Just as predicted, the US Senate acquitted former President Trump in his second impeachment trial. With a final vote of 57-43, the vote to convict Trump fell short by 10 votes. Of the seven who did choose to vote to convict Trump from the Republican side, most had already in some form or fashion expressed support for impeachment.
For the most part, it was once again a questionable show of due process with a largely partisan vote that made the impeachment a simple formality for the Republicans who have chosen to shield Trump. There was a dramatic difference in the way the House impeachment managers framed their case and how Trump's defence team did theirs. While Democrats laid out a thorough case that was aimed as much at the history books as it was at the Republicans, the Trump's defence team was an erratic, rhetoric-charged defence that was very much in keeping with the disposition of their client. All the same, they did gain an acquittal for their client.
While on the surface, one may call this a victory for the former President who has vowed to return to politics in one form or another but there are significant caveats. For one, this impeachment victory does not mean Trump is free from his post-election antics. Not only is he facing more than one potential investigation in Georgia regarding his attempts to overturn a legitimate election, but there is also a reasonable chance of Trump being tried as a regular citizen of the United States. It is interesting to note that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority leader and senior Republican has actually stated his support for such an outcome even though he also voted to acquit Trump. In a statement after the vote, McConnell condemned Trump, holding him responsible for the exact thing that he and his colleagues just let him have a free pass over. He explained his complicated position on the matter by saying he was against the idea of a former President being impeached, a rationale that many in his party have also stuck to as a justification.
But this does give some indication of the complicated relationship of Trump with the Republicans post-election. There are indications that many don't want him back in any political capacity though they would happily and even desperately accept the support of his loyal fanbase. Trump's assertion that he would be back at some point in the future is not likely one that would give Republicans any comfort. Consider that a recent Ipsos poll by Reuters found that 71 per cent of American adults and nearly half of all Republicans believe that Trump is at least partially responsible for causing the riots. But the poll also showed that the desire to convict Trump and keep him out of office is also not consistent throughout the nation with only half of those polled stating that Trump should be punished for his actions. What it says about America aside, there is something to be said for the state of American politics. Despite a general consensus that Trump does hold some degree of responsibility for his actions on January 6, most of the Republicans still defended him for a variety of questionable reasons as they believed that convicting him would destroy electoral chances for their party. Despite the efforts of Democrats to keep the case about Trump, Republican conviction of Trump may have also confirmed their own complicity in the matter. Though, depending on how you see the Democrat presentation of the impeachment case, the Republican Party has already given enough material to the history books regarding their complicity in supporting Trump's extremist tendencies. For some Republicans, this is not a risk they are willing to take. Recent reports suggest that a group of former Republican lawmakers from previous administrations are considering the formation of a third party that will represent the centre-right. This, as supporters of this ideal state, is an attempt to return to principled conservatism that rejects the extremism that Trump has brought to the Republican Party. The history of independent parties in America does not speak well for the chances of such an initiative succeeding though. For now, America can move on to the more immediate challenges it faces now that the impeachment drama is settled. Trump and his potential return is a matter of future concern.