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A conviction was never going to happen

Last weekend, the second impeachment trial of now former President Donald Trump came to an end.

As with his first, the U.S. Senate voted against conviction, although by a much closer margin as a result of changes from the November elections.

Whether we agree with the results or not, we must also understand that this was a foregone conclusion. Donald Trump was never going to be convicted, not because he is innocent or guilty, but because that’s how the system works.

Impeachments, as with anything else in Washington, D.C., or in every state capital for that matter, are about power…which individual or group has the most of it and what they can do as a result.

There is a process to all of this, as built into our system of government.

The closest example of how the process works (although admittedly, not an apples to apples comparison) is with criminal proceedings. An individual is arrested and charged with a crime. If the alleged crime is serious enough, it goes before a grand jury, which then decides whether there is enough evidence to send the case to a full trial.

That decision is referred to as an indictment.

The indicted individual facing the charges then goes before a judge, sometimes with a jury, and the case is presented. The judge or jury then decides whether the individual is guilty or innocent, based on the evidence presented.

The big difference here is the impeachment process is not a criminal court. It’s all political. It really doesn’t matter whether the person actually did what they are accused of doing. If they have enough allies on the “jury” willing to vote against the case, they can walk away.

In this case, former President Trump was charged with incitement of an insurrection in connection with the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The case was presented to the U.S. House of Representatives (the grand jury, as it were), with a solid Democratic majority, which received evidence and voted in favor of impeaching (indicting) Trump.

The impeachment (which still stands, by the way) was sent to the Senate, which, under the Constitution, acts as the trial jury. With an even split among Democrats and Republicans in the current U.S. Senate, and even with a few Republicans voting in favor of the charges, there never was going to be enough to meet the 60 percent threshold to convict.

We know of at least one individual who voted against the charges — Mitch McConnell — who said afterwards that he felt Trump bared some responsibility for what happened. So, why did he vote against the charges? Because it’s all political. It doesn’t matter if the individual, from an actual legal standpoint, is guilty or not. What matters is what it means for the future of politics in the country…more specifically, what it means for a particular political party.

Some even said it didn’t matter if the former president was guilty. He was no longer in office by the time the case came before the Senate, so they felt it shouldn’t move forward. Others, it was reported by multiple new outlets, didn’t even attend some of the hearings when evidence was being presented.

Now, each political party will use the impeachment trial, as well as the events surrounding it, as ammunition in future political campaigns. They’ll use it to convince the voters the other side is wrong, and they should be allowed to run things instead. That’s what they do.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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