UPDATE: End of Trump’s Impeachment Trial Opens a New Chapter for Biden

President Joe Biden waves before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Camp David, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo)

The Associated Press

Updated: February 14th, 2021

Biden White House seeks to turn page on Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The end of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial opens a new chapter for his successor in the White House.

But while President Joe Biden and his team are eager to move past the impeachment, the bitterly partisan tone of the proceedings underscores the deep challenges ahead as the president and his party try to push forward their agenda and address historic crises.

Biden, who was at the Camp David presidential retreat when the Senate voted Saturday to acquit Trump, had acknowledged that Democrats needed to hold the former president responsible for the siege of the U.S. Capitol but did not welcome the way it distracted from his agenda.

The trial ended with every Democrat and seven Republicans voting to convict Trump, but the 57-43 vote was far from the two-third threshold required for conviction. Whether the seven GOP votes against Trump offered Biden any new hope for bipartisan cooperation within Congress remained an open question.

In a statement, Biden referenced those GOP votes in favor of convicting the former president — and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s own indictment of Trump’s actions — as evidence that “the substance of the charge,” that Trump was responsible for inciting violence at the Capitol, is “not in dispute.”

But he quickly moved on to the work ahead, sounding a note of unity and declaring that “this sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile” and that “each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”

“It’s a task we must undertake together. As the United States of America,” Biden said.


President Joe Biden walks on the Colonnade to Marine One for departure from the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Washington. Biden is en route to Camp David. (AP Photo)

Biden made a point of not watching the trial live, choosing to comment only briefly on the searing images of the riot that gripped the nation. Though his White House publicly argued that the trial did not hinder their plans, aides privately worried that a lengthy proceeding could bog down the Senate and slow the passage of his massive COVID-19 relief bill. That $1.9 trillion proposal is just the first part of a sweeping legislative agenda Biden hopes to pass as he battles the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 480,000 Americans and rattled the nation’s economy.

“The No. 1 priority for Democrats and the Biden administration is going to be to deliver on the promises that have been made on the pandemic, both on the vaccine front and the economic front,” said Democratic strategist Josh Schwerin.

The end of the impeachment trial frees the party to focus on less divisive and more broadly popular issues and policies, like the coronavirus relief package, which polls show has significant support among Americans.

Throughout his campaign, Biden worked to avoid being defined by Trump and his controversies and instead sought to draw a contrast on policy and competence, a guiding principle that he and his aides have carried over into the White House.

His team kept up a steady drumbeat of events during the trial, including an update on vaccine development and Biden’s first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief. With the proceedings on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue now over, the White House plans to increase its efforts to spotlight the fight against the pandemic and push past Trump’s chaos.

Former Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota predicted that in a state like hers, where Trump won 65% of the vote, focusing on those urgent issues would make more headway with average voters now.

“What we have to be talking about is the economy — getting the economy back working, and turning the page” on the last administration, she said. “Good policy is good politics. We need to get back to that.”

Democrats have a decision to make in how to deal with Trump going forward. While the end of the impeachment trial offers a clear opportunity for the party to focus squarely on its own agenda, Trump can also be a potent political weapon for Democrats, not to mention a big driver of campaign cash.

After Saturday’s vote, American Bridge 21st Century, the Democratic Party’s opposition research arm, issued a statement calling out senators from Ohio and Florida, two states that Democrats are targeting in the 2022 election, for voting against convicting Trump.

“Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio, and nearly every other Senate Republican put their loyalty to Donald Trump ahead of the rule of law, the Capitol police officers who protect them every day, and the oaths they swore to uphold the Constitution,” said Bradley Beychock, the group’s president, calling the senators “spineless sycophants.”

Still, Schwerin cautioned that Trump can’t be Democrats’ “primary focus.”

“We shouldn’t ignore the fact that a lot of the problems that the country is dealing with are because of Trump’s failures, but he shouldn’t be the focus of every fundraising email and press release. We should be looking forward,” he said.

Biden plans to keep up a busy schedule focused on the coronavirus pandemic in the coming week.

The president will make his first official domestic trips this week: a TV town hall in Wisconsin on Tuesday to talk to Americans impacted by the coronavirus and a visit to a Pfizer vaccine facility in Michigan on Thursday.

White House legislative affairs staffers were poised to work with House committees on crafting details of the COVID-19 relief bill, which Democrats hope to vote on next month.

