Donald Trump is Guilty
Donald Trump is Guilty

The Unit­ed States Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus today had a rare sec­ond oppor­tu­ni­ty to put coun­try ahead of par­ty and hold Don­ald John Trump account­able for vio­lat­ing his oath of office and betray­ing the Unit­ed States Con­sti­tu­tion through his incite­ment of the attack on the U.S. Capi­tol on Jan­u­ary 6th.

They declined.

Forty-three of fifty Repub­li­cans vot­ed not to con­vict Trump of the sin­gle arti­cle of impeach­ment exhib­it­ed against him by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, result­ing in Trump going uncon­vict­ed for the sec­ond time in two years.

As the House man­agers not­ed, this was the first impeach­ment tri­al in his­to­ry in which the Sen­a­tors were not only jurors sit­ting in a court of impeach­ment, but wit­ness­es to the alleged crime com­mit­ted by the defen­dant. The vio­lent mob sent to the Capi­tol by Don­ald Trump came per­ilous­ly close to find­ing and poten­tial­ly harm­ing mem­bers of Con­gress on Jan­u­ary 6th, 2021. As the man­agers con­clu­sive­ly proved, they were there because Trump had told them to be.

The col­lec­tive response from the Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus today was we don’t care, affirm­ing Trump’s infa­mous 2016 state­ment: “I could stand in the mid­dle of Fifth Avenue and shoot some­body, and I would­n’t lose any vot­ers, OK?”

That’s exact­ly how it went in this impeach­ment tri­al. No minds were changed. The sev­en Repub­li­cans who vot­ed to con­vict had all pre­vi­ous­ly sig­naled their will­ing­ness to do so ear­li­er, before House man­agers fin­ished mak­ing their case. Had ten more Repub­li­cans joined them, Trump would have been con­vict­ed, becom­ing the first pres­i­dent ever to be found guilty in an impeach­ment trial.

But it did­n’t hap­pen. The major­i­ty of the Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus decid­ed not to go against Trump and his rabid move­ment of white suprema­cists, like they have so many times before. Their deprav­i­ty seem­ing­ly knows no limits.

It was near­ly five years ago that Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz of Texas declared on the cam­paign trail that Don­ald Trump was “a snivel­ing cow­ard”. While Trump is indeed undoubt­ed­ly a snivel­ing cow­ard, Cruz might have just as well been prophet­i­cal­ly describ­ing his own future behav­ior. He was one of the forty-sev­en peo­ple who vot­ed not guilty. But, as some­one also cul­pa­ble for the events of Jan­u­ary 6th, he should not have been sit­ting in the Sen­ate as a juror at all.

It was also in 2016 that Sen­a­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Car­oli­na prophet­i­cal­ly said: “If we nom­i­nate Trump, we will get destroyed… and we will deserve it.”

Gra­ham’s pre­dic­tion did­n’t come true on Novem­ber 7th, 2016, which is when he was think­ing it would. But it did come true on Novem­ber 6th, 2018, when Democ­rats recap­tured the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and on Novem­ber 3rd, 2020, when Democ­rats recap­tured the pres­i­den­cy, and on Jan­u­ary 5th, 2020, when Democ­rats gained con­trol of the Unit­ed States Sen­ate — a fed­er­al trifecta.

Gra­ham nev­er attached a date to the afore­quot­ed state­ment, which means it can be con­sid­ered a ful­filled pre­dic­tion. The Repub­li­can Par­ty did nom­i­nate Trump, it did get destroyed (at least elec­toral­ly) and it did deserve it.

The Repub­li­can Par­ty still calls itself the Repub­li­can Par­ty, but it is no longer a polit­i­cal par­ty in any mean­ing­ful sense. It has become a cult… a house of adu­la­tion and wor­ship of one man. Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene spoke the truth for once when she defi­ant­ly declared that the Repub­li­can Par­ty belongs to Don­ald Trump, and no one else. Sure­ly there is no bet­ter proof of that state­ment than the forty-three Repub­li­can votes against con­vic­tion of Trump that we just saw.

The eyes of his­to­ry were upon these Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors, and they did­n’t care. Only sev­en had the mod­icum of courage to hold Trump accountable:

  • Susan Collins of Maine
  • Mitt Rom­ney of Utah
  • Ben Sasse of Nebraska
  • Richard Burr of North Carolina
  • Lisa Murkows­ki of Alaska
  • Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania
  • Bill Cas­sidy of Louisiana

Of the sev­en, Rom­ney was the sole Repub­li­can to vote to con­vict Trump a year ago in the first impeach­ment tri­al (he vot­ed for one of the two arti­cles). All Democ­rats and all inde­pen­dents vot­ed guilty then, as they did today.

