Trump acquitted again; Kentuky's McConnell blasts former President

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Jeff Neal, Commonwealth Journal, Somerset, Ky.
·5 min read
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Feb. 16—Donald Trump became the first U.S. president top be impeached twice.

Over the weekend, he became the first to be acquitted twice by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate acquitted Trump of a charge of "incitement of insurrection" by a 57-43 vote after House prosecutors laid out a case that he was an "inciter in chief" who unleashed a mob by stoking a months-long campaign of spreading rhetoric that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Trump's lawyers countered that Trump's words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment was nothing but a "witch hunt" designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

But even Kentucky's Senate Minority Speaker Mitch McConnell threw much of the blame for the events of January 6 at the U.S. Capitol on Trump — highlighting a lingering split within the GOP.

"January 6th was a disgrace," McConnell said on Sunday. "American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of democratic business they did not like. Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the Vice President.

"They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he'd lost an election," McConnell added. "Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.

"Let me put that to the side for one moment and reiterate something I said weeks ago: There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President," the Kentucky Senator continued. "And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth."

McConnell also took Trump to task for not calling for an end to the violence sooner that day.

"The unconscionable behavior did not end when the violence began," McConnell said. "Whatever our ex-President claims he thought might happen that day... whatever reaction he says he meant to produce... by that afternoon, he was watching the same live television as the rest of the world.

"A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags, and screaming their loyalty to him," McConnell added. "It was obvious that only President Trump could end this. Former aides publicly begged him to do so. Loyal allies frantically called the Administration. But the President did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn't take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed, and order restored. Instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election.

"Even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in danger... even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters... the President sent a further tweet attacking his Vice President," McConnell continued. "Predictably and foreseeably under the circumstances, members of the mob seemed to interpret this as further inspiration to lawlessness and violence.

"Later, even when the President did halfheartedly begin calling for peace, he did not call right away for the riot to end. He did not tell the mob to depart until even later. And even then, with police officers bleeding and broken glass covering Capitol floors, he kept repeating election lies and praising the criminals."

But even with McConnell's strong words on Trump's actions of January 6, he voted against convicting the former President.

" ... Our system of government gave the Senate a specific task. The Constitution gives us a particular role," McConnell said. "This body is not invited to act as the nation's overarching moral tribunal. We are not free to work backward from whether the accused party might personally deserve some kind of punishment.

"If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge," McConnell added. "By the strict criminal standard, the President's speech probably was not incitement. However, in the context of impeachment, the Senate might have decided this was acceptable shorthand for the reckless actions that preceded the riot. But in this case, that question is moot. Because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction."

Somerset's Congressman Hal Rogers has been mum on Trump's role in the January 6 insurrection — but made it clear how he felt about the impeachment proceedings.

"I'm relieved that this misguided attempt to impeach a former U.S. President is over, so we can get back to work for the American people," Rogers said on Sunday. "It's time to move past this Democrat-led debacle and allow the appropriate law enforcement agencies to hold individuals accountable for their violent actions on January 6, so we can take real steps toward unity and a stronger nation."

Bipartisan support appears to be growing for an independent Sept. 11-style commission into the insurrection that took place at the U.S. Capitol.

Investigations into the riot were already planned, with Senate hearings scheduled later this month in the Senate Rules Committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has asked retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré to lead an immediate review of the Capitol's security process.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.