United States: 'Guilty' say 57 senators, but Trump walks

February 18, 2021
Donald Trump is the only US president to lose the popular vote twice, be impeached by the House twice, and survive two Senate trials. Image: Pixabay

The United States Senate voted 57 to 43 in favour of finding former president Donald Trump guilty of inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

However, the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority required to convict Trump and disqualify him from future office.

Forty-three Republican Senators voted to acquit based on the false claim that the trial was unconstitutional. No one defended Trump’s actions leading up to and during January 6.

After the verdict, Trump said his “beautiful movement” would be stronger than ever.

The persuasive impeachment case proved Trump’s guilt.

Five people died on January 6. Many members of Congress narrowly escaped harm, or death.

It was Trump’s second “acquittal” in a year. He is the only president to lose the popular vote twice, be impeached by the House twice, and survive two Senate trials.

Trump’s lawyers’ argued that the Democrats had a deep “hatred” of him, and that he had a right to “free speech” when he led the rally leading to the attack on the Capitol building.

But video evidence showed Trump cheering the mob during the violent riot inside the building.

The cynicism of the Republicans afterwards was on full display. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit, said Trump was “practically and morally” guilty for the January 6 insurrection, but because he is now a private citizen, he should not be convicted.

McConnell, as then-majority leader of the Senate, prevented the Senate trial from beginning while Trump was still president.

In the end, both Republican and the Democratic leaders agreed to get the trial over with quickly, for their own reasons.

The establishment Democrats wanted January 6 put behind them, to “get on” with compromising with Republicans in Congress to “get things done”.

Trump’s lawyers wanted to get the evidence over with.

The Democrats’ House managers at the trial took less than a week to present their case. They did not call a single witness.

An alternative

During the trial, consumer advocate and former two-time Green Party presidential candidate, Ralph Nader told Democracy Now!: “This is not a criminal proceeding; it’s a civil proceeding controlled completely by the US Senate.

“The purpose of this impeachment effort is prophylactic. It is designed not just to hold Trump accountable under the Constitution, but to prevent future wannabe Trumps from behaving in the same way.

“Therefore, the only real result of a guilty verdict would be disqualifying Trump from running [again] for federal office…

“[Without witnesses], what the Republicans will do is simply say, ‘This is a video show trial. A lot of the material was taken out of context. And the protagonists were entirely Democratic partisans, members of the House Democratic Party.’

“If you have witnesses, you have the potential of breakthrough testimony. [Former vice president] Mike Pence, for example. [Media critic] Jay Rosen, for example. [Georgia secretary of state] Brad Raffensperger. They might be required to testify about far deeper crimes than simply a telephone call to the Justice department by Trump or to the Georgia secretary of state twisting their elbows to try to change the course or the count of the election…”

Trump’s defence lawyers made their case for little more than three hours, less than a quarter of the time allotted. They did not even take up the concrete allegations in the impeachment charges. Instead, they tried to say that anti-racists and Democrats used the same language Trump used on January 6.

They played clips of prominent Black Democratic representative Maxine Waters delivering fiery speeches. One might have thought she was on trial.

No surprise there, as the Republicans whipped up anti-Black racism by stoking white fears of “uppity” Blacks.

Trump’s defence was also laced with racism and falsehoods. His lawyers blamed “radical” Democrats, Black activists and Antifa (anti-fascists) for what happened on January 6.

Anti-Black policies and rhetoric has been the staple of the Trump government and the right-wing media. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was vilified, while white supremacist groups were given a free pass and embraced by Trump.

The BLM mass actions protesting cop violence last year, which were led by Blacks but were joined by many young whites, were attacked by armed, militarised police and federal troops, such as the Border Patrol, answering only to the president.

The BLM leaders have repeatedly pointed out the hypocrisy of US “democracy” and its dual legal systems — one for whites and one for Blacks and other oppressed people.

When the rioters on January 6 were finally escorted out of the Capitol, they were treated with kid gloves and no arrests were made or names recorded. Some insurrectionists have been arrested since on minor charges.

The Democrats responded to the slander and lies about BLM at the Senate trial by calling it a distraction and a diversion from the real issue of Trump’s actions.

The Democrats did not put white supremacy on trial in the Senate, even though violent white supremacists had attacked the Capitol, and were organised and led by the openly white-supremacist Trump.

Jim Crow

They couldn’t do this because they themselves have stoked white supremacy — although not as blatantly as their eight-decades-long support for the 1870s–1960s Jim Crow segregation system in the South, and not as blatantly as Trump.

They used “dog whistles” and code words, and led the charge of criminalising Blacks in the 1980s and ‘90s, which then funneled Blacks and Latinos into the mass incarceration system underlying the “New Jim Crow”.

White supremacy is the ideology the whole US ruling class and its politicians have used it to justify the oppression of Blacks for the last four centuries.

The Democrats couldn’t put that on trial.

Why did the establishment Republicans remain loyal to Trump? They recognise that Trump has some 70–80% of voting Republicans in his base. Many in his base have even threatened violence against elected Republicans who voted against Trump in the House of Representatives and Senate, and state offices.

Since the trial, Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in the House or to convict him in the Senate, have been censured by Republican Party machines in the states they represent.

The mob leaders in ultra-white-nationalist fascist groups like the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Boogaloo Bois and Oath Keepers, who don’t agree on many topics, are all followers of Trump. They admit they went to Washington, DC, with weapons, to support Trump and attack the Capitol under his orders.

These fascist groups represent tens of thousands of people, while Trump’s supporters number in the tens of millions. But they are tolerated by most among his supporters as part of their movement.

Trump has openly supported these groups, and as January 6 demonstrated, he can mobilise them to commit violence — when and if he deems it necessary.

The dilemma facing elected Republicans and Democrats going forward is the cloud of Trump above their heads. Both ruling class parties seek to protect the idea of the “presidency” while not admitting the reality of how much power the presidency has acquired over time.

Trump established in practice that the Executive branch has all the power. He could do what he wanted in foreign and domestic affairs, without personal consequences.

What next

Trump could still face criminal charges in New York, Georgia and Washington, DC. He also faces a rape charge in a civil case in New York City.

Trump is not interested in democracy. He is an authoritarian in the Bonapartist mold. He wants to be president for life. That is why he still refuses to recognise Biden’s win and presidency. He still refers to himself as the president.

Who says he will not be a candidate again? And take his acquittal as proof he should act before the election takes place to “stop the steal”?

Or, he may be thinking of a Trump dynasty. Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara is considering running for Senator in North Carolina in 2022.

For now, the Republican Party remains Trump’s party. There are new fissures in the party, as exemplified by Republicans in the House voting to impeach, and Senators to convict.

McConnell’s comment that Trump is guilty of organising and inciting the insurrection is another indication.

But Republicans know they cannot win elections without Trump’s base. How this conflict will play out remains to be seen.

Establishment Democrats are not ready to fight Trump or his far-right base. They look to win “moderate” Republicans, not more progressive supporters.

Biden seeks to accommodate the conservatives and move on to “normal” partisan debates.

History has shown that arguments of false equivalency between white supremacists and fighters for equal rights will be used to attack uprisings by Black and Brown and Native American people.

The progressive movement and socialist left must mobilise against white racism, defend Black and Brown communities and actively oppose the imperialist foreign policy of Republicans and Democrats.

A mass response is the only way to stop neo-fascist, ultra-nationalist forces. It is never by elections.

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