GP Insights

GP Insights # 469, 14 February 2021

The US: Senate acquits Donald Trump once again, with Republicans voting against the impeachment
Vivek Mishra

What happened?

On 13 January, the Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump in a 57-43 vote in his second impeachment trial. A Senate trial requires a two-third majority as opposed to a House trial, which requires a simple majority to pass impeachment resolution. On Saturday, seven Republican senators voted in favour of conviction, short of the 67 total votes needed convict Trump. Following the acquittal, Trump issued a statement thanking his team and saying this was “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”

On 9 January 2021, the impeachment trial was set in motion for a historic second time. The trial opened with a four-hour debate on whether the proceedings were constitutional because Trump is no longer president. A 56-44 majority then voted in favour of continuing with the trial, with six Republicans backing the measure. A successful impeachment in the Senate could have barred him from running for the President’s office again. 

What is the background?

First, the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. This is an unprecedented moment for the US, which has never placed a President on trial after he has left office. The primary charges against Trump are of instigating his supporters, who later barged inside the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. 

Second, the arguments against and in favour of Trump. The impeachment managers have claimed that Trump has not apologised or shown remorse for his ‘incitement’ and therefore he should not hold the President’s office again. Trump’s lawyers argued that his speech at the rally that preceded the riot was “ordinary political rhetoric” protected by the Constitution and claimed that Democrats were motivated by their “political hatred” of the former president and impeached him as an act of retribution. 

Third, the numbers in the Senate, and the challenge of impeachment. Getting the impeachment resolution passed in the Senate was always going to be difficult because it required a significant number of Republicans from Trump’s own party to vote to support the Impeachment motion.

What does it mean?

First, the Senate acquittal means both political and personal exoneration for Donald Trump. Technically, it means that Trump can run for Presidential election in 2024. Trump’s return to Presidential run is very much a possibility as the percentage of vote share for Trump in the recently held US Presidential shows significant support for him. 

Second, the Senate trial had also generated questions about the future of the Republican Party with its growing internal divisions. Although the Senate trial may have put such assumptions at bay, it remains to be seen if the Republican Party will witness the rise of a leader that really unites the Party in the next four years.

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