Wounded Washington grapple with divisions following Trump’s impeachment proceedings
© Reuters. The U.S. Capitol is seen through ice-covered branches after the Senate voted for the acquittal of former U.S. President Donald Trump during its impeachment trial in Washington
By Jeff Mason and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump’s acquittal for inciting a fatal attack on the U.S. Capitol deeply divided Democrats and Republicans on Sunday as his Democratic successor Joe Biden attempted to continue his political and economic agenda.
Democrats said they were looking in the courts for possible civil and criminal charges against the former Republican president over the Jan. 6 attack on his supporters that killed five people.
The Senate trial ended Saturday with 57-43 votes in favor of Trump. The vote was bipartisan, with seven Republicans joining Democrats and Independents, but the record fell short of the two-thirds necessary to secure the conviction.
Following the verdict, a broken Republican party battled its way forward, and some senators who voted for a condemnation faced swift backlash in their home states.
Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham (NYSE 🙂 said he spoke with Trump on Saturday night about unifying the Republican Party under his leadership.
“You know, he’s ready to go ahead and rebuild the Republican Party. He’s looking forward to 2022,” Graham told Fox News on Sunday, referring to next year’s congressional election.
But Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the Republicans who found Trump guilty, said on Sunday that he believed more of his constituents would agree with him once the facts emerged. Republican party leaders in Cassidy’s home state of Louisiana voted Saturday to reprimand the senator for his vote.
“I’m trying to hold President Trump accountable … I’m very confident that people will move to this position over time,” Cassidy said on ABC’s This Week when asked about criticism.
Pennsylvania party leader Lawrence Tabas also criticized his Republican Senator Pat Toomey for voting for condemnation.
Some Republicans, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, criticized Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, despite voting to acquit him. McConnell on Saturday condemned the former president as morally responsible for the Capitol attack, but said he did not vote for a condemnation because Trump was no longer in office.
Cassidy declined to say whether Trump should be prosecuted. But Democratic Senator Chris Coons told ABC he thought this could happen.
“I think there is reason for further civil and criminal proceedings against former President Trump,” said Coons.
Coons said the country must set up a 9/11 style commission to investigate the January 6th events. However, he and other Democrats said it was the right decision not to call witnesses in the Senate process. Calling witnesses could have added weeks to the process and even lost some votes to be convicted on the Republican side, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy told CNN.
“Democracy is Fragile”
The attack on the Capitol forced lawmakers to evacuate the chambers of Congress, fearing for their safety, to confirm Biden’s November election victory. Trump falsely claimed he lost him due to widespread election fraud.
Biden, who took office on January 20, appealed to the unit to “heal this civil war and heal the soul of our nation,” saying that every American has a duty and responsibility to defend the truth.
“This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile. That it must always be defended. That we must always be vigilant. That violence and extremism have no place in America,” Biden said in a statement.
While Trump welcomed the acquittal, he described the impeachment and the Senate trial as a “witch hunt”. Trump is the only president in US history to have been charged twice.
House Democratic spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi called Republicans who did not support the condemnation “cowards”.
Biden, who largely stayed out of the fray during the impeachment process, is keen to pass a $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill and have the Senate approve the remaining candidates for his cabinet. However, the legislature’s disagreements are likely to continue.
Republican senators who voted for the conviction also included Richard Burr, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, and Ben Sasse.
Alaska’s Murkowski is the only one of the seven who can be re-elected in 2022. The other six either retire from Congress or their six-year term does not expire this year.
Murkowski posted a defense of their decision on Twitter on Sunday, saying that if Trump’s actions were not worthy of impeachment, “I can’t imagine what is.”
Trump has repeatedly threatened to persecute Republicans who do not support him by supporting opponents in their primaries. On Saturday he said he was thinking about his own political future without giving details.