Former President Donald Trump was acquitted on Saturday of inciting the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol (see Protesters Storm U.S. Capitol). If former President Trump had been found guilty, it would have been the first-ever conviction of a current or former U.S. president. It was also the first impeachment trial of a former president.
Around a month after the riot, the Senate gathered to deliver its verdict. National Guard troops continued to stand their posts outside the Capitol.
The House of Representatives had impeached President Trump on the charge of incitement of insurrection one week after the riot. Within another week, President Biden was inaugurated, putting President Trump out of office. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent the article of impeachment to the Senate days later. That began the impeachment trial.
House prosecutors argued that former President Trump was the “inciter in chief.” They say his violent words and false claims unleashed the mob.
Former President Trump’s lawyers argued that his words were not intended to stir up violence. They say the impeachment was a “witch hunt” meant to prevent him from serving in office again.
The senators were sworn in as jurors for the trial. They promised to deliver “impartial justice.” They ended with a vote of 57-43 in favor of conviction. Seven Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to convict. But the vote fell short of the two-third majority, or 67 votes, needed to find former President Trump guilty. Most Republicans voted to acquit. They doubted that the former President was fully to blame or that impeachment was the right response. Some felt it was unconstitutional to try a president who had already left office.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell is one of those who voted to acquit. He says former President Trump could not be convicted because he is no longer president. But afterwards, Senator McConnell pointed to the former President as bearing responsibility for the insurrection.
Impeachment trials are rare. Only three presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump—the only one to be twice impeached. None of them were convicted.
God changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. — Daniel 2:21
(Republican senators and staff talk during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on February 13, 2021. AP/Senate Television)