Adrian Morrow reports on the conclusion of Donald Trump’s most recent impeachment, noting the highlights of the trial, the arguments for and against conviction, and the reasons why the outcome was never really in doubt.
This lesson is designed for secondary level students, who can complete it a bit at a time, if preferred, in groups or as a solo assignment.
Subject Area(s) covered
Social studies, geography, current events
New Terms to explain
Impeachment, bipartisan, insurrection, “big lie”
Access to the article, the Internet
Key things students can learn from this lesson
- Who was impeached, by whom, and on what evidence;
- The key arguments for and against conviction;
- The historical significance of the trial and its outcome.
Action (here’s how we’ll do it)
Students—and teachers—can be forgiven for tuning out the drama generated by Donald Trump over the past five years. However, the trial of Mr. Trump following his second impeachment is historically significant, so this exercise is focused on the key facts. This lesson is also an exercise in reading, comprehension and retention in the form of a media literacy exercise. Students are tasked with reading the article by Adrian Morrow, and then answering the questions following each of the excerpts, below. In some cases they may need to conduct an Internet search for answers.
Donald Trump has been acquitted in his historic second impeachment trial, allowing him to avoid sanction for the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol after a dramatic hearing that unfolded on the scene of his alleged crime.
- What was uniquely historic about this impeachment trial? (All impeachments are historic, but this one was unique)
- What was the alleged crime?
- Does “acquitted” mean Mr. Trump was found to be innocent? If not, what does acquitted mean in this case?
…seven Republicans who voted against Mr. Trump – Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana…
- How many of these Senators will be running for office again in two years? (Note: This is called a “mid term election.” Every two years, half of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate must face the electorate.)
- Why is this fact significant relative to the way they voted in the trial?
It capped a five-day trial in a fortress-like Capitol still protected by National Guard troops and showing the scars of the Jan. 6 riot, the worst attack on the building since the War of 1812.
- Since the insurrection took place a month before Mr. Trump’s trial, why was the Capitol still being guarded by National Guard troops?
- What was Canada’s role in the events in Washington in 1812?
Democratic members of Congress, serving as prosecutors, had argued that the mayhem was the culmination of what they termed Mr. Trump’s “big lie” – that a wide-ranging conspiracy had rigged last year’s election against him.
- Why is Mr. Trump’s lie termed a “big lie” in quotation marks? What is the historical significance of this term?
Democrats had used never-before-seen video footage to reconstruct the attack. They showed the mob beating police officers, smashing up the building, ransacking senators’ desks and coming dangerously close to capturing then-vice president Mike Pence and numerous lawmakers as they fled the Senate and House chambers.
- If you have not seen the footage described, do a search for it and view parts of it. How would you describe what you saw?
In a statement after his acquittal, Mr. Trump was unrepentant.
- What did Mr. Trump say about his acquittal?
President Joe Biden contended that, despite the acquittal, “the substance of the charge is not in dispute,” and Mr. Trump was clearly responsible for the attack on the Capitol.
- Are you surprised that Mr. Biden claimed Mr. Trump was guilty, despite his being acquitted? Why or why not?
When Mr. McCarthy asked Mr. Trump to call off the rioters that day, Ms. Herrera Beutler said, Mr. Trump told him: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
- What is Mr. McCarthy’s position in the US government?
- What is the significance of Mr. Trump’s reported comments to him?
When Congresswoman Liz Cheney led 10 Republican members of the House in voting for impeachment last month, she faced a furious backlash from her voters. A large majority of caucus, however, voted to keep her in a leadership role during a secret ballot.
- What is significant about the “secret ballot” part of that excerpt?
- If the trial had been decided by a secret ballot, do you think the outcome would have been different? Why or why not?
In an email to colleagues Saturday, Mr. McConnell told them he would vote to acquit.
- What reason did Mr. McConnell give to explain his vote?
Mr. Morrow is listed as the U.S. Correspondent in Washington for the Globe and Mail. Do you trust what he reports is accurate, or do you think it’s “fake news”? Why or why not?
Finally, what do you think? Should the Senate have convicted Mr. Trump? Why or why not?
Do you think Mr. Trump will run for the presidency again and, if so, how do you feel about that?
Consolidation of Learning
- When they’ve finished their assignment, students will discuss their work with fellow students, or with their parents/caregivers and note any changes to their answers as a result of the discussion.
- Explain who was impeached, by whom, and on what evidence;
- Describe key arguments for and against conviction;
- Explain the historical significance of the trial and its outcome.
- Students express their knowledgeability about the impeachment as the subject arises, or by successfully completing exam or quiz questions on the subject.
Helpful Internet Searches
- Any Wikipedia source.
Activities to do together
- Research the history of impeachment in the United States
- Conduct a virtual tour of the Capitol, to see where the insurrectionists were rioting