The Trial of Teflon Don(ald)
Updated: Feb 26, 2021
Valentine’s Day, 2021- the world faced collective and crushing heartbreak as Donald Trump was acquitted in his second impeachment trial. It seemed unthinkable that, after four years of the most destructive presidency imaginable, Trump’s sole punishment is a permanent ban from social media.
His role in the Capitol riots should have been the last straw, the last act of fractious hatred that Trump would ever encourage his supporters to engage in, and his impeachment would have solidified the impropriety and unacceptability of this level of violent extremism. However, his loyal band of Republican allies hampered proceedings from the very beginning. The Senate needed a two-thirds majority (67 votes) in order to find him guilty, however the 57-43 vote saw Trump essentially get off scot free.
Trump’s defence team argued that impeaching him after he’d left the office of President was an "unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance", garnering support for this assertion from Justice Michael Luttig, a veteran Appeals Circuit judge. However, the impeachment process was deemed constitutional, with a mere six Republicans (including Mitt Romney) joining with Democrats to support this stance. The trial proceeded as planned.
Senators gave passionate and moving statements, with Mitch McConnell (otherwise known as Trump’s lapdog) going so far as to state that Trump was guilty of a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and was “practically, and morally, responsible for provoking the events of the day”- yet McConnell still voted ‘not guilty’. Why preface a not guilty vote with such bold rhetoric?? Perhaps because he is more than aware of Trump’s wrongdoing and moral culpability, he’s just unwillingly to take decisive action against it.
As a result of his acquittal, there has been much scholarly debate surrounding the efficacy of the impeachment process- if inciting insurrection isn’t enough for a guilty verdict, how badly does a President have to behave before that behaviour lands them in front of the Senate, to be completely stripped of their entitlements? Moreover, does the law even remotely factor into the impeachment process anymore? It would appear to be nothing more than a political point-scoring exercise as opposed to a legitimate legal challenge. The limited and vague nature of the language surrounding impeachment has resulted in varied interpretations over the years.
It’s now easier than ever to understand why Trump has earned the moniker ‘Teflon Don’, presumably a nod towards Reagan, who was nicknamed the Teflon President because nothing would ever stick- Trump proved over four years that, not only can he do whatever the hell takes his fancy, he will, and there’s not a soul alive who can stop him.