Big surprise, Donald Trump still sits as President of the United States.
The American Senate acquitted Trump Wednesday evening on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress articles of impeachment. Had he been convicted, Trump would have been removed from office.
But the Republican-controlled Senate held firm, voting mostly along party lines that Trump was not guilty of the two impeachment articles.
Geoffrey Booth, a political science teacher at Georgian College for more than 20 years, said the truth came out during the trial, but either nobody noticed or nobody cared.
“I think the truth lost here because what that verdict says is that the truth has less value than being loyal to Trump, or any politician, for that matter,” he said. “It’s a very different story than back in the (President Richard) Nixon era (in 1974). Basically, when confronted with the evidence, Senators said ‘the party can’t support you, you’re done’.
“Now it’s like the evidence is out, ‘oh well, he really didn’t do anything wrong.’ That’s kind of the narrative.”
Trump was acquitted of the abuse of power impeachment article by a 52-48 count, although Republican Sen. Mitt Romney cast a guilty vote. The vote was 53-47 against the obstruction of Congress’ impeachment article. A two-thirds or 67-vote majority was needed to convict Trump.
These results were basically known, however, since Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives last December.
“It’s a sad statement that he beats the impeachment and really, has anything changed?” Booth said. “Is the American public outraged, are they going to throw him out of office in the fall (the 2020 presidential election). I don’t think so.
“(House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi tears up his (Trump’s State of the Union) speech on national television, right behind him, and nobody cares.”
It’s also questionable whether Trump’s Senate trial could be called fair.
During approximately 16 hours of questioning Jan. 29-30, House impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers fielded questions from senators submitted to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. The trial resumed Jan. 31, with arguments to allow witnesses and new documents. One such witness is former national security advisor John R. Bolton; Democrats have said he could provide crucial new information.
But that vote lost 51-49; all 51 votes against new witnesses and documents were Republican.
“Trump is basically saying ‘yes I did it, and what are you going to do about it?’” Booth said. “And that kind of taunt is perfectly acceptable in American political parlance these days.
“Longer-term damage he’s done to truth, justice, political morality, any of those sorts of things, are not part of the conversation anymore. I think that’s the most dangerous precedent this sets. It should alarm us if we care about the foundations of democracy, but it’s just part of a larger trend.”
Booth says his only hope for change following the impeachment trial is that American voters wake up to how a second-term Trump presidency will look – more of the same, but probably more potent.
And he’s not optimistic the lesson has been learned.
“Getting acquitted in a trial which is supposed to be, for every American who is watching this, is supposed to be about the truth, and justice and the American way, and it’s none of that. None of that seems to have mattered here. It’s just about winning,” Booth said.
“There is no right or wrong. It’s just about who has power.”
Trump faced two articles of impeachment in his Senate trial.
Abuse of power, in the context of impeachment, means using the powers of the U.S. presidency for personal gain. It’s not specifically listed as an impeachable offence in the American Constitution but is thought to be covered in ’treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours’ – for which a president can be removed for office.
Trump is accused of abusing his power during a July 25, 2019 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The U.S. president asked for a favour – investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter for corruption, while withholding nearly $400 million in American military aid, which was directed by Congress, needed to counter Russian aggression.
The obstructing Congress charge was levelled because Trump stonewalled the House impeachment inquiry, by refusing to provide documents to congressional investigators and instructing top advisors and government officials to ignore and refuse to testify.
The White House said the Constitution doesn’t require senior presidential advisers to testimony before Congress. But a judge rejected that argument Nov. 25, 2019.
And contempt of Congress is a misdemeanour crime under U.S. law, which defines the offence as wilfully failing to provide testimony or documents to Congress.
Bill Clinton was the last U.S. president impeached by the House, in 1998, but as with President Andrew Johnson in 1868, the Senate acquitted Clinton. He was impeached for perjury (lying) in his grand jury testimony and obstructing justice in his dealing with various, potential witnesses, all relating to the Monika Lewinsky affair.
Johnson was impeached for his violation of the Tenure of Office Act, which barred the president from removing cabinet officials appointed during his term of office without the Senate’s consent.
Many Americans believe President Richard Nixon resigned from office in 1974 to avoid certain impeachment and removal from office. Late that July, the House Judiciary Committee passed three articles of impeachment against Nixon – obstruction of justice, abuse of power and defiance of subpoenas. All related, in whole or in part, to the Watergate scandal.
When it became apparent he would be impeached in the House, and convicted by the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency Aug. 9, 1974. President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon a month later. It was a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes Nixon might have committed against the United States as its president, relating to Watergate in particular.
A 1915 Supreme Court decision ruled that a pardon carried an ‘imputation of guilt’ and accepting a pardon was ‘an admission of guilt’. The implication was that Nixon accepted his Watergate guilt by accepting Ford’s pardon.