Why should anyone vote against Trump again?

Impeachment against Trump: acquitted guilty

The necessary two-thirds majority in the US Senate for a conviction of Donald Trump does not come about. The surprise came after the vote.

Trump's lawyer Michael T. van der Veen: a successor for Rudy Giuliani Photo: Reuters

BERLINtaz | After only five days, the second impeachment proceedings against ex-President Donald Trump are over - with the expected result. Only 7 Republican Senators voted with all 50 Democrats to declare Trump guilty of instigating the January 6 storm on the Capitol. 67 votes, two thirds of the senators, would have been necessary for a conviction. Trump is acquitted - and could seek a new candidacy in 2024.

The big surprise came right after the vote. In the morning, the Republican parliamentary group leader, Mitch McConnell, let it be known by email that he would vote for acquittal. He did so - only to underline in a speech after the end of the vote in the Senate the entire argumentation of the prosecution, namely that Trump was directly responsible for the events of January 6th.

Just as the prosecutors had done for many hours before, McConnell accused Trump of spreading lies and conspiracy theories for months and getting his followers to the point where they forcibly stormed the Capitol. Even then, Trump failed by doing nothing to end the attack. The prosecutors had cited this as an argument in favor of the conviction with much evidence.

So why had he voted against the condemnation? McConnell went back to the vote at the beginning of the procedure on Tuesday: It was about whether an impeachment procedure, which was intended to remove president, is still feasible when the president is no longer in office.

McConnell tries to separate the party from Trump

Contrary to the legal opinions and precedents gathered from US history by prosecutors, McConnell stressed that the Senate's condemnation of a private citizen would amount to an abuse of office by the Senate.

Time and again during the trial, Trump's lawyers had pointed out that even if a majority had voted on Tuesday to go through with the trial, Republicans could also use their denial of Senate jurisdiction as a reason for an "innocent" vote, regardless from all other considerations about Trump's guilt.

On Tuesday, six Republican Senators voted with the Democrats to carry out the impeachment process and dismissed the defense's constitutional concerns. That was a clear sign that it would not be possible to get together the 17 dissenters who would have needed for a conviction. At least one more voted in the end for the condemnation.

McConnell's speech will be of paramount importance to the future of the Republican Party. Because while the jurisdiction argument gave all Republicans an arguable reason to vote against Trump's condemnation without even taking a position on the allegations against Trump in detail, McConnell has now set the tone to get the party off Trump.

Republicans face risky self-definition

It is safe to assume that many of the 43 Republican Senators who voted “innocent” share McConnell's view of Trump. Of the seven who voted "guilty", some, like Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney or Susan Collins, have long been declared opponents of Trump. Others have already announced that they will not run again after the end of their current term - they no longer have to fear Trump's efforts to oppose them with strong challengers in the next primaries.

For everyone else, with the exception of those like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, who are also firmly on the trumpet line politically, McConnell's speech opens a new chapter in risky self-definition. McConnell, the most influential Republican politician in Washington, clearly rejected Trumpism, which he himself supported and protected for four years as the Senate majority leader.

Whether that's enough to get the Republican Party to an actual restart is completely open. It still seems just as possible that this Saturday will simply mean the end of McConnell's career. It will be important how the emotionally and politically very strong statements of the prosecution affected the US public.

Because it was also clear to the Democrats that the chances of a conviction were extremely slim - their pleadings were at least also, if not primarily, addressed to the public. They rightly made the connection between the lie of “election fraud” and the violent mob that stormed the Capitol. Yes, they ultimately equated both.

Trumpism from the defense bench

And not even the defense argued against it. Newly appointed chief defender Michael T. van der Veen is a Philadelphia attorney who usually tries to get pain and suffering from the city for clients who break a leg from accidents on broken sidewalks.

He sometimes showed similarities with Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani: Angry, hitting the desk and repeatedly sprinkling in blatant false claims, he cursed the democrats who would want to establish an authoritarian state without freedom of expression. In absurd video clips in which democratic politicians use the word "fight", he tried to prove that Trump's behavior was completely normal.

Van der Veen invented the word “constitutional cancel culture” - Trump again a poor victim of the media, liberals and politically correct elites. That was pure Trumpism from the Bank of Defense.

After the end of the trial, Trump himself only let it be known that the trial was "a new phase in the greatest witch hunt" in US history. "Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to make America great again has only just begun," added Trump.