Editorials, Opinion

Acquittal expected but still infuriating

That the most bipartisan presidential impeachment ever ended in Trump’s acquittal on charges of inciting an insurrection was expected, but that makes it no less infuriating.

Because there was virtually a consensus even among Republican politicians that former President Donald Trump sicced an angry mob of rioters on the Capitol, with the purpose of halting a sacred democratic process, and then did nothing to help terrified Congress members and battered Capitol Police officers. Members of both chambers and both parties spent days after Jan. 6 decrying the then-president’s actions — and inaction.

Immediately after the trial ended, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lambasted Trump: “A mob was assaulting a Capitol in his name. There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”

Our own Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said in a statement, “What happened on Jan. 6 threatened our foundational transfer of power and the actions were an embarrassment to our country and everything that we stand for. The actions and reactions of President Trump were disgraceful, and history will judge him harshly.”

And yet, when presented with the opportunity to hold him accountable — to make clear that the threat upon their lives directed by the nation’s commander in chief was unacceptable — 43 Republican senators, including Capito and McConnell, chose party and politics over justice.

Many of the GOP loyalists fell back on flimsy arguments, primarily, the impeachment trial as “unconstitutional.”  Capito said, “Our Constitution references that impeachment was designed to remove an officeholder from public office — not a private citizen. … my ‘no’ vote today is based solely on this constitutional belief.”

We share the House impeachment managers’ ire with this particular excuse. Before the trial even began, the Senate took a vote on the constitutionality of the proceedings and a majority of senators agreed the trial of a former-president was within the bounds of the Constitution (over 140 legal scholars also agreed). The matter of constitutionality was settled before the opening arguments even began, so it should not have been an excuse for acquittal.

Capito and McConnell both cited impeachment as the mechanism to remove someone from office only, failing to recognize that the article of impeachment was drawn up and passed by the House of Representatives while Trump was still in office, but McConnell refused to convene the Senate and accept the article before Jan. 20. McConnell created the very loophole he and others used to justify acquitting Trump.

We’re flabbergasted, truly. This was the man who sent an armed mob to storm the Capitol Building. Trump didn’t send them only after Democrats — no, he sent them after his own vice president and the RINOs (Republicans in name only). His murderous horde chanted “Hang Mike Pence” and searched for GOP lawmakers as fervently as they searched for Nancy Pelosi or AOC.

The GOP had a chance to divorce themselves from Trump and the QAnon fanatics and the white supremacists and far-right extremists that he commands. Republicans had the opportunity to excise the cancer that is Trump from the party, and instead they kowtowed to him, granting him the power to control Washington all the way from his resort in Mar-a-Lago. With this acquittal, the GOP has handed Trump the keys to the Republican Party and said, “Welcome home! You now own the Grand Old Party. Try not to break it.” Except, of course, Trump already has — and last Saturday’s verdict proved it.