Donald Trump: Reflecting on the historic impeachment trial in US Senate

Former President Donald Trump faced a historic trial in the Senate this month, following an insurrection at the United States Capitol, which left five people dead. 

He is the first president to be impeached twice by the House of Representatives and has been charged with ‘incitement of insurrection.’ The article of impeachment was adopted with 232 votes in favour, 197 against.

The Capitol, home to the U.S. Congress, was stormed by Trump supporters on 6th January, as the Congress was voting to confirm the Electoral College vote. According to the Capitol rioters, Trump actually won the election, citing widespread fraud. This was a discredited claim. Democrats claim this was inspired by Trump’s rhetoric since election day.

Democrats called for impeachment immediately, despite there being just two weeks remaining until Trump’s term expired. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and then Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), preferred for Mike Pence and the cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment, allowing for a transfer of presidential powers to the Vice President if the President becomes incapable of fulfilling their duties. This was declined, and so impeachment proceedings began.

In total, ten Republicans voted to impeach Trump, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Chair of the House Republican Conference (the third most senior House Republican). It is unclear if any Republican senators will break rank and vote to convict Trump- just one, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), did the first time Trump was impeached. 

Upon impeachment, (then) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confirmed the trial would not commence until Trump had already left office. Democrats insisted he must still be held accountable. To prevent facing primary challengers endorsed by Trump when they seek re-election, Republican senators have been able to claim that impeaching a former president is not constitutional. The Senate then found, however, by a 56-44 vote, that it was constitutional.

Democrats insisted that the Senate must convict Trump as a matter of principle. Additionally, a vote to convict Trump would then enable a vote to take place which could bar Trump from ever holding public office in the future. He has not thus far ruled out a potential bid for the presidency in 2024. 

Democrats had called for Trump to testify in his Senate conviction trial, but his legal team have declined. His team have made the same claim as Republican senators-that it is an unconstitutional process, because Trump is now a private citizen- whilst also claiming the rioters acted independently. 

UPDATE: On 14th February, Trump was acquitted. He proceeded to thank his supporters and claim about the so-called political ‘witch-hunt’.

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