Trump Avoids Capitol Punishment: What’s next?

The most bipartisan impeachment vote in history still fell ten senators short of the require 67 to achieve a conviction. While Democratic condemnation was swift, and Republicans sort to justify their positions, this was the last chapter – or perhaps the last hangover – of former President Trump’s time in office. As one might expect by this point though, that doesn’t mean there is not more drama still to come.

Although they may not have achieved the conviction they may have hoped for, Democratic House Managers – the members of congress in charge of the case for the prosecution – presented damning and shocking evidence, and packaged it in a dramatic (yet accessible) way that will have resonated with millions of Americans watching – this is, after all, prime time viewing in America. The CCTV footage of senators coming within seconds of the mob, or the terrified staffers barricading themselves in to their offices, or the eerie cell phone footage of protesters calling for Nancy Pelosi as they walked down the corridor’s shocked even those who had been following the events more closely the most. To viewers at home the raw emotional hit that will have dented the perception of the Trump brand across large swathes of the population.

All the clarity that viewers at home may now be feeling in terms of who is responsible, whether Mr Trump will face further repercussions on this particular matter remains unclear but is also unlikely. One way in which the Senate could look to censure Mr Trump is to ban him from office using the 14th amendment. This prohibits any person who has effectively gone to war with the union from holding office in the future stop however, most commentators and observers feel that this is unlikely – at least for the time being.

This does not put Mr Trump in the clear though. He faces a seemingly growing number of lawsuits and criminal investigations. Theoretically, he could face criminal charges for his role in inciting the mob should the incoming Attorney General choose to levy them. Indeed, Mr Trump is reportedly worried by such prospects. Several cases are already underway go, and therefore present a more immediate problem for him. During the trial itself Georgia’s attorney general began a criminal investigation into the then president’s call to the Georgia secretary of state, in which Mr Trump asked him to “find” enough votes to help him overturn result. He also faces an investigation from the Manhattan DA into the dealings of both him and his organisation which is exploring possible banking, tax, and insurance fraud. And there is a civil case in New York to. The attorney general there is pursuing an investigation on whether or not the Trump organisation misrepresented the value of its properties. Two defamation cases are also incoming. As a lawsuit from his niece Mary Trump. Even in the UK there is growing pressure on the Scottish government to investigate whether or not the Turnberry golf course may have been used for money laundering – an allegation that came from the enquiry by the House of Representatives into links between Trump and Russia, but one that has always been strenuously denied by the former president. But that’s a $340 million reportedly owed to Deutsche Bank by the Trump organisation, and Mr Trump’s lawyers can expect a full plate.

But this is not just about the future of one man. Regardless of what happens in the courts, there is a country that still needs to be run. Pres Biden’s true decision to keep out of the way impeachment proceedings will likely aid that effort. Of the back of the election’s priority has been to work on the response to COVID-19, and after getting his initial relief bill through the first stages of the Senate last week, he will be looking to get closer to putting into practice.

There is benefit in deciding to “get on with it” too. The Republican Party now finds itself in something of an identity, and even existential crisis is it still grapples to decide on what its own life after Trump should look like. The battle between the so-called “establishment” Republicans and the Trump base is not yet over. If anything, the fact that seven senators voted with Democrats to convict arguably demonstrates that the schism may have become wider still.

Photo credit Geoff Livingstone, CC-BY-NC-ND-2