Explaining the second impeachment of Donald Trump — and what his second acquittal will mean

By Anastasia Bekker 

Elm Staff Writer 

Throughout the week of Feb. 8, the U.S. Senate held a second impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump. The charges against him included inciting an insurrection and interfering with the 2020 presidential election. The Senate acquitted him on Feb. 13. 

Impeachment is one of the checks and balances of the government. It is the ability of Congress to punish the president for treason, bribery, or other “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” as stated in the U.S. Constitution. 

For a president to be impeached, 218 members of the U.S. House of Representatives must vote in favor of doing so. Getting a conviction in the Senate required the support of at least 17 Republican senators, given that all 48 Democrats voted to convict Trump.

Despite this, being impeached does not mean that a president is removed from office. For this to happen, at least two-thirds of the Senate must also find the president guilty of the charges. Should this happen, the vice president would take the role of commander in chief. 

With Trump already being out of office, however, representatives still believe the results of impeachment would have been beneficial: rather than removing Trump from office, a conviction would have banned the former president from holding public office in the future.

Trump is the only U.S. president to be impeached twice. In December of 2019, Trump was impeached for the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. 

Following his impeachment, he remained in office after being acquitted by the Republican-dominated Senate. While Democrats all voted him guilty in 2019, the only Republican senator to convict him was Senator Mitt Romney. “Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), the sole Republican who voted for removal last time, said on the night of the Capitol siege that he’s not sure there’s enough time left for impeachment,” Vox News reporter Andrew Prokop said on Jan. 13. 

In this second trial, Trump was charged for encouraging the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol. Rep. David Cicilline led a group of representatives in writing a resolution which accused the former president of inciting an insurrection. 

“Thus incited by President Trump,” the resolution, released on Jan. 11, said, “Members of the crowd he had addressed … unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.” 

A second charge within the article of impeachment claimed that Trump attempted to interfere with the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

“In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government,” the article stated. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”

“The 2021 impeachment in the House began on Jan. 20, immediately after Trump left office. The completion of this process happened much faster than Trump’s 2019 impeachment, which had three months of congressional inquiry prior to the proceedings. In the House of Representatives, Democrats voted unanimously to impeach Trump a second time; they were joined by 10 Republican representatives, providing enough votes to move the trial forward to the Senate.” Special rules apply to impeachment trials: Unlike other Senatorial votes, vice president Kamala Harris cannot be the tiebreaker; additionally, during an impeachment trial, filibusters are prohibited. 

The trial began on Feb. 9 with the cooperation of both parties. 

Some political scientists argue that, because he is now a private citizen, impeaching him is unconstitutional, while other experts disagree. 

“On the whole, I’m persuaded that so-called ‘late impeachments’ of former officers is within bounds of the Constitution, but are highly disfavored in our constitutional practice and would only be appropriate in an extreme case,” Keith E. Whittington, a politics professor from Princeton University, said in a 2019 blog post. 

“This process will provide us with an opportunity to explain to Senators why it is absurd and unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial against a private citizen,” Trump’s legal team said in a statement released on Feb. 8. 

 Although the vote was mostly split along party lines in 2019 on Feb. 9, six Republicans joined the Democrats, who voted unanimously to continue the trial. 

The following days of the trial had the prosecution presenting their case for impeachment, while Trump’s legal team argued why the impeachment was unconstitutional. 

On Feb. 13, the Senate voted 57-43 to acquit Trump. All 48 Democrats and Independents voted to convict, while all but seven Republicans voted to acquit the former president. 

Even with Trump walking free, legislators are optimistic about the growing bipartisanship demonstrated by the trial, and the growing number of Republican senators acting against Trump. 

“The bottom line is that we convinced a big majority in the Senate of our case,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead Democratic prosecutor for the House of Representatives, said. 

Trump has made history with not only being the first president to be impeached twice but also the only one to be impeached after leaving office. Not only did the acquittal decide Trump’s political chances of holding office again, but the decision also set a precedent concerning what is and isn’t constitutional during an impeachment, especially concerning former presidents, according to National Public Radio. 

Although the acquittal showed that partisan ties are still strong, the vote count and the trial showcase cooperation and unity across the aisle.

Featured Photo caption: Over a month after the insurrection on Capitol Hill, and a week of debate, former President Donald Trump was acquitted on charges of impeachment a second time on Feb. 13. Photo Courtesy of Alejandro Barbara.

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