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Trump, the only person in U.S. history to be the subject of two impeachment trials, was found not guilty of inciting the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol building that left five people dead. The Senate voted 57-42, under the two-thirds majority that was required to charge Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”
Trump’s legal team pushed the argument that Trump was the victim of a political witch hunt and called the trial “an unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance”.
“To claim that the president in any way wished, desired, or encouraged lawless or violent behaviour is a preposterous and monstrous lie,” said Trump’s lawyer, Michael van der Veen, rejecting the evidence – a lot of it graphic video footage – presented by the Democrats.
While the result showcases Trump’s holding popularity among Republicans, there is clear division within the party. Seven Republican senators voted against Trump, the highest number of Senators to ever vote against a President from their own party.
Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican, delivered a scathing statement against Trump. McConnell voted against charging the former President on the basis that Trump was no longer in office and is now a private citizen, but was adamant that Trump was nevertheless guilty of what was being accused.
“There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell declared.
“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole which the defeated President kept shouting into the loudest megaphone on Earth.”
The Trump road ahead
Trump, no doubt with renewed confidence provided by the verdict, is looking to the future. In a statement, Trump said the “historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun”.
“In the months ahead, I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is going all-in in his support for Trump – a little bit of a different tone from his “count me out” stance on January 6th. In an interview with Politico, Graham said Republicans needed Trump if they hoped to take back the House and the Senate next year.
“I’m going to try and convince him that we can’t get there without you, but you can’t keep the Trump movement going without the GOP united,” Graham said.
“If we come back in 2022, then, it’s an affirmation of your policies. But if we lose again in 2022, the narrative is going to continue that not only you lost the White House, but the Republican Party is in a bad spot.”
He reiterated a similar point when speaking to Fox, although with an added endorsement for Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump.
“To the Republican Party, if you want to win and stop a socialist agenda, we need to work with President Trump. We can’t do it without him,” Graham said.
“The biggest winner I think, of this whole impeachment trial is Lara Trump. My dear friend, Richard Burr, who I like and have been friends to a long time, just made Lara Trump almost a certain nominee for the Senate seat in North Carolina to replace him if she runs.
“And I’ll certainly be behind her because I think she represents the future of the Republican Party.”