Still, some within the party aren’t finished with Trump. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a leading progressive advocacy group, issued a petition Saturday night encouraging supporters to call on attorney general nominee Merrick Garland to “investigate and prosecute Trump and his entire criminal network for law breaking.”

Biden is likely to continue to face questions about how his Justice Department will handle a number of ongoing federal and criminal probes into Trump’s businesses and his conduct as president.

And his aides will be watching for Trump’s next moves, particularly if he claims exoneration and heats up his political activity and even points toward a 2024 campaign. The plan, for now, is to try to ignore the former president.

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile warned that Trump won’t make it easy but Democrats need to avoid getting sucked back into his orbit.

“I don’t think Donald Trump is going to disappear from anyone’s lips any day soon, and that’s because Donald Trump will always seek to find ways to inject himself and serve himself,” she said.

“While Donald Trump is figuring out who he is going to go after next, Democrats are going to figure out how they’re going to lift people up and how they’re going to protect and help the American people.”

Watch: What Is Trump’s Future After Acquittal? | NBC Nightly News

2 Impeachment Trials, 2 Escape Hatches for Donald Trump

The Associated Press

Updated: February 14th, 2021

The Senate acquitted Trump on a 57-43 vote Saturday, well short of the 67 needed to convict him. (AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial centered on a phone call Americans never heard with the leader of a country very far away. The trial went on for two weeks of he-said-she-said. There was a mountain of evidence to pore over but not one drop of blood to see.

Trump’s second impeachment trial was a steroidal sequel centered on the rage, violence and anguish of one day in Washington. There was nothing foreign or far away about it. There was blood.

Together these trials a year apart spoke to one president’s singular capacity to get into, and out of, trouble — the story of Trump’s life. The only president to be impeached twice has once again evaded consequences, though this time as an election loser shunted off the field of play to the jeering section, at least for now.

In a broadside against Trump every bit as brutal as that leveled by Democrats, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell declared the ex-president “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day” with his “unconscionable behavior” and “disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

“The leader of the free world cannot spend two weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe them and do reckless things,” McConnell said.

But this was after he gave Trump an escape hatch for the ages, voting to acquit him on the grounds that the Senate, in his view, cannot legitimately try a president out of office.

Until the conclusion of the five-day trial, the noisiest man in America stayed silent, down in Florida. But the panic, terrified whispers of officials hiding from their attackers and the crack of a fatal gunshot played out on a big screen in the Senate chamber penetrated less than six weeks earlier by the Trump-flag-waving insurrectionists.

This time the case did not hang on a whistleblower in the bowels of the national security bureaucracy.

This was an impeachment driven by what people saw happen and by Trump’s voluminous public rhetoric, heard that day, for weeks before, and after — until Twitter exiled him and he let his lawyers and supporters do the talking while the trial played out.

“We saw it, we heard it, we lived it,” said the Democratic majority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer. “This was the first presidential impeachment trial in history in which all senators were not only jurors and judges but were witnesses to the constitutional crime that was committed.”

Trump’s fanciful boast five years ago that he could shoot someone in the middle of New York’s Fifth Avenue and still be loved by his followers was never, of course, put to the test in his presidency. But something like it was, on Pennsylvania Avenue.

On Jan. 6, he sent his followers down that street to the Capitol, where they committed their mayhem. And in the end, that did not cost him the loyalty of enough supporters in Congress to convict him on the charge of inciting an insurrection.

The Senate acquitted Trump on a 57-43 vote Saturday, well short of the 67 needed to convict him.

___

2020

“Sorry haters, I’m not going anywhere,” Trump declared after his Senate acquittal Feb. 5, 2020, on charges of abusing power and obstructing justice. The Senate, then under narrow Republican control, voted 52-48 to clear him of abuse of power and 53-47 to clear him of obstruction.

It had taken Democrats some four months to get to that point, grinding through congressional inquiries into Trump’s effort to persuade Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings there. The goal was to tarnish Joe Biden, the father, as he sought the Democratic nomination and the presidency.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid needed by Ukraine in its conflict with Russia were hanging in the balance. The power and resources of the U.S. government had been put in service of Trump’s personal political benefit, said the Democrats.

To many Republicans in Congress, Democrats were merely impeaching Trump for being Trump. For others, Trump’s behavior, while troubling, didn’t rise to the extraordinary level they said was required to try to remove a president between elections.

“I would like you to do us a favor,” Trump told Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, uttering the sentence that emerged from a rough transcript of their phone call and came to symbolize the heavy-handed lobbying by the president and his aides.

