Trump Acquitted in Second Impeachment Trial


Pamina Yung, Staff Writer

In a 56 to 44 vote, the Senate ruled it constitutional for a former president to stand trial for impeachment on Feb. 9, making former President Donald J. Trump the first person to be impeached twice during a single presidency. He faced a trial that could have banned him from holding office in the future. 

Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy presided over Trump’s second trial as president pro tempore, having similar authority to that of a judge. Both parties each had 16 hours for their presentations. Senators then had the opportunity to submit written questions directed at both groups for up to four hours.

Feb. 9 marked the first day of Trump’s trial and the opening of the first presentation.

The House Democrats, led by Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin, brought forward previously unseen footage of the U.S. Capitol riot and ransacking of the building from Jan. 6, aiming to prove that Trump had encouraged the horrific mob and was responsible for “incitement of insurrection.” The clips depicting the various perspectives of those who had been caught up in the violence were the highlight of an eight-hour discussion, and the 13 minutes of footage were paired with a few of Trump’s comments—primarily his Tweets before his account was banned on Jan. 8—made just hours after the video was taken.

“You ask what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution,” Raskin said after presenting the video. “That’s a high crime and misdemeanor. If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing.”

One of Trump’s lawyers, David Schoen, responded by claiming that the House managers had hired a “movie company” to splice together the most gruesome clips of the riot and intentionally made it appear more chaotic than it actually was.

Trump’s defense team argued that the Senate should not go forward with the impeachment trial because of a lack of due process. 

However, to many, the rest of their reasoning for Trump’s guiltlessness seemed unorganized and slightly puzzling. Trump’s second attorney, Bruce Castor, presented before Schoen, who originally planned to go first. According to Castor, they altered their strategy “on account that we thought that the House managers’ presentation was well done.”

Castor’s defense surrounded Trump’s right to free speech, the difference between murder and manslaughter, and how each is dealt with differently in court. 

“I have no idea what [Castor’s] doing,” said Alan M. Dershowitz, one of Trump’s attorneys from his first impeachment trial, to Newsmax. “Maybe he’ll bring it home, but right now, it does not appear to me to be effective advocacy.”

“The president’s lawyer just rambled on and on,” said Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn. “I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and that was not one of the finest I’ve seen.”

On Feb. 12, Trump’s impeachment attorneys gave their presentation. 

They stated that the House managers were twisting and manipulating Trump’s words, such as “fight” which is often used figuratively, and accused Democrats of hypocrisy and expressing hatred for the former president.

“It has become very clear that House Democrats hate Trump,” said Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s lawyers. “Hatred is at the heart.”

Trump’s defense team said that Trump had engaged in “constitutionally protected speech” granted to him by the First Amendment. His attorneys also presented a side-by-side comparison of the footage previously shown by the House managers, labeled “MANAGERS,” with what Trump’s lawyers claimed had actually happened, labeled “REALITY.”

Trump’s defense team used only three out of the 16 hours allotted for their presentation.

On Feb. 13, Trump was acquitted in a final vote of 57 to 43, which fell below the two-thirds threshold required to convict. The seven Republicans who voted him guilty, along with all 50 Democrats, created the most bipartisan margin in favor of conviction in history, meaning that more Republicans had sided with the Democrats than ever before. 

“The bottom line is that we convinced a big majority in the Senate of our case,” said Raskin after the verdict was announced. 

Trump “had a good day in court today. He was vindicated. He was found not guilty,” said van der Veen. “The political witch hunt that they had, that the Democrats had thrown at him was defeated, so he should feel quite pleased.”

In the end, Trump was declared not guilty, and although the impeachment is over, there is no doubt that the riot footage and its contents will continue to be discussed outside the Senate chamber.


Photo courtesy of WSJ.COM