WASHINGTON: Senators are poised to vote on whether Donald Trump will be held accountable for inciting the horrific attack at the Capitol after a speedy trial that laid bare the violence and danger to their own lives and the fragility of the nation’s tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power.
Barely a month since the deadly riot, closing arguments are set for the historic impeachment trial as senators arrive for a rare Saturday session, all under the watch of armed National Guard troops still guarding the iconic building.
The outcome of the quick, raw and emotional proceedings are expected to reflect a nation divided over the former president and the future of his brand of politics in America.
Whats important about this trial is that its really aimed to some extent at Donald Trump, but its more aimed at some president we dont even know 20 years from now, said Sen. Angus King, the independent from Maine, weighing his vote.
The nearly weeklong trial has been delivering a grim and graphic narrative of the Jan. 6 riot and its consequences for the nation in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.
Acquittal is expected in the evenly-divided Senate, a verdict that could heavily influence not only Trumps political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors as they cast their votes.
House prosecutors have argued that Trump’s rallying cry to go to the Capitol and fight like hell for his presidency just as Congress was convening Jan. 6 to certify Joe Bidens election was part an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.
The defense attorneys countered in a short three hours Friday that Trump’s words were not intended to incite the violence and impeachment is nothing but a witch hunt designed to prevent him from serving in office again.
Only by watching the graphic videos rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the vote tally did senators say they began to understand just how perilously close the country came to chaos. Hundreds of rioters stormed into the building, taking over the Senate and some engaging in hand-to-hand, bloody combat with police.
While it is unlikely the Senate would be able to mount the two-thirds vote needed to convict, several senators appear to be still weighing their vote. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will be widely watched for cues, but he is not pressuring his GOP side of the aisle and is telling senators to vote their conscience.