In that first impeach­ment tri­al, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Schiff pre­scient­ly warned the Sen­ate of what would hap­pen if they did not vote to con­vict. Schiff said last year:

“We must say enough — enough! He has betrayed our nation­al secu­ri­ty, and he will do so again. He has com­pro­mised our elec­tions, and he will do so again. You will not change him. You can­not con­strain him. He is who he is. Truth mat­ters lit­tle to him. What’s right mat­ters even less, and decen­cy mat­ters not at all.”

Adam Schiff may have been think­ing specif­i­cal­ly of the likes of Susan Collins when he spoke those words; Collins, who vot­ed not to con­vict, would lat­er go on absurd­ly claim that she thought Trump had learned his les­son.

Collins, to her cred­it, vot­ed to con­vict this time around, after over five years of utter­ly and com­plete­ly fail­ing to stand up to Trump and his minions.

But she and Rom­ney were joined by only five oth­er Repub­li­cans. That’s it.

If this was­n’t an impeach­able offense, noth­ing is. If Trump did­n’t deserve con­vic­tion on what­ev­er basis, then impeach­ment has no mean­ing and no one can ever be con­vict­ed in an impeach­ment tri­al no mat­ter how grave their crime.

Mitch McConnell, the top Sen­ate Repub­li­can, who prob­a­bly could have deliv­ered the ten addi­tion­al votes need­ed to con­vict Trump, once again tried to have it both ways. He has repeat­ed­ly deplored and lament­ed the events of Jan­u­ary 6th, but he could not be both­ered to hold account­able the man pri­mar­i­ly respon­si­ble for them. In the end, for McConnell, polit­i­cal cal­cu­lus won out, as it so often has.

McConnell would real­ly like to have the pow­er he just lost back, and if the Trump cult does­n’t show up for his slate in the 2022 midterms, that can­not happen.

For McConnell, not putting the coun­try first has a his­to­ry of pay­ing off. He obstruct­ed Barack Oba­ma’s agen­da for years and was reward­ed for it. He then enabled Don­ald Trump for years and was reward­ed for it.

It was not until Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won last month in Geor­gia, strip­ping McConnell of his title and a sig­nif­i­cant degree of his pow­er, that McConnell got his first real evi­dence that his strat­e­gy could be polit­i­cal­ly prob­lem­at­ic. Up until that point, it had arguably been work­ing great for him.

We were told by Repub­li­cans through­out Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­cy that he could not be held account­able for any­thing because he held the office. Now Repub­li­cans say that he can’t be held account­able because he does­n’t hold the office. Ridicu­lous. They speak of mov­ing on and let­ting bygones be bygones.

That is a recipe for the destruc­tion of this coun­try. We can­not move on with­out account­abil­i­ty. The Unit­ed States Sen­ate sad­ly did not deliv­er any account­abil­i­ty in this impeach­ment tri­al, but that does not mean the tri­al was mean­ing­less or point­less. The tri­al afford­ed the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives the oppor­tu­ni­ty to recount for the coun­try what hap­pened on Jan­u­ary 6th, 2021.

Even though many of us expe­ri­enced those events as they hap­pened, watch­ing in sick­en­ing dis­gust from in front of our tele­vi­sion screens at home, we did not have the facts that we have today. The sto­ry need­ed to be told again in a set­ting that would allow it to be prop­er­ly record­ed for his­to­ry. It was, and that’s some­thing that our team at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute takes com­fort in.

Don­ald Trump is guilty. He may not have been con­vict­ed of his treach­ery by the req­ui­site two-thirds of the Sen­ate as the Con­sti­tu­tion requires. But he did the crime and he will right­ly be remem­bered by his­to­ry as a crim­i­nal and a traitor.

As for Trump’s many Repub­li­can enablers, we can expect they’ll go on enabling him until they pay a polit­i­cal price for doing so. They can­not be expect­ed to do the right thing, ever. They can­not be expect­ed to vote their con­sciences or serve as a loy­al oppo­si­tion to Pres­i­dent Joe Biden and con­gres­sion­al Democrats.

These Repub­li­cans have sad­ly cho­sen — cho­sen! — to be ene­mies of the Unit­ed States Con­sti­tu­tion, and they should be treat­ed as such every­where they go.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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