By Nora Hogan
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past two months, then you’re probably aware of the January 6th insurrection at the Capital. The insurrectionists were composed entirely of various subsects of Trump supporters. A motley crew of white supremacists, Qanon believers and other brainwashed disenfranchised white people all pulled up on Capitol Hill to stop Congress from certifying then President-elect Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Their efforts proved unsuccessful. In the aftermath, both Democratic and many moderate Republican politicians placed the blame squarely on President Donald Trump for riling up his supporters through his support of conspiracy theories surrounding Biden’s alleged “steal” of the election.
House Democrats moved quickly to draft and introduce the articles of impeachment. They officially introduced them on January 11th against then President Trump for inciting a mob that not only stormed the Capitol but also endangered the lives of the congresspeople and staff gathered in the building that day. The following day, the House passed a resolution that called on then Vice President Pence to strip Trump of his presidential powers via invoking the 25th amendment, a request that he ultimately refused. On January 13th, the House voted to Impeach Trump for the second time. Ten House Republicans joined the Democratic majority, making this impeachment the most bipartisan in history. Trump’s term ended on January 20th, but that did not stop the House impeachment managers (Representatives Jamie Raskin, Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Madeleine Dean, and Joe Neguse) from delivering the article of impeachment to the Senate five days later. Senate Republicans were quick to file a motion to dismiss the trial on the grounds that the trial itself was unconstitutional because Trump was no longer in office. The motion was tabled by a bipartisan vote that revealed that although there was some support from moderates to hold Trump accountable, he would ultimately be acquitted by the Senate.
On January 31st, former President Trump announced his defence team after parting ways with his initial team only a week prior to the trial. David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor Jr., the Pennsylvanian attorney famously known for declining to prosecute Bill Cosby, comprised the former president’s defense. A few days later, on February 2nd, the House impeachment managers filed their trial brief that argued that Trump was “singularly responsible” for the Capitol riot and should be convicted to bar him from ever holding office ever again. Trump’s lawyers filed their rebuttal, stating that he had no part in inciting the attempted coup and that the Senate had no Constitutional power to try a former president. The House managers requested for Trump to testify in the Senate in his own defense, which his lawyers quickly rejected. Before the trial officially began, Trump’s team issued another trial brief on February 8th, denouncing the impeachment and trial in the Senate as partisan “political theater.” Regardless, the trial officially began the next day after the Senate passed a resolution outlining the rules and procedures governing the trial and establishing the Constitutionally of the Senate being able to try a formed president. For the next two days, the House managers and Trump’s lawyers argued their opposing cases for the Senate. The impeachment managers used 10 out of their 16 allotted hours whereas the defense only used three. The prosecution relied heavily on never-before-seen or heard footage and audio from the Jan 6 riot that was captured on the Capitol building’s security cameras and from the Capitol police’s audio transmissions. After the Senators asked their questions and the decision was ultimately made by the prosecution not to call witnesses, both teams presented their closing arguments for conviction and acquittal and the Senate voted 57-to-45, falling short of the needed two-thirds majority to convict.
Although some critics on the right call this second impeachment a show trial, many politicians and Constitutional scholars on both sides of the aisle insist that this process was necessary for the historical record, and to simply do the right thing. Mitt Romney, the Republican senator from Utah, commented to the New York Times on his vote to convict Trump, stating, “President Trump incited the insurrection against Congress by using the power of his office to summon his supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 and urging them to march on the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes. He did this despite the obvious and well-known threats of violence that day. President Trump also violated his oath of office by failing to protect the Capitol, the Vice President and others in the Capitol. Each and every one of these conclusions compels me to support conviction.”
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says good things come in pairs. Although Trump was ultimately acquitted by the Senate, this second impeachment process set the record for the history books that this president’s behavior was beyond unacceptable and gave certain GOP congresspeople the chance to salvage their reputations from the ruthlessness of future APUSH students’ DBQ answers.