I understand the position that the House Managers were in after the vote to stop the hearing because it is unconstitutional to try a president who is now an ex-president. The motion lost 45-55, but it showed that the Managers were not going to get the two-thirds majority to convict. I’ve been in similar situations, having to go ahead on an appeal that I knew no matter what I would do, that it was a loser. It is not a great feeling.
To their credit, the House Managers did better than expected. Trump may have won this battle, but I would not be so happy if I were him. He may regret that he was not impeached.
It was brilliant for them to start the portion of the trial concerning the constitutionality of impeaching the president with a 12-minute video showing the events of January 6. Clearly, it had nothing to do with the technical constitutional argument. However, they knew that the public would tune in at the beginning of the trial. The Managers wanted to get the public’s attention. A boring, legalistic argument would have been a snooze fest. It definitely caught the ex- president’s lawyers off guard. After the first day, they convinced one more Republican senator to vote that it was constitutional to impeach. Then, after the end of the trial, they convinced not only that senator but a second senator to convict.
Other proof that their presentation was having an effect was Nikki Haley giving an interview where she expressed regret for blindly following Trump. Also, Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican member of Congress from Washington, mentioned a conversation that minority leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump had during the insurrection. McCarthy asked Trump to “…publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was Antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” Additionally, during the trial three of the “jurors,” Senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Mike Lee, met with Trump’s attorneys to discuss strategy. They had to know how bad that would look yet felt the need to do so because of how the trial appeared to be going.
The most surprising result was the statement by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell which sounded like it was a summation by the House Managers. He voted to acquit because of the constitutional argument but made comments that indicated that he had a favorable view of the allegations on the merits:
“Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built gallows and chanted about murdering the Vice President. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of democratic business they did not like.”
“They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth - because he was angry, he’d lost an election. Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.”
“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.”
“The issue is not only the President’s intemperate language on January 6th. It is not just his endorsement of remarks in which an associate urged ‘trial by combat.’ It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe; the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup by our now-President. The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things.”
“Sadly, many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors that unhinged listeners might take literally. This was different. This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”
“The unconscionable behavior did not end when the violence began. By that afternoon, he was watching the same live television as the rest of the world. A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags, and screaming their loyalty to him. It was obvious that only President Trump could end this. Former aides publicly begged him to do so. Loyal allies frantically called the Administration.”
“But the President did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn’t take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed, and order restored. Instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election.”
“Even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in danger... even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters... the President sent a further tweet attacking his Vice President.”
“Predictably and foreseeably under the circumstances, members of the mob seemed to interpret this as further inspiration to lawlessness and violence.”
“Later, even when the President did halfheartedly begin calling for peace, he did not call right away for the riot to end. He did not tell the mob to depart until even later.”
“And even then, with police officers bleeding and broken glass covering Capitol floors, he kept repeating election lies and praising the criminals.”
“In recent weeks, our ex-President’s associates have tried to use the 74 million Americans who voted to re-elect him as a kind of human shield against criticism. That is an absurd deflection. 74 million Americans did not invade the Capitol. Several hundred rioters did. And 74 million Americans did not engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it. One person did.”
“We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former Presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.”
This last statement is the one Trump should be afraid of. It sounds like McConnell is giving a signal that if the Justice Department decides to proceed against Trump, he will not object, claiming that it is a political vendetta. I believe that the evidence presented also increased the number of Americans who would be willing to believe that any criminal charges against Trump for his conduct were legitimate.
Before the hearing, it appeared that the administration did not seem to have the stomach to bring criminal charges against Trump because they wanted to move on. However, after what was shown and the reactions of many, I think that it could happen.
What is sure is that this is only the beginning. There will be many investigations as to what occurred and why it occurred and who was responsible. This includes congressional and by-law enforcement agencies. The District Attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, has already started an investigation into Trump’s “perfect call” with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
If Trump had been impeached and no longer allowed to run for office, there may have been the same feeling as with Nixon, that he suffered and thus it was time to move on for the sake of the country. Instead, Trump was acquitted. He was as defiant and arrogant as usual, claiming this was a political witch hunt. As a result, most people will not feel any remorse if the criminal justice system treats him like it treats every other American. It reminds me of the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for.”