Trump’s journey from election defeat to acquittal in second impeachment trial

Former US President Donald Trump was acquitted Saturday in his second impeachment trial by a Senate vote of 57 to 43, surviving charges that he incited the deadly January 6 assault on the US Capitol by supporters bent on preventing Congress from transferring power to Joe Biden.

Here is a timeline of events leading up to the trial and acquittal:

Election defeat

Despite the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the country, record numbers of Americans turn out to vote in the November 3 election. 

Trump had spent the preceding months warning of election fraud and trying to block mail-in voting, which he feared would massively favor his Democratic opponent Joe Biden. 

Because so many ballots are mailed in, the final results are delayed, though Trump is reportedly furious when conservative channel Fox News declares the traditionally Republican state of Arizona for Biden on election night.

Within days, Trump’s lawyers, led by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, embark on a series of fruitless court cases to challenge the election results.

Biden declared winner

On November 7, Biden is declared the winner after flipping the historically Republican southern state of Georgia. In his acceptance speech that night, he calls for unity and holds out an olive branch to Trump supporters, many of whom believed the outgoing president’s unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen.

“I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance,” Biden said. 

Georgia recounts begin

Under pressure from Trump, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger launches a hand recount of the Georgia ballots that confirms Biden’s win. Trump demands an additional recount, which on December 7 shows Biden won the state by 11,779 votes.

‘Will be wild!’

On December 19, Trump tweets to his 88 million social media followers to come to Washington on January 6, the day Congress is due to convene to confirm the election results in what is normally a symbolic, procedural event, for a “big protest in DC.” 

“Be there, will be wild!” he said.

Trump demands Georgia ‘find’ votes

On January 2, Trump calls Georgia’s election overseer Raffensperger and begs him to find more votes to overturn Biden’s victory. “What I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes,” he says.

Mob storms the Capitol

Vice President Mike Pence releases a statement in which he declines Trump’s unconstitutional demand that he reject the electoral college vote, as Congress gathers in the US Capitol to certify Biden’s victory.

Trump tells a gathering of thousands of angry followers at the White House to march to the Capitol and “fight” for him.

The mob storms the building, causing lawmakers and Pence to flee in fear for their lives. Five people, including a police officer, die in the violence. After police and the National Guard restore order, Congress reconvenes and confirms the result. 

Twitter ban

On January 8, Twitter, the defeated president’s favorite channel for communicating with his followers, bans him from the platform indefinitely.

Second impeachment

On January 13, the House of Representatives impeaches Trump on grounds that he incited the insurrection. Ten Republicans vote with Democrats to back the motion. 

On January 20, Biden is inaugurated in front of the Capitol. Trump breaks with precedent and refuses to attend, instead flying to his Mar-A-Lago golf resort in Florida.

Trump’s second impeachment trial begins on February 9 in the 100-seat Senate, with its members — witnesses to the mayhem — serving as jurors.

Jamie Raskin, the chief of the nine House members serving as prosecutors, calls Trump the “inciter in chief” for his role in stirring and encouraging the insurrection. 

The prosecutors give a detailed presentation featuring Trump remarks and tweets and video of the riot, including never before seen footage in which lawmakers are seen fleeing to safety as Trump supporters run amok and hunt down Democratic legislators.

‘Practically and morally responsible’

Trump defense lawyers Bruce Castor and David Schoen argue the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office, and dismiss the proceedings as an exercise in political vengeance.

On February 13 the Senate acquits Trump by a vote of 57 to 43, failing to muster the 17 Republicans that the prosecution needed to convict the former president.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell votes to acquit, embracing the unconstitutionality argument, but later excoriates Trump for his behavior on January 6.

“There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said.

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