Skip to main content

Media Plays Central Role in Second Donald Trump Impeachment

CBS News
The media isn't just covering the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump — it's also providing key evidence. (Image credit: N/A)

Former President Donald Trump lived by the sword of angry tweets and made-for-video rallies and statements, and if the House impeachment managers' case against the president is any indication, his reputation may die on that sword.

Tweets and videos from a host of media outlets, many of which had been branded enemies of the people by Trump, were used extensively last week to build the House impeachment managers’ case against Trump as the instigator of the Capitol insurrection through months of claims on social media and in videos — White House-produced and otherwise — of a stolen election and a Joe Biden victory that could only be the result of widespread fraud.

Throughout his presidency, Trump’s advisers had reportedly warned him that his avalanche of social media posts, early on identified as official statements from the president, were stepping on his message and distracting from his agenda, though arguably that agenda also included rallying his base against what he saw as a media out to get him in league with Democrats. But the consequences of his reliance on the media he reviles to connect with his base could prove more serious and longer-lasting.

The House impeachment managers’ argument was a highly emotional one, rooted deeply in the sobering and shocking videos and tweets, which played a prominent if not dominant role in the prosecution.

And while legal commentators pointed out that the audience was about 10 Republicans who would needed to be swayed if the president were to be convicted, the wider TV and online audience for the Senate trial, which was being covered wall-to-wall online and on cable news and heavily on broadcast, was also likely the millions of people the Democrats were looking to persuade of the unsuitability of Trump to high office.

Since conviction was unlikely from the outset, conveying the horror of the day — with Capitol police mauled and the mob calling for Vice President Mike Pence’s hanging and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s murder, while the President remained relatively silent — clearly also had the secondary goal of convicting Trump in the court of public opinion. That’s because the end game, as much as accountability, was ensuring the former president cannot be re-elected in 2024.