FORT MYERS, Fla. — Southwest Florida is still talking about Former President Donald Trump being acquitted of impeachment crimes. The United States Senate could not reach the two-thirds votes needed to convict Trump for his role in the January 6, 2020 riots at the capitol.
The vote was torn, 57 senators voting to convict and 43 senators voting to acquit Trump on the charge of inciting an insurrection; short of the 67 guilty votes needed.
Southwest Florida's U.S. House of Representative Congressman Byron Donalds, feels like this second impeachment process was a waste of time.
"This second impeachment trial has largely been a waste of time, I think it's been mostly political," says Donalds.
But Donalds' opponent in the 2022 race for the District 19 seat, Dr. Cindy Banyai, strongly disagrees. The Democratic candidate says she was disgusted with the outcome of the trial and is feeling as though the non-conviction equates to acceptance of the former president’s actions.
"Obviously I was disappointed to see so many republicans refuse to hold Donald Trump accountable for his actions in relation to the January 6 capitol attack. I think that were some folks that really just wanted to let it go and move on but unfortunately, we really needed to have accountability here in my opinion," says Banyai.
Trump held a rally just hours before where he told supporters to walk to the U.S. Capitol while Congress was holding the Electoral College vote to confirm the Biden presidency. Many lawmakers saw his words as inciting the riot, but Donalds disagrees.
"His words in my view don’t create a catalyst to do something wrong," says Donalds.
He believes Trump did not commit an impeachable offense, and this is all fall under the protection of free speech.
"When you look at the political speech in our country rhetoric is often very hot, its often very divisive but political free speech is a very high bar to prove that your words caused somebody else actions," says Donalds.
But, with the trial over, this effectively closes the chapter on the last four years of Donald Trump’s presidency.
"The second impeachment trial is over. It's time for us to get to the business facing us not only just helping our economy, but getting past COVID-19 and actually governing the country in a sound and sensible way," says Donalds.