Trump Acquitted, leaving questions of justice unanswered
Though Democrats had a majority of the votes, they could not get the necessary votes for a conviction
The Senate acquitted former President Donald J. Trump Saturday after several days of arguments. Though largely falling along partisan lines, the vote was the most bi-partisan impeachment vote in American history, with 57 senators in favor of conviction and 43 against it. By contrast, the Clinton impeachment in 1999 was an even split of 50 in favor and 50 against. Thus, Democrats have a powerful, albeit limited, argument against Trump's position after his presidency.
Though Trump is sure to benefit from his second acquittal, Republicans might not be sure. Seven Republicans voted against Trump on the charges brought by the House. Though only one of those voters, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, is facing an upcoming election, it does suggest that a portion of the GOP is not comfortable with its fealty to Trump, and that could lead to a larger split within the party.
Even those who voted with the President rebuked his behavior. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that Trump was "morally and practically responsible" for the events of January 6th. This was despite the Minority Leader's vote against conviction, which was motivated by the idea that Trump was not subject to conviction after his term's completion.
Still, the lack of conviction should not be construed to mean that the impeachment proceedings had no effect. The proceedings were the first impeachment since 1868 to have a majority of the Senate voting to convict a President. It was the shortest impeachment and perhaps the most unusual due to the charges against a former President. Indeed, the proceedings were, by their own merits, historic.
Democrats had their own concerns with the proceedings, although not with the charges themselves. For one, Senate Democrats were caught off guard by the House managers' request to have witnesses testify before the Senate. Though a majority of the Senators would call for witnesses, the managers backed down and accepted a statement by Rep. Jaime Beutler (R-Wash) to be entered into the record instead, perhaps undermining their momentum.
The Republican party is unlikely to split with Trump. Despite Sen. McConnell's statements about Trump being "practically responsible" for the insurrection on January 6th, most Republicans oppose Trump's impeachment and conviction. Among Republicans, 71 percent said that a Republican vote for impeachment was "disloyal" compared to 29 percent who said it was "principled." With consistent support for former President Trump, it is no wonder why so many Republicans voted to acquit him. Even when Rep. Herrera Beutler pleaded with former Vice-President Pence to testify about what he experienced, he would not do it. At its core, the vote can be explained by Republicans' loyalty to Donald J. Trump.
Whatever the future may hold, one thing is assured: Trump is not out of the Republicans' hair just yet.