Over a month after the storming of Capitol Hill, former President Donald J. Trump made history in being the first president to be impeached by Congress and acquitted by the Senate twice. To many Brooklyn College students, the second trial’s relatively partisan outcome for incitement of insurrection was all but surprising.
“It was expected. And I don’t think that people should be surprised that Republicans won’t turn on Trump. It was just something that wouldn’t happen, and if there were a percentage, it would be very, very low,” said David Wray, who identifies as a moderate.
The Senate’s conviction was 10 votes away from the two-thirds majority needed to impeach the former president, with only seven Republican senators joining 50 Democrats to convict. Despite stating that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 insurrection, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted for an acquittal. With the arrival of a new administration headed by president Joe Biden, a BC Democrat student named Yasmin was hopeful that Trump would be held accountable.
“A lot of people were vocally condemning former President Trump, and to see that it was all talk really – it hurt a little, not gonna lie,” said Yasmin. “I thought like there would be accountability for the riots because when you think of your version of what America is and what it stands for – that the reason why people emigrate here – is that nobody is above the law.”
As a daughter of two Bangladeshi immigrants, she found that Trump’s acquittal fell short of America’s promise to not be like the countries that many flee from in the first place.
“We just saw someone incite probably the most violent protest we’ve ever seen. And essentially, get away with it,” said Yasmin. “And there’s no accountability there, so what do you tell immigrant parents and immigrant people that aren’t parents? ‘You left your country for this, and it’s not all that much better’.”
Yasmin finds voting necessary to have a Senate and government that is representative of the people’s interest.
“I don’t know if we can fix the system, but I think we can definitely start having more of our interests represented by being more present and active voters,” said Yasmin.
To Neha, a BC student who identifies as a Democrat, her initial impressions of America’s democracy after emigrating from Pakistan were replaced by fear during Trump’s presidency. Though she had legal documentation to live in the United States, she was worried about facing deportation before becoming a citizen.
“I spent so many years of my life to come here – not to see a government being overthrown by the same person I would’ve maybe feared in my own home, back in my country,” said Neha. Before Trump’s second impeachment, Neha figured that the decision would come down to a “numbers game,” leaving her uninterested in the trial this go around. Both on the right and left sides of the political aisle, partisan ties are part of American politics, she says.
“The jury of this trial were the victims. Can you imagine putting the victim on a jury stand, and yet they are making decisions based on what party they associate themselves with?,” Neha said. She says that if she were on the Senate floor, casting her vote during the impeachment, she would have remained bipartisan in her decision. “From a professional opinion, I would’ve looked at the facts like any other trial,” said Neha.
Though he also opines that politicians stay within their political lines, Wray isn’t as bothered by their biases. He disagrees, however, with Trump’s acquittal, who “under the pretenses of inciting violence” is guilty.
“Politicians are – and I don’t blame them – out for themselves and are selfish. Do I blame them for it? No, I can see why they are,” said Wray. “They want to maintain a certain amount of power and influence. They don’t want to lose it.” To Wray, any investigation, including the first Trump impeachment, is worthy of conducting when any suspicions arise.
“Even if it’s pointless, like with the Russia thing where we spent how much money and nothing came up? That was pointless, but it’s never bad,” said Wray. “If they uncover something then fantastic, if they didn’t then they didn’t.”
With the trial being held against the backdrop of COVID-19 and the national 6.3 percent unemployment rate, student Jordan Ramos believes that Trump’s second impeachment was a “huge waste of time.” Nonetheless, he finds the case’s cause for “inciting an insurrection” a justifiable one, given that many politicians “were nearly killed.”
“There should’ve been much more time talking about the stimulus checks and the various relief programs the US should’ve done for COVID,” said Ramos, who identifies as a Democratic Socialist. “The fact that we tried to impeach a guy that’s already left office – it’s very much like a drama, a bad ABC drama.” Ramos also believes that Democrats pushing for impeachment made a mistake in not bringing witnesses to the impeachment stand.
“Here’s the thing that pisses me off about the second impeachment is that – they had the power to bring on witnesses, but they didn’t,” said Ramos.
Given his acquittal, and ability to rally his supporters, many believe that the second impeachment may not be the end of Trump’s political career. Though Hassane Soumahoro, a BC student who identifies as Independent, is worried about Trump potentially returning in 2024, he remains optimistic about more people of color casting their vote.
“I feel like if a different Republican runs in 2024, I don’t know if people are going to go out full-fledged again like they did in 2020. Maybe we needed a big, bad wolf to vote,” said Soumahoro. He thinks that though Trump is no longer in office, the Senate should have convicted him given his role in “gassing up” the Capitol Hill insurrection.
“You can’t say, ‘If you loot, you get shot.’ Then a riot goes down, and you’re not keeping the same energy,” Soumahoro said. “You’re not really being a good leader at that point, and you’re not really upholding the power of the office.”
Many BC students think Biden’s administration will bring back a “sense of normalcy” post-Trump. However, with Trump supporters’ ongoing support and the possibility of another Trump campaign existing, they will wait to see how the next four years will play out.
“Even now, there are still people who have Trump banners outside. So I’m just curious to see what the next four years have to hold, what he thinks he can do,” said Yasmin.