Donald Trump’s second articles of impeachment were taken up by the United State’s Senate on Feb. 9, for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol in Washington D.C.
Trump had already been impeached in the House of Representatives on Jan. 14 while still in office.
Trump was charged for having, “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power and imperaled a coequal branch of government.” On those grounds, in a 232-197 vote that included 10 GOP Representatives who chose to vote to impeach Trump. The articles of impeachment were then sent to the Senate to be taken up at trial at a later date.
The trial began with a debate on whether or not the trial itself was constitutional, with House Impeachment Managers arguing it was constitutional to impeach a former president and Trump’s defense arguing it was not. Following eight hours of debate the Senate voted 56-44 to continue forward with the impeachment trial based on the legal precedent it was constitutional.
“The purpose of impeachment is to either expel a person from federal office if they are seen as dangerous to the Republic because they’re corrupt or because they’re dangerous to democracy itself,” said William Gorton, Associate Professor of the Political Science department.
In the case of Trump, Impeachment Managers appointed by the House of Representatives attempted to make the case before the Senate that Trump’s words were directly responsible for inciting the violence at the Capitol. They also argued that because of Trump’s outsized role in the leadup to the riot he should be disqualified from serving in future federal office.
Prosecutors opened their argument by saying that in his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse in Washington D.C., Trump addressed his supporters saying, “if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” They also argued that statements such as that directly motivated his supporters to march towards the Capitol building in order to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote.
The subsequent hours saw the death of four people directly as a result of the violence and occupation of the Capitol by pro-Trump supporters.
Trump’s defense team argued that his words alone did not incite the riot and that the rioters acted on their own accord, having planned it in advance of Trump’s speech. They also argued that Democrats had been attempting to remove Trump from office since the beginning of his presidency and this was just another attempt to prevent him from holding the office in the future.
“I think that the second impeachment of Trump was just political theater and a useless waste of taxpayer’s money,” said Sawyer Hill (‘23).
Following a combined 32 hours of arguments from Impeachment Managers and Trump’s defense team the Senate had to decide whether or not to call witnesses in the trial. They ultimately decided not to, paving the way for a vote on whether or not to convict given all the evidence.
“After carefully listening to all the evidence presented in this trial, it is overwhelmingly clear that Donald Trump violated his oath of office by inciting a violent, deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol
and our democracy,” said Sen. Gary Peters (‘80) (Local 4 News). Both Sens. Peters and Stabenow of Michigan voted to convict Trump.
In a final vote of 57-43, the Senate voted to acquit Trump on the charge of inciting a riot. The vote marked the first time in U.S. history that a president has been impeached and acquitted twice. The vote also shows the loyalty many GOP Senators still have for Trump, even after he has left office.
“I think [the impeachment] was super predictable,” said Anika Ried (‘23). “He should have been convicted if only to stop him from holding federal office ever again.”
“[Trump] remains very popular with the Republican base…I imagine he’s going to start holding rallies again in anticipation of running for president again in 2024,” said Gorton.
Since the acquittal Trump has also been permanently banned from most social media platforms including his previous go-to Twitter, potentially complicating future campaigns.
Moving forward with the investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Congress has created a bipartisan investigative committee focused on understanding how rioters were able to get past security and into the Capitol. More hearings are scheduled for the near future.