By Briana Brady, Opinion Editor–
The 2nd Impeachment Trial of former President Donald Trump is now over and done with. The trial was the shortest impeachment trial in Senate history, and yet it was packed with raw footage of the January 6th insurrection, raging deflection by Trump’s lawyers, media quotes, and courtroom formalities. Senators who were sworn in as jurors began by voting on whether the trial of a former President was permissible, for the Constitution leaves the rules and policies around impeachment trials fully up to the votes of the Senate.
After the Senate voted to allow the trial to take place, Senators were called upon to take the position of a jury, who would theoretically be open to persuasion one way or the other based upon the presented evidence and constructed arguments from both the prosecution and the defense. However, so many Senators on both sides of the aisle had already made up their minds going into the trial about what they felt would be best for them politically and/or morally.
The evidence was haunting, harrowing, and purely violent in nature. The videos of police officers being tortured, taunted, and harassed were hard to watch. The graphics of how close the rioters really got to members of Congress, the Speaker of the House, and former Vice President Mike Pence were quite clear, and the consequences of the insurrectionists getting any closer weren’t hard to imagine.
Yet, when all the clear-cut evidence had been presented by the incredibly swift House Managers, responded to unconvincingly by Trump’s defense team, and analyzed by the media, the vote finally took place, and only seven Republicans voted for conviction of the former President, leaving the Senate ten votes short of the number they would’ve needed to convict. After seeing the images, hearing the audio, and reading through the evidence of what exactly Trump knew and chose to ignore, 43 Republican Senators still voted to acquit the former President. Despite witnessing through the experience of Trump’s betrayal of Pence on January 6th that loyalty means nothing to Trump, these 43 Senators chose over loyal to their country and to their oaths. They committed a dereliction of duty to their role as a juror, as a Senator, and as a citizen of this country.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s speech on the Senate Floor following the vote was the perfect representation of his dereliction of duty and the hypocrisy that is woven within it. Standing on the Floor, he said “[The insurrectionists] did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth – because he was angry he’d lost an election…There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”
Yet, then, he followed with the biggest “but” in recent political history: “But our system of government gave the Senate a specific task…We have no power to convict and disqualify a former officeholder who is now a private citizen.” The hypocrisy in this speech alone brings me to this apt tweet that I think perfectly frames McConnell’s dereliction of his own duty, a tweet by journalist Kasie Hunt: “It’s very difficult to understand how one could believe all the things Mitch McConnell is saying and yet refuse to exercise one’s own power to actually do something about it.”
Mitch McConnell is the very same individual who said he would not permit the trial to be held before President Biden’s inauguration, and then he justified his supposed inability to vote to convict based upon the fact that Trump was no longer in office. He can’t have it both ways. He used the system to his political advantage, so he wouldn’t have to make the hard, but right, political decision. To put morals before politics. He was unwilling. He, like all but seven of his fellow Republicans committed their own derelictions of duty.
The outcome of this trial was unsurprising, yet unbelievable. While I worry that it will only lead to the possibility that Trump can wreak more havoc in the future, I hope that now Biden can push forward his own political agenda and continue his efforts to undo the damage done by his predecessor. He has much work ahead of him, but if the First Lady’s Valentine’s Day surprise is any indicidation, this Administration is off to a much more hope-filled, unifying start.