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Former US President Donald Trump was acquitted for a second time in a historic Senate impeachment trial, but not before he was rebuked by several Republican senators for the January 6 Capitol riots. The final vote was 57 guilty to 43 not guilty, short of the 67 guilty votes needed to convict Trump. Importantly, seven Republican senators joined their Democratic colleagues in finding Trump guilty, highlighting bipartisan consensus about the former president’s actions that led to the right-wing insurrection.
There’s no denying that Trump put out a stream of falsehoods on losing the presidential polls, and openly urged his supporters to march to the US Congress. There’s no way he can escape responsibility for the attack on the seat of US power. However, the Senate vote means that despite being impeached twice, Trump can technically still come back and contest the 2024 presidential polls. In fact, the Senate vote revealed the dilemma that the Republican Party faces with Trump still retaining considerable popularity among the party base.
Meanwhile, the Democrats could have done a better job of calling witnesses for the trial, instead of rushing the process through. In the end they went for a compromise which was never going to be enough. Perhaps President Joe Biden wanted to move on and foster the spirit of Congressional bipartisanship that he thought was needed to tackle Covid and myriad other challenges that America faces. But the failure to convict Trump highlights how divided America remains – repairing those fissures won’t be easy. That is music to the ears of autocrats like China’s Xi Jinping. From Delhi’s point of view, however, US instability and division would be a negative development. Biden did say “America is back”. Delhi badly needs that to happen to balance China’s rise.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.