Trump unleashed over 270 tweets when his fate was in the Senate’s hands, many attacking the process and the participants. “Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, their leader, dumb as a rock AOC, & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today,” said one.

The verdict came strictly along partisan lines, with one exception. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah voted with Democrats to convict Trump of abusing power.

McConnell, fully with the president on this one, was ready to move on. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s in the rearview mirror,” he said in response to Trump’s acquittal.

So it was for nearly everyone, quite suddenly. In the trial’s final days, the U.S. declared a public health emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak, already spreading, and the first COVID-19 death was recorded in the country by the end of the month.

___

2021

Trump went tweetless during impeachment No. 2, blocked from his main social media platforms for his history of false statements and conspiracy theories about the election. He stayed low, no longer popping up for his once-frequent interviews with conservatives on TV, either.

As in the first impeachment, no witnesses were called.

The House Democratic impeachment managers came forward with new and graphic video from the assault and a clearer picture of how close the lawmakers trapped at the Capitol had been to the attackers hunting for them. The peril to Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, who was presiding in the Senate during the day’s election certification, also came into sharper relief.

If there was anything like a smoking gun, it had been fired in plain sight.

But there was little more suspense about the outcome than there had been for the Ukraine affair. Democrats never expected to win the necessary two-thirds of the vote. Seven Republicans voted with the Democrats in the end, more than anticipated but not enough. Romney was among them.

It was known on the final day that McConnell would vote to acquit.

It was not known that he would denounce Trump with such scorching words even while passing the hot potato to the Biden Justice Department or state attorneys general, with the observation that Trump the private citizen now is exposed to criminal and civil laws.

“He didn’t get away with anything,” McConnell said. “Yet.”

WATCH LIVE | Fourth day of Trump’s impeachment trial

The Washington post

Updated: February 11th, 2021

Impeachment managers rest case against Trump, implore Senate to convict to prevent future violence

House managers on Thursday wrapped up their case against former president Donald Trump, imploring the Senate to convict him while warning that he could stoke violence again.

“We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime for which he is overwhelmingly guilty of. Because if you don’t, if we pretend this didn’t happen, or worse, if we let it go unanswered, who’s to say it won’t happen again?” Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) said.

Trump’s legal team is poised to respond on Friday, arguing that he should be acquitted. They are expected to use only one of two allotted days. A verdict could come as early as the weekend.

The developments came on the third day of an impeachment trial in which Democrats have charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the Jan. 6 violent takeover of the Capitol.

Video: House managers rest case against Trump, argue for conviction

Rioters acted on Trump’s ‘orders,’ Democrats say in trial

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats prosecuting Donald Trump’s impeachment said Thursday the Capitol invaders believed they were acting on “the president’s orders” and reflected his violent rhetoric when they set out to storm the building and stop the joint session of Congress that was certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s election.

The prosecutors were wrapping up their opening presentation, describing in stark, personal terms the horror they faced that day and unearthing the many public and explicit instructions Trump gave his supporters — both in the weeks before the Jan. 6 attack and at his midday rally that unleashed the mob on the Capitol. Videos of rioters, some posted to social medial by themselves, talked about how they were doing it all for Trump.

“We were invited here,” said one. “Trump sent us,” said another. “He’ll be happy. We’re fighting for Trump.” Five people died.

“They truly believed that the whole intrusion was at the president’s orders,” said Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado. “The president told them to be there.”

Trump trial video unveils scope of US Capitol riot

Trump’s lawyers will launch their defense on Friday, and the trial could wrap by weekend.

At the White House, President Joe Biden said he believed “some minds may be changed” after senators saw chilling security video Wednesday of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, including of rioters searching menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.

Biden said he didn’t watch any of the previous day’s proceedings live but later saw news coverage.

This second impeachment trial, on the charge of incitement of insurrection, has echoes of last year’s impeachment over the Ukraine matter, as prosecutors warn senators that left unchecked Trump poses a danger to the civic order. Even out of office, the former president holds influence over large swaths of voters.

The prosecutors on Thursday drew a direct line from his repeated comments condoning and even celebrating violence — praising “both sides” after the 2017 outbreak at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and urging his rally crowd last month to go to the Capitol and fight for his presidency.

“There’s a pattern staring us in the face,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead prosecutor.

“When Donald Trump tells the crowd as he did on January 6 to fight like hell, or you won’t have a country anymore. He meant for them to fight like hell.”

Trump lawyers will argue later this week that his words were protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment and just a figure of speech.

