Trump was acquitted of the impeachment charges by the US senate because despite the fact that a sizable bipartisan majority of 57-43 found him guilty, the rules require a super majority of at least 67-33 to convict. I am willing to speculate that almost all of them believed him to be guilty of the charge but were scared to convict him for fear of angering Trump and repercussions from his cult followers. So they seized upon the fig leaf that is is unconstitutional to convict someone who is no longer in office, an argument that not only is absurd on its face but was roundly rejected by a large number of legal scholars and was even rejected by a majority senate vote of 56-44 before the trial started.
But of all the Republican weasels, the most weaselly is senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. After voting to acquit on these spurious grounds of unconstitutionality because of a situation that he himself brought about by delaying the trial until after Trump left office, he then makes a blistering statement on the senate floor against Trump.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said on Saturday that Donald Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January – minutes after voting to acquit the former president in his impeachment trial for that very same act.
McConnell, like the Senators who voted in favor of impeachment, was deeply critical of Trump’s conduct leading up to the attack. “They [the mob] did this because they’d been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth because he was angry he lost an election,” McConnell said.
But McConnell argued the Senate could not convict Trump because he had left office before the Senate trial began – a timeline McConnell orchestrated as Senate majority leader after refusing Democrats’ requests to call the Senate into an emergency session in January.
The House impeached Trump for a second time in his final days in office, but McConnell delayed starting the Senate trial until after Joe Biden was sworn in.
Notice that he did not castigate his Republican colleagues who amplified Trump’s ‘wild falsehoods’.
So what is his game? We know that he has no principles, only a lust for power. My own feeling is that he has concluded that Trump is an albatross for the party, that his continued presence will result in Republicans being unable to regain control of the senate in 2022 and make him majority leader again, which is what he wants most dearly. The loss of the two Georgia senate seats was a bellwether. Jane Mayer of The New Yorker has more. (This was written before the impeachment trial.)
“I think McConnell is trying to have it both ways,” Stevens told me. “He absolutely doesn’t want to impeach and convict Trump. It would split his base and cause members of his caucus to face primary challengers.” Stevens contended that McConnell, by signalling his openness to impeachment without committing to convicting Trump, was trying to avoid a meltdown of the Republican Party.
At first, political observers from both parties considered it possible that McConnell was merely using the threat of an impeachment trial as a brushback—a way to hold Trump in line as he left office. Then McConnell directly accused Trump of having “provoked” the mob. Jim Manley, who served as the senior communications adviser to Harry Reid, the former Democratic Majority Leader, told me, “There is no going back now. He has decided to cut his losses, and do what he can to make sure Trump is no longer a threat to the Republican Party.” McConnell and other Republican leaders, Manley suggested, “have gotten as much out of Trump as they can, and it’s now time to make sure Trump is damaged goods.”
So his is a balancing act. He votes to acquit in order to avoid angering too much the Trump cult but his speech is a warning to Trump to not run again and a hint for him to leave the scene. He is gambling that the Trump cult may forget his speech but would never forgive him if he actually voted to convict.
The problem with this strategy is that Trump is driven purely by ego and does not pay any heed to signals that he does not like. Whatever McConnell says will not influence Trump’s decisions. McConnell and other Republicans have fed and nurtured a deranged tiger in order to attack their opponents but that tiger is now biting the hands that fed it.
I feel this is unfair to weasels.
johnson catman says
The US would have been MUCH better off had the republicans voted to convict, then voted further to ban The Orange Toddler-Tyrant from ever running for political office again. As it stands, he is allowed to fuck the system even more and stoke the angry mob continuously.
One hopes that the Reaper and a lifetime of burger abuse steps in to prevent Trump from standing in 2024, where an impeachment vote didn’t do it.
Or prison. Prison’s good too. Well, I mean, it’s not. Certainly not the way the US does it. But it would be a good way to stop Trump from standing for office again. Unless convicted criminals serving prison sentences are still eligible to run for office over there? They’re not, are they? Are they?
I thought you only need 50% (Dems) to ban The Orange Toddler-Tyrant from ever running for political office again. Have they voted on that?
McConnell would love them to do it for him.
First, the Trump base will never hear McConnell’s speech. So McConnell can sound the horn of denunciation for the political tuned-in to hear without any fear. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fox News doesn’t even mention McConnell’s remarks.
A vote on the other hand, that would be noticed.
@4, The ban from office was only possible if the senate voted to convict Trump of the wrongdoing found during impeachment.
Marcus Ranum says
I don’t buy the “republicans are scared of trump voters” line. They’re not scared of anything -- that’s why they do what they do. If they were going to be scared of anything, it would be regular voters, rising up and building guillotines. But they’re not -- they know they can summon power and hunker down, whether it’s against Trumpist mobs or We The Angry People. The only thing that scares them is losing the power that they clambered over the corpses of their kin to access.
McConnell acts exactly the way a person with no beliefs except love of power would act. It’s the easy explanation that fits the evidence.
That is also why democrats and progressives should stop complaining about republicans being dishonest or hypocritical. They know and they don’t care -- it’s just about power and nothing else -- complaining about their morals and cowardice is just empty tone-trolling, to them. I mean, seriously, does anyone think Mitch McConnell gives a rats’ ass if someone calls him a coward? He’s entirely comfortable with the rat bastard that he is; he probably thinks its cute. Basically, the entire republican party should be treated as sociopaths: ignore what they say and struggle to disempower them and put them away in nice safe places they can’t get out of. That, by the way, is the biggest nightmare of the powerful -- not being ripped to bits by a mob -- but being insignificant. Hitler blew his own head off rather than confront disempowerment. Does anyone for a second think he was worried at any point whether someone might think he was afraid? Neither does Mitch McConnell.
