On Saturday, the U.S. Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump. The vote was 57-43. Seven Republicans joined all 50 Democrat senators to convict. It was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in our nation’s history.
There were a couple of surprises: North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (North Carolina) and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy voted to convict. Neither had announced their intent to do so before the vote. They joined Sens. Romney (Utah), Murkowski (Alaska), Collins (Maine), Sasse (Nebraska), and Tomey (Pennsylvania).
Burr and Tomey are retiring from the Senate, so they will not face voters again. Collins, Sasse and Romney are not up in two years, so only one of the seven will face their constituents in 2022. Cassidy was reelected in November 2020 with 60 percent of the vote in conservative Louisiana. Sasse was also reelected in 2020. Murkowski is up for reelection in 2022. Sarah Palin is reportedly considering a primary challenge to Murkowski.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, in a blistering, searing speech after the acquittal, said, “The mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name,” but ultimately, McConnell joined his caucus and voted to acquit because he said the trial to remove was unconstitutional, since Trump was already out of office.
Three observations about the second Trump impeachment:
First, the whole impeachment charade was a farce. How do you remove someone from office who has already left office? If someone quits his job, only an unbalanced boss follows him down the street and yells, “You’re fired!” The Democrats had no constitutional basis for conducting a trial in the Senate and “removing” a former president, but they forged ahead, anyway. Why do they fear Trump so much? Are they so offended by his bombastic, verbose behavior they believe they must protect Americans from him? Are they outraged by his name-calling and insulting of their ranks? If that’s the case, it would seem that is “selective outrage,” because many Democrat members of Congress are more derogatory, melodramatic and theatrical than the former POTUS. The real reason the trial was conducted was to permanently damage Trump’s reputation and derail his planned comeback in four years.
Second, Trump is not going away. Immediately after the acquittal, he released a statement: "It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree. I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.” Instead of being ashamed or contrite, he appears to wear the impeachments as a badge of honor. With a passionate, devout, adoring base, Trump would likely clear a 2024 primary if he enters the race.
Third, it’s not just Democrats who want Trump to go away. As evidenced by the trial vote, many Republicans – elected officials and activists – believe the GOP would be better served if the party moved to the next generation of leaders. Many of those who want him gone want the baton passed to them.
Trump’s real appeal to the American voter was he is an interloper, a trespasser in politics/government. No other U.S. president was more a political outsider than Donald Trump. His existence and continued popularity flies in the face of career politicos in both parties. The country could use more political interlopers.
Personal note: In December 2014, I took a week of my life and knocked hundreds of doors in Shreveport, Louisiana, for then- Congressman Bill Cassidy, who was running against Sen. Mary Landrieu. Cassidy credited the 35-member OKGOP deployment team for his close runoff win. Disappointing that a Republican from a conservative state would vote for an unconstitutional action and more disappointing that I helped get him elected.
Steve Fair is the District 4 Oklahoma Republican Party chair.