Though most of the Senate jurors seem to have made up their minds, making Trump’s acquittal likely, the never-before-seen audio and video released Wednesday is now a key exhibit in Trump’s impeachment trial as lawmakers prosecuting the case argue Trump should be convicted of inciting the siege.

Senators sat riveted as the jarring video played in the chamber. Senators shook their heads, folded their arms and furrowed their brow. Screams from the audio and video filled the Senate chamber. Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma bent his head at one point, another GOP colleague putting his hand on his arm in comfort.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, saw himself in the footage, dashing down a hallway to avoid the mob. Romney said he hadn’t realized that officer Eugene Goodman, who has been praised as a hero for luring rioters away from the Senate doors, had been the one to direct him to safety.

“That was overwhelmingly distressing and emotional,” he said.

Videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, but the graphic compilation shown to senators Wednesday amounted to a more complete narrative, a moment-by-moment retelling of one of the nation’s most alarming days. In addition to the evident chaos and danger, it offered fresh details on the attackers, scenes of police heroism and cries of distress. And it underscored how dangerously close the rioters came to the nation’s leaders, shifting the focus of the trial from an academic debate about the Constitution to a raw retelling of the assault.

The footage showed the mob smashing into the building, rioters engaging in hand-to-hand combat with police and audio of Capitol police officers pleading for back-up. Rioters were seen roaming the halls chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” and eerily singing out “Where’s Nancy?” in search for Pelosi.

Pence, who had been presiding over a session to certify Biden’s election victory over Trump — thus earning Trump’s censure — was shown being rushed to safety, where he sheltered in an office with his family just 100 feet from the rioters. Pelosi was seen being evacuated from the complex as her staff hid behind doors in her suite of offices.

“President Trump put a target on their backs and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down,” said House prosecutor Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic delegate representing the Virgin Islands.

The goal of the presentation was to cast Trump not as an innocent bystander but rather as the “inciter in chief” who spent months spreading falsehoods about the election.

“This attack never would have happened, but for Donald Trump,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, one of the impeachment managers, said as she choked back emotion. “And so they came, draped in Trump’s flag, and used our flag, the American flag, to batter and to bludgeon.”

The Trump legal team takes the floor Friday and Saturday for up to 16 hours to lay out its defense. The difficulty facing Trump’s defense became apparent at the start as his lawyers leaned on the process of the trial, unlike any other, rather than the substance of the case against the former president.

Trump’s lawyers are likely to blame the rioters themselves for the violence.

The first president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office, Trump is also the first to be twice impeached.

His lawyers also say he cannot be convicted because he is already gone from the White House. Even though the Senate rejected that argument in Tuesday’s vote to proceed to the trial, the legal issue could resonate with Senate Republicans eager to acquit Trump without being seen as condoning his behavior.

While six Republicans joined with Democrats to vote to proceed with the trial on Tuesday, the 56-44 vote was far from the two-thirds threshold of 67 votes needed for conviction.

Minds did not seem to be changing Wednesday, even after senators watched the graphic video.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who was among those leading the effort to challenge the Electoral College tally, said, “The president’s rhetoric is at times overheated, but this is not a referendum on whether you agree with everything the president says or tweets.”

It appears unlikely that the House prosecutors will call witnesses, and Trump has declined a request to testify.

Trump’s second impeachment trial is expected to diverge from the lengthy, complicated affair of a year ago. In that case, Trump was charged with having privately pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, then a Democratic rival for the presidency.

The Democratic-led House impeached the president swiftly, one week after the attack.

WATCH: Rep. Neguse’s Powerful Impeachment Case at Trump’s 2nd Trial

Watch: Trump’s Historic Second Impeachment Trial Underway | NBC Nightly News

Trump’s historic 2nd trial opens with jarring video of siege

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats opened Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial Tuesday by showing the former president whipping up a rally crowd to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” against his reelection defeat, followed by graphic video of the deadly attack on Congress that came soon after.

The lead House prosecutor told senators the case would present “cold, hard facts” against Trump, who is charged with inciting the mob siege of the Capitol to overturn the election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden. Senators sitting as jurors, many who themselves fled for safety that day, watched the jarring video of Trump supporters battling past police to storm the halls, Trump flags waving.

“That’s a high crime and misdemeanor,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., in opening remarks. “If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing.”