Shawn Smith says
Eugene V. Debs ran for president from prison in 1920 after being convicted under the sedition act of 1918 and being sentenced to 10 years, so felony conviction is no barrier to running for president (and getting ~3% of the popular vote).
Unless convicted criminals serving prison sentences are still eligible to run for office over there?
I think it may be possible. Often they cannot vote but they may be able to run for office.
I guess I just don’t understand the desire for power. The only power I want is to live comfortably and have enough resources to do things I’m interested in doing.
I’ve been doing a bit of thinking on this recently, and I realize that I don’t understand it.
What power are these people looking for? The power to command other people? Is this a status thing? Do these people need others to look up to them, or to feel superior to other people? Altemeyer’s book describes the authoritarian mindset, that many people are looking to leaders to tell them what to do. And Altemeyer spends some time describing what happens when an authoritarian gets into power, i.e. they look to their followers for ideas and objectives because that’s how they stay in power.
So in that sense I understand why McConnell does what he does. McConnell may not care about any of the issues his base does. But he pushes for the actions his base tells him they want on these issues, even if those actions hurt other people tremendously. But I understand this in a rational, not visceral, way.
McConnell, and a lot of senators, could leave the senate today and live comfortably for the rest of their lives. There are probably some senators who have not become wealthy yet, but McConnell has. I can’t believe that simply adding to his net worth is much of a motivation for McConnell. If it was he could leave the senate tomorrow and get a far more lucrative lobbying gig. He’s got as much status as he’s ever likely to get. Being the retired Majority Leader of the US Senate would get you preferential treatment in most places. I can’t even believe that he cares all that much about appointing republican judges, he must know that many Federalist Society vetted judges get less conservative the longer they are on the bench.
So what drives him (or others) to remain in power? What drives people to aim for those positions in the first place? Is it, as Marcus suggests, simply sociopathy? Or some other mental quirk where his self-worth and identity are so bound up in his position that he can’t imagine being anything else? If that’s the case, it’s not the power that’s important but the need to be in that position. But McConnell himself has said he likes the power. The power to do what? He apparently uses it mainly to frustrate and annoy other people, to prevent other people from reaching their goals. He doesn’t appear to consider of how the goals of others will help or hinder society, it is enough for him to thwart others.
I guess I just don’t understand the desire for power.
TGAP Dad says
McConnell always comes out with a powerfully worded statement after it’s too late to be meaningful. It’s his way; it’s how he got elected.To call him a weasel is to sully the reputation of weasels.
Marcus Ranum says
Epicurus says love of power is an error. People want safety and comfort and see power as the means to the end. But then they get confused because there is actually no amount of wealth or power that guarantees safety -- and the person confuses the objective and is trapped in an insatiable loop.
Epicurus’ explanation omits sadists, sociopaths, and psychopaths. That is another long complex discussion and I don’t want to disagree with Epicurus, who I think basically nailed it.
I think Mike the Mad Biologist is right to think of the aquital as jury nullification. The senators who voted not guilty just thought that the Constitution shouldn’t apply to Trump.
Maybe, maybe not. I’ve often thought that the one-percenters think of wealth as a zero sum game. They’re interested in relative wealth, not absolute wealth. They want to be richer than you and me. It’s their only source of self-esteem.
For then rich, wealth is just a means of keeping score. Gamers chasing the high score never think “OK, that’s high enough”, so why should they?
The Soviet Union and the USA. Two completely different systems.
In the Soviet Union the show trials convicted the innocent, in the USA the show trial aquitted the guilty.
Some Old Programmer says
My understanding is that the proposal was to invoke the 14th amendment. Last I heard, the Dems weren’t going to do that. Not sure why.
@6 Marcus Ranum
Mitch is also trying to get the law in KY changed so that the Democratic Governor won’t get to appoint a replacement for a senator that leaves office. That suggests that Mitch is seriously thinking about leaving. For a lot of powerful politicians when the reach the point they want or have to leave office they suddenly start thinking about their legacy. They don’t want to be remembered as a corrupt bastard or as a failure.
I suspect that Mitch plans to retire in 2022 if the GOP doesn’t retake the house because he doesn’t want to deal with being minority leader any more. If that happens, he wants Trump to take the blame for the Republicans being a minority, not him, other Republicans or Republican policy.
consciousness razor says
Perhaps they would prefer to have a split Republican party. If Trump were still eligible to run, he’s likely to do so. And not doing so says to them “you made your bed, now you have lie in it.”
However, if Dems really forced the issue, ensuring that the Republicans wouldn’t have to face those consequences, then they won’t have to face them. In some ways at least, that makes things easier for them.
I’m not saying this is right. They still have a duty to serve their country, even if it costs them. But it’s an argument which might be convincing to some.
consciousness razor says
“And not doing so”
Sorry, that may have been confusing. That means if Dems don’t invoke the 14th amendment to prevent Trump from running again.
The point is, Republicans don’t have much of a choice to make, if we decide to make it for them. And they do often make terrible choices.
Does the senate gave no mechanism to hold McConnel to account for contempt of the senate? After all they had decided on thw constitutionality of the trial. As a senator he must be bound by tha r decision or there is only anarchy.
John Morales says
DanDare, it would not matter, much the same thing.
Basically, votes are partisan, and so anything requiring a supermajority just won’t happen. Simple as that.