And now he’s really gone, acquitted under the rules yet condemned by the facts, nursing his grievances and planning his comeback from isolation at Mar-a-Lago. For the country, the question is how to ensure that Donald Trump remains there while the nation tries to recover from the damage he wrought.
Perhaps it was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a character so memorably theatrical in his two-faced behavior that his dialogue might have been penned by Charles Dickens, who best summarized the evidence: “Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty. . . . This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”
The acquittal verdict, bizarre after all the damning facts, was a near-certainty even before arguments were heard, when 44 Republican senators voted against proceeding with the trial, most of them claiming that it was unconstitutional to try a former president. I disagree with that judgment, but I can understand (barely) the argument that convicting a former president might, as McConnell put it, mean “empowering Congress to ban any private citizen from federal office.”