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Impeachment: Trump, saved again

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Kuldeep Singh
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The 50 Democratic senators found the former president and also seven of the 50 Republicans guilty, 10 less than necessary to convict the tycoon

From the beginning, we knew that Donald Trump would be acquitted, and he has. But the second process of ‘impeachment’ to the former Republican president, accused of “inciting the insurrection” on January 6 in front of the Capitol, has sought to engrave in America’s retina the details of a dismal day: the first time a transition of power was not peacefully made, but in the midst of the lies of an outgoing president reluctant to admit his defeat. A series of hoaxes and incitements that had in the assault on the Capitol their perfect confirmation.

All 50 Democratic senators found Donald Trump guilty and also seven of the 50 Republicans, 10 fewer than needed to convict the tycoon. Still, it is the closest thing to bipartisanship that has been seen in the brief history of impeachments: a cursed parliamentary figure that has only been invoked four times since the founding of the United States. Half of them in the last year.

This time it was not a complex plot, with elements of electoralism and geopolitics, like the previous impeachment of Trump. On this occasion, the lives of the congressmen themselves had been endangered by a mob that sought to punish the “traitors”: the Republicans who, like Mitt Romney and Vice President Mike Pence, were preparing to recognize that day, Joe Biden’s legitimate victory at the ballot box. To do this, the building’s weak defenses were over the way, a policeman was killed by fire extinguishers and they were just minutes away from catching the congressmen. Some of the attackers were prepared with plastic handcuffs.

Most Republicans, despite harsh condemnations of Trump in the days following the attack, embraced the idea that trying someone who is no longer president is unconstitutional. A legal argument that has been widely questioned by constitutional experts and that re-evidences an electoral reality: that the conservatives need the former president.

When Kevin McCarthy, leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, called Trump on January 6 to ask for help during the assault, Trump responded as follows (according to the testimony of Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler): “Good Kevin, they seem to be more upset than you about the election theft.” But McCarthy depends on Trump’s support to avoid sinking in the 2022 legislatures and a few weeks after the attack she went to visit him and take a photo with him at the Mar-a-Lago mansion, in Florida. McCarthy also spoke with Trump during the impeachment trial these days.

The other Republican congressional leader, Mitch McConnell, who has difficulty walking due to polio he suffered as a child and was almost blown out of the Senate on the day of the invasion, said in January that he would never speak to Trump again in his lifetime. And after yesterday’s vote, it was very hard on the former president. “There is no doubt, no question, that President Trump is responsible for practical and moral purposes for causing the events of that day,” McConnell said. “There is no doubt about it”. However, McConnell was one of 43 Republicans who voted not guilty.

The entire process has taken just over a month; and this second phase, the trial for the charges articulated in the House of Representatives, just five days. Democrats did not want to tie the Senate in the process of confirming Biden cabinet positions, and Republicans may not have been interested in a lengthy ordeal highlighting their dependence on Trump.

The trial was about to drag out when, on Saturday at noon, the chamber voted to summon witnesses. Democrats wanted to include Rep. Herrera Beutler, who had unveiled the conversation between Trump and McCarthy. The script twist, according to an ABC News source, left Trump “stunned” and in “total panic.” Shortly after, however, the senators abandoned this idea, which could have extended the process even until March.

It was not, therefore, a very elaborate judgment. Democrats knew that Trump would be acquitted, so they proceeded to put together as powerful and colorful a story as possible, full of images of danger, threats and violence, some of them unpublished. We have seen the mob running through the corridors like Odoacer’s barbarians in the siege of Rome and Mitt Romney saved ‘in extremis’ from an encounter with them. We have heard the allegations of congressmen and their memory of how in those hours many of them called their loved ones to say goodbye.

One of the hardest hit was Democrat Jamie Raskin. On January 6, his daughter was visiting the Capitol and had to be escorted to safety. The day before, Raskins had buried their 25-year-old son, who died by suicide after a long depression. Raskin was precisely the one in charge of structuring the Democratic indictment, and he did not skimp on personal details or on invocations to the Founding Fathers. “This is America … The America of Ben Franklin, who said, ‘If you turn into a sheep, the wolves will eat you’ (…) Trump must be condemned for the safety of our people and our democracy.”

The defendant’s attorneys, David Schoen, Bruce L. Castor and Michael van der Veen, began their defense flat and sly. On the first day, they evoked Trump’s right to free speech to explain his harangue to the crowd, his call to “march” on Capitol Hill and punish “weak Republicans.” One of the lawyers, Bruce Castor, even recognized the electoral defeat of his client.

The following days the trial increased in volume and the lawyers seemed to adopt the style of Donald Trump faithfully: they spoke of the “hatred” of their client, they accused the Democrats of having incited their mobs themselves, they deployed vague accusations and they spoke of “culture of cancellation”.

The only moment of unanimity was the applause for police officer Eugene Goodman, who managed to distract the mob while the congressmen were evacuated. The riskiest moments of his performance were remembered and completed in the videos. Goodman, in addition to the standing ovation, received the Congressional Gold Medal.

The great protagonist was also a great absentee. Upon learning of the verdict, Trump issued a statement in which he recovered one of his classic accusations, speaking of “the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country”, and accused the Democrats of “denigrating the rule of law, to defame the security forces, animate the mobs (…) and transform justice into an instrument of revenge.”

The transgression of the Capitol was only the visible end of a long campaign designed to undermine the confidence of the population in the electoral system and to prepare a rebellion against the result, should Trump lose. Months before the election, knowing that Democrats tend to vote by mail twice as much as Republicans and this would be a common method during the pandemic, Trump used his multiple platforms to link the concepts of fraud and remote voting. On Twitter or at his rallies and appearances, the tycoon assured that 2020 would be the “most corrupt elections in history.”

When November 3 rolled around, millions of his supporters were convinced that Joe Biden would steal the election. When Trump was proclaimed the winner that night, with days to go before the recount was finished, a good portion of the country, the majority of the Republican electorate, sided with him.

The 50 states, 60 progressive and conservative judges’ courts, the Supreme Court, the attorney general, other senior officials in the Trump Administration and, ultimately, the leaderships of both parties confirmed the evidence: Biden had won. So Trump and his shrinking circle launched one last blow. They called a mobilization in Washington and incited the crowd to “stop the robbery” that they claimed was taking place inside the Capitol.

The former president thus comes out of the trial unscathed, but with an uncertain political future. Donald Trump, as one of his old allies, Nikki Haley, said in an interview (1), has been cut off from the things that stimulate him: he no longer has power, his business brand is damaged and he has been cut off from the big networks social. There are also possibilities that he will be sued at the federal level for some of his actions as president and for the same charges he has faced in Congress. But he remains, by all accounts, the most popular Republican in the United States (2). A figure from the silence preserves an incandescent aura and who technically still has the possibility to re-introduce himself in 2024.

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