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The Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump on charges of inciting the January 6th insurrection on Saturday. Seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting to convict Trump but the 57-43 vote fell short of the two-third majority required to pass the resolution. Ryan Goodman, NYU Professor of Law and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Just Security joins to discuss the implications of what transpired on the Senate floor.
For more analysis on today's impeachment vote, I was joined by Ryan Goodman, the coeditor of the Just Security blog, as well as the law school at NYU. Ryan, any surprises in today's vote?
There were a couple of surprises for sure, the fact that we got to seven Senate Republicans is significant. Going into this, I think most would have expected around five.
And the other very surprising in a sense, vote, but really a statement was from the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell. Though he voted to acquit, the statement in many respects is even stronger in its condemnation of President Trump than the statement by Senator Schumer.
And then Mitch McConnell kind of turned it back on to the technicalities and justified why he voted the way he did. Now, do you think that leaves an opening for the House or the Senate to come up with some sort of a joint resolution that prevents Donald Trump from ever taking office again?
I think McConnell left that door wide open. In fact, there's even a line in his statement that appears to allude to potential criminal liability on the part of President Trump. So he says that the president is not free of the concerns and free of accountability.
Congress itself has a mechanism which is the 14th Amendment, to bar an individual who has sworn an oath to the Constitution, but has given aid and comfort to an insurrection, to bar that person from serving in public office again. So I think it does actually put that much more in play than we could have otherwise imagined before Mitch McConnell's statement.
There was also a moment today for about an hour and a half, two hours where we were unsure whether witnesses we're going to be called into this process. At the end, they were not. But why did that matter?
So that was a strange set of events that took place this morning where we even had a resolution adopted by the Senate chamber for witnesses and then a very quick reversal and a standing down so that there would be no more witnesses called or no witnesses called at all. And that was a sharp change in the way in which the trial was handled, because we could now be living in a universe in which it would be phase two of the impeachment trial, and the American public would have gotten the opportunity to hear live testimony from actual witnesses. And that didn't happen in the end.
So at the end of the day, it ended up being what most expected, which was no witnesses, but it certainly raised expectations and then dashed a lot of people's expectations or people on the reverse side dashed their concerns and then raised their concerns. So it was a very bizarre, topsy-turvy morning.
Was the entire exercise worth it in terms of that the vote was almost predestined. We had a good idea that we weren't going to get to the 66 Senate threshold that was necessary to find the president guilty. Were the last couple of weeks good for the country, for just the Democratic Party?
I think that's a great question.
So the way I see it is that I think it was very good for the country in that we got the record and the events put on trial. And we have a pretty powerful statement by the Senate, which is a strong bipartisan statement on the part of the Senate that President Trump is guilty as charged for inciting an insurrection in our country. And that will be understood now in history.
And another good aspect, I believe, of the trial is another way in which we can defeat the big lie, which is understood as a big lie, the idea that the election was stolen from President Trump. And that's an important, highly important part of public education. So that that was presented by the House managers and the president's lawyers did not try to contest that. And in fact, we now have important public statements from people like Leader McConnell saying that the big lie was just that, a big lie, a true conspiracy perpetrated against many of Trump's supporters by President Trump. And I think that's very important for our country.
And, yes, Mitch McConnell had made a similar statement before, but this is a solemn moment and a speech that he'll be remembered for and a very powerful speech for history.
Ryan Goodman, co editor in chief of the security blog and law school professor at NYU. Thanks so much for joining us.
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