former President Trump’s actions that preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty.” While Kimball labels the seven GOP Senators who voted to convict as Republicans in Name Only (RINOs), the WSJ showers them with praise for their “independent judgment.” The WSJ concludes their piece with a warning that if Trump attempts another presidential run in 2024, “all he will accomplish is to divide the center-right and elect Democrats.”
The impeachment verdict is a litmus test for the direction of the Republican Party moving forward. For those within the party who support Trump, the verdict represents both exoneration and vindication. On the other hand, the establishment GOP views the entire process as a warning against embracing Trumpism going forward.
On the Left
The left is united in their lack of surprise by the acquittal and their disdain for Trump’s GOP enablers who allowed it to happen.
Writing for CNN, David Axelrod labels the Democrat’s impeachment endeavor a success because “house managers shined a light on Trump’s central role in the tragic events of January 6, relying heavily on his own incendiary words over months, not just on that day.” Axelrod is not surprised that aside from seven “brave” Senators, “the rest of the Republicans fell in line as expected. They knew that the brooding defeated president was watching and taking names, just as he was on January 6 — ready to unleash the fury of his still-loyal base on anyone who dared to step out of line.”
In the New York Times, Maureen Dowd uses similar language to describe Trump’s actions during the Capitol uprising: “Everything bloodcurdling that happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 flowed from his bloodthirsty behavior. He had always been cruel and selfish, blowing things up and reveling in the chaos, gloating in the wreckage. But it was only during his campaign that he realized he had a nasty mob at his disposal.” Dowd lambasts Republicans who, she says, “continue to tremble before Trump even though he devoured and destroyed their party, turning its traditional values upside down.” She says “they are mini-Trumps, making decisions solely on self-interest.”
In HuffPost, Paul Blumenthal agrees that every time Trump “transgressed the limits of his office, whether it was trying to get a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election, lying about his election loss and then seeking to subvert democracy by inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, most Republicans humored him.” Dowd takes his views one step further and argues for the criminal prosecution of Trump now that he is a private citizen.
Democrats seem satisfied with the impeachment case presented to the American people and are more outraged than surprised by GOP resistance to convict ex-President Trump.
According to an Ipsos/ABC poll, “Seventy-one percent of American adults, including nearly half of all Republicans, believe former President Donald Trump was at least partially responsible” for the events on January 6th while “29% said they thought Trump was not at all responsible for the attack that left five people dead.” At the same time, almost 90% of respondents who identify as Democrat believe the former president should have been convicted, compared with 64% of self-identified independents and 14% of those who identify as Republican. As is the case with most matters involving Trump, the country is heavily split on impeachment and passionate in their respective views