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Trump's 2nd Impeachment Trial Is Over. What Was Accomplished, And What's Next?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK LEAHY: Two-thirds of the senators present not having found him guilty of the charge contained therein. It is therefore ordered and adjudged that the said Donald John Trump be, and he is, hereby acquitted of the charge in said article.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And with that, the fourth Senate impeachment trial in U.S. history and the second for Donald John Trump came to an end. Sixty-seven votes were needed to convict the former president on a single charge of incitement to insurrection. There were 57, including a notable cast by seven Republicans, making it the most bipartisan of any impeachment vote in history. In a statement following the trial, Trump called it yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country. One of the Democrats who argued the case last week joins us now.

Representative Stacey Plaskett, delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, welcome to the program.

STACEY PLASKETT: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: House impeachment managers made their case, but ultimately and expectedly, we should say, this did not sway enough Republican senators. What, in your view, was accomplished with this second impeachment?

PLASKETT: Well, as you said in the introduction, this is the most bipartisan impeachment. And the president received the most votes of guilty of any president in American history. And I think what was also accomplished for history is that we showed what this president did. We showed that there are Americans that will stand up to an individual grasping for power, utilizing hatred and fear to stir up a base of individuals, to Americans to actually storm its own Capitol and try and overthrow our democracy. And that's what was shown through this. Donald Trump will forever be besmirched in history. What he did that day and leading up to January 6 is for all the world and definitely for Americans to see.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me ask you this. It was a surprise yesterday when the Senate voted to call witnesses, and then House impeachment managers dropped that plan instead of just reading into evidence a statement from a Republican lawmaker. Did you want to call witnesses? Wouldn't it have made the case stronger to have people testify under oath, especially regarding the question of what President Trump knew?

PLASKETT: First, let's clear up a technicality. Individuals do not come to the Senate floor, raise their hand and testify. Individuals are depositioned (ph), videotaped. And that tape is then played before the Senate. We had a tremendous and...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That depends on the rules, though.

PLASKETT: No, that is the rule. The rule was decided, and that has always been the rule in the Senate. Individuals do not testify on the Senate floor. Members of Congress testified on the Senate floor and defense counsel as well. At least on our side, our defense attorney was not allowed to speak on the Senate floor. What we did do was we wanted the testimony and the statement of our colleague Jaime Herrera Beutler, who is a tremendous patriot to put herself out there. And we were able to get that. We had no need to call any witnesses at the end of the trial because as all Americans believed at that moment, the evidence was overwhelming.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why reverse course, though, then? Why vote on it and then change your mind?

PLASKETT: We - what we voted on was a two-step process. One was to make a motion that would allow us to have witnesses. And the second motion was to allow for the testimony of Jaime Herrera Beutler.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You were not pressured by Senate Democrats.

PLASKETT: Can I answer?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sure.

PLASKETT: Can I answer?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course.

PLASKETT: Let me finish.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course.

PLASKETT: And what we did was we got that statement that we wanted in the record, and we read it in the record, which would've been what would've happened. It wouldn't have been Jaime Herrera Beutler coming there and testifying before the Senate. It would've been her statement. We were able to get that evidence on the record, and we rested our case.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd also like to bring in - in fact, let me just - did the Senate Democrats pressure you to reverse course at any point? I mean, there has been reporting to suggest that.

PLASKETT: No, we made a decision. We made a decision. And again, it was not a reverse course. We got in what we wanted...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK.

PLASKETT: ...Which was the statement of Jaime Herrera Beutler. And that completed even more so our case. Look.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like...

PLASKETT: The evidence was overwhelming when we closed, and all Americans believe that we had closed our case. I know that people have a lot of angst, and they can't believe that the Senate did what they did. But what we needed were senators - more senators with spines, not more witnesses.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me ask you this. I'd also like to bring in the words of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader. He voted to acquit on a technicality, but he had these words.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: There's no question - none - that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day - no question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just briefly, what are your thoughts on what he said?

PLASKETT: That we proved our case. And it's obvious from his statement that he believed what we said. Mitch McConnell believed it. All of the 100 senators there believed it, but they didn't want those 43 who voted to acquit the president - did so because they were afraid of him, because they were more interested in party and in power than they were in our country and in duty to their Senate oath.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Finally, President Trump essentially saying he's a two-time winner. He beat impeachment twice. Do you think this impeachment leaves him burnished or tarnished politically, in your view?

PLASKETT: I think it leaves him for all history - our children and my grandchildren will see in history that this was the most despicable despot attempting to become a fascist ruler over a country that was founded by - in democracy. And he will forever be tarnished.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Representative Stacey Plaskett, one of the House impeachment managers.

Thank you very much.

PLASKETT: Thank you. You have a great one. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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