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posted Friday, February 19, 2021 - Volume 40 Issue 08
Trump acquitted in Senate, but could still be held responsible for inciting insurrection
Section One
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Trump acquitted in Senate, but could still be held responsible for inciting insurrection

by Paige McGlauflin - SGN Contributing Writer

Former President Donald Trump has been acquitted of inciting insurrection following a five-day trial in the Senate, but he could still be held responsible in criminal investigations.

Despite 57 senators having voted to convict Trump of his involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, including seven Republicans who broke party lines, the Constitution requires a 67-vote supermajority for a successful conviction.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll, conducted Feb. 13-14, found that 58% of Americans (with a margin of error of +/- 4.8%) believe Trump should have been convicted. The refusal of most Republican senators to find Trump guilty on Saturday was condemned by several Senate Democrats, including Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who said her colleagues across the aisle "chose fear instead of justice."

"I want to assure everyone in Washington state and across the country that I will never let fear or intimidation stop me from doing my duty to you and to our nation," Sen. Murray said in a statement Saturday. "I will continue working every day in the Senate, using my words and my vote, to stand up for our democracy and secure a fairer and brighter future for our state and our country."

The acquittal formally declined to find Trump responsible for the riots that left five dead, and the failure of both houses of Congress to convict Trump allows him to seek federal office in the future.

Despite voting to acquit Trump of the charges, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said court proceedings were more appropriate avenues than a Senate conviction.

"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run," McConnell said after the vote on Saturday. "He didn't get away with anything yet."

There are still several possibilities that Trump could be found responsible for inciting insurrection by Congress or federal and state courts. Some avenues, like a censure from Congress, are less likely to happen than criminal indictments.

The idea of a censure vote has been floated in the Senate, including from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) but was ultimately dropped due to a lack of support. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also dismissed the idea of censuring Trump, calling it "a slap in the face of the Constitution."

"We censure people for using stationery for the wrong purpose," Speaker Pelosi said at a House press conference following the Senate vote. "We don't censure people for inciting insurrection that kills people in the Capitol."

Trump and his team remain at risk of being found responsible for the insurrection in criminal investigations. The Justice Department, led by Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, has begun investigating what transpired Jan. 6 and those who may be responsible for the riots.

In the days following the Jan. 6 riots, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine announced his office was considering looking into Trump's involvement in the insurrection as well. Racine's investigations would be limited to local codes in the District, meaning most of the prosecutions would fall under the Justice Department.

Trump and his team are already facing civil suits alleging involvement in the Capitol riots. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) was named as the plaintiff in a suit against Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani filed in the US District court in Washington, DC on Tuesday.

Possibilities of criminal prosecutions extend beyond the January events at the Capitol, too. Trump is facing more possible indictments in the District of Columbia, as well as in New York and Georgia.

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