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.
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.