Trump is the first president to face impeachment charges after leaving office and the first to be twice impeached . The Capitol siege stunned the world as hundreds of rioters ransacked the building to try to stop the certification of Biden’s victory, a domestic attack on the nation’s seat of government unlike any in its history. Five people died.

Acquittal is likely, but the trial will test the nation’s attitude toward his brand of presidential power, the Democrats’ resolve in pursuing him, and the loyalty of Trump’s Republican allies defending him.

Trump’s lawyers are insisting that he is not guilty of the sole charge of “incitement of insurrection,” his fiery words just a figure of speech as he encouraged a rally crowd to “fight like hell” for his presidency. But prosecutors say he “has no good defense” and they promise new evidence.

Security remained extremely tight at the Capitol on Tuesday, a changed place after the attack, fenced off with razor wire with armed National Guard troops on patrol. The nine House managers walked across the shuttered building to prosecute the case before the Senate.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would not be watching the trial of his predecessor.

With senators gathered as the court of impeachment, sworn to deliver “impartial justice,” the trial was starting with debate and a vote over whether it’s constitutionally permissible to prosecute Trump after he is no longer in the White House.

Trump’s defense team has focused on the question of constitutionality, which could resonate with Republicans eager to acquit Trump without being seen as condoning his behavior.

Lead lawyer Bruce Castor said that no member of the former president’s defense team would do anything but condemn the violence of the “repugnant” attack, and “in the strongest possible way denounce the rioters.”

Yet Trump’s attorney appealed to the senators as “patriots first,” and encouraged them to be “cool headed” as they assess the arguments.

At one pivotal point, Raskin told the personal story of bringing his family to the Capitol the day of the riot, to witness the certification of the Electoral College vote, only to have his daughter and son-in-law hiding in an office, fearing for their lives.

“Senators, this cannot be our future,” Raskin said through tears. “This cannot be the future of America.”

The House prosecutors argued there is no “January exception” for a president on his way out the door. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., referred to the corruption case of William Belknap, a war secretary in the Grant administration, who was impeached, tried and ultimately acquitted by the Senate after leaving office.

“President Trump was not impeached for run of the mill corruption, misconduct. He was impeached for inciting a violent insurrection – an insurrection where people died, in this building,” Neguse said. If Congress stands by, he said, “it would invite future presidents to use their power without any fear of accountability.”

It appears unlikely that the House prosecutors will call witnesses, in part because the senators were witnesses themselves. At his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, Trump has declined a request to testify.

Trump’s defense team has said it plans to counter with its own cache of videos of Democratic politicians making fiery speeches. “We have some videos up our sleeve,” senior Trump adviser Jason Miller said on a podcast Monday.

Presidential impeachment trials have been conducted only three times before, leading to acquittals for Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and then Trump last year.

Full Coverage: Trump impeachment trial
Timothy Naftali, a clinical associate professor at New York University and an expert on impeachment, said in an interview, “This trial is one way of having that difficult national conversation about the difference between dissent and insurrection.”

The first test Tuesday was to be on a vote on the constitutionality of the trial, signaling attitudes in the Senate. The chamber is divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with a two-thirds vote, 67 senators, required for conviction.

A similar question was posed late last month, when Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky forced a vote to set aside the trial because Trump was no longer in office. At that time, 45 Republicans voted in favor of Paul’s measure. Just five Republicans joined with Democrats to pursue the trial: Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, senators were allowed to spread out, including in the “marble room” just off the Senate floor, where proceedings are shown on TV, or even in the public galleries above the chamber. Most were at their desks on the opening day, however.

Presiding was not the chief justice of the United States, as in previous presidential impeachment trials, but the chamber’s senior-most member of the majority party, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Under an agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the substantive opening arguments will begin at noon Wednesday, with up to 16 hours per side for presentations. The trial is expected to continue into the weekend.

In filings, lawyers for the former president lobbed a wide-ranging attack against the House case, suggesting Trump was simply exercising his First Amendment rights and dismissing the trial as “political theater” on the same Senate floor invaded by the mob.

House impeachment managers, in their own filings, assert that Trump “betrayed the American people” and has no valid excuse or defense.

Trump’s second impeachment trial is expected to diverge from the lengthy, complicated affair of a year ago. In that case, Trump was charged with having privately pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, then a Democratic rival for the presidency.

This time, Trump’s “stop the steal” rally rhetoric and the storming of the Capitol played out for the world to see.

The Democratic-led House impeached the president swiftly, one week after the attack. Five people died, including a woman shot by police inside the building and a police officer who died the next day of his injuries.

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