The official determination of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial was “acquittal.” That may go down as one of the more unconscionable euphemisms ever. “Betrayal” is more accurate when democracy has been attacked and undermined without the ultimate consequence. With seven exceptions, spineless Senate Republicans made sure Trump wasn’t convicted for fomenting an insurrection that took five lives, injured and traumatized hundreds and irreparably damaged America’s global reputation. These Vichy Republicans claimed a post-presidency, constitutional rationale that most legal scholars have dismissed. They parsed wording and cited First Amendment license over “fight,” as if Trump did no more than engage in a rhetorical flourish on Jan. 6. And, yes, you cannot have a meaningful “trial” if “jurors” are career-first, Trump enablers.
But it was still worth it. An inflection point for democracy required no less. Accountability and precedent matter. A signal was sent that even if you trash America’s ideals on the way out—with election-fraud lies and insurrection incitement—you can at least be impeached. The non-Trumpster majority noticed—as will history. Speaking of, the beleaguered legacies of James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson got a boost with the fitting end of the administration of the worst president in U.S. history.
And for those of us who can’t wait for history’s indictment, we can be assured that legal scenarios are still in the here-and-now mix. The state of Georgia and the Southern District of New York are waiting in the criminal wings.