Impeachment acquittal proves the Republican Party is guilty
President Donald Trump hugs Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Republican Senate leader's sham trial proves the entire GOP is complicit in Trump's crimes. | Susan Walsh / AP

Before the impeachment trial even began, the Republican leadership in the Senate made clear that the whole affair would be a sham. Evidence and witness testimony? Hearsay. The reports from the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees’ extensive investigations? Irrelevant. The “transcript” of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky? A “perfect” call. In short, the verdict was in before the charges were even read.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—prior to the House even voting to impeach—declared, “I’m not an impartial juror.” In a criminal court, such a statement would get a person tossed from the jury pool. But in the GOP-controlled upper chamber, it was a signal that Republicans had no intention of even pretending they would follow the rule of law.

President Donald Trump would be acquitted of the charges against him—abuse of power and obstruction of Congress—regardless of what the truth might be. From McConnell’s initial declaration, to the blockade on witnesses, and right up to the final vote to let Trump off the hook, this trial has proven that the entire Republican Party is guilty.

Guilty of allowing an autocrat to use his office for personal political and financial gain.

Guilty of abetting an authoritarian’s attempt to subvert the U.S. Constitution and destroy democracy.

Guilty of keeping a racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant, homophobic, and Islamophobic representative of the extreme right in the highest office in the land.

Guilty of absolving a white supremacist who has repeatedly denigrated Black and Muslim elected officials, locked migrant children in cages, banned the populations of entire countries from entering the U.S., and stolen public money for his pet border wall project.

Guilty of leaving the authority to wage war in the hands of a trigger-happy man constantly compelled to brag about the size and power of his guns and missiles.

Guilty of selling out the interests of working-class Americans in exchange for a mobster-president’s promises of tax cuts, military spending, sops for an Evangelical base, and giveaways to the corporate capitalist class.

If you were to scour today’s crop of Republican elected officials at the national level in hope of finding even one person of principle who might stand up for democracy, you would come up virtually empty-handed. Even those leading GOP figures who earlier opposed him in 2016—the “never Trumpers” who were supposedly going to shield us from the president’s worst excesses—seem to have gone extinct.

As for the few Republican Senators who looked like they might break with Trump when confronted by the overwhelming avalanche of evidence against him? They have failed to show now that the time has come. Ben Sasse of Nebraska—a vote to acquit. Susan Collins of Maine—a vote to acquit. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee—a vote to acquit. Lisa Markowski of Alaska—a vote to acquit. They are just a few; there are plenty of others. The lone exception? A single vote to convict on abuse of power from Utah’s Mitt Romney.

The Republican Party, though it might have been the very image of a divided, faction-riven organization in 2016, has now wholly surrendered itself to Trumpism. Whether it’s establishment Wall Street types who prefer their tax breaks without the overt racism, big energy investors who only care about gobbling up resources, Evangelicals who zip their lips about Trump’s adultery and alleged rapes, or neoliberal ideologues out to destroy unions and the left—all segments of the ultra-right coalition have gotten something they wanted from this White House. So they’ve set aside their various reservations about the reckless real estate mogul and co-opted themselves to whatever extremist position he might stake out.

And, of course, it’s not just the Senate Republicans, even though they deserve the brunt of criticism at this moment of Trump’s acquittal. His accomplices in the House also outdid themselves over the course of this impeachment, particularly evident in the absurdly despicable performances of Trump-Giuliani cronies like Rep. Devin Nunes.

So, with the outcome of a Trump trial a certainty from the start, was the whole impeachment effort itself all for naught?

Certainly not. When Trump was impeached, that was already a victory for democracy—a check on the almost unfettered power of an imperial president. His legacy as a corrupt and lawless leader is now permanently recorded for history, as is the cowardice of Republican lawmakers.

A man carries a sign saying, “An acquittal is a cover-up,” at a demonstration on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington before the continuation of the impeachment trial of President Trump on Jan. 31. | Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP Images

But beyond that, the impeachment process and all the crimes it exposed have the potential to help mobilize millions to join the movement that can oust Trump and the GOP in 2020. It’s not going to be easy; the far-right spin machine has never ceased in its campaign to convince us that the impeachment was a partisan witch hunt that found no crimes. With an acquittal in hand, expect that effort to ramp up even more. The dirty facts brought out in the open by Trump’s impeachment can’t be hidden away, though.

The U.S. Senate failed the American people. Any objective review of the case against Trump should have resulted in his expulsion from the White House by a vote of 100 to zero. But as we know, that was never going to happen. It’s now up to us—the people—to carry the impeachment to its appropriate conclusion. On Nov. 3, 2020, Donald Trump must be convicted and removed from office.

But it’s not just Trump who’s got to go; every Republican running for Congress deserves the same verdict. If they’re allowed any grip on power, they will sabotage and obstruct the agenda of whatever president comes after Trump. Just like their leader, the Republicans in the Senate and House can’t be left in place to derail progress.

There are more than 150 million registered voters in the United States. That’s a lot of jurors to convince, so there’s no time to let up. Keep making the case, and register more jurors to vote while you’re at it. Tell a co-worker, a friend, a neighbor, a family member: The whole Republican Party is guilty.

Update: This article was updated after publication to reflect the single guilty vote on Count 1: Abuse of Power by Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.


C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.