Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial came to an end on Saturday after the Senate decided to acquit him on the charge of “incitement of insurrection” following the Jan 6 attack on the Capitol.
The vote was 57-43.
Every Democrat voted to find him “guilty,” the question technically before the Senate, and they were joined by seven GOP senators — falling short of the necessary 67 votes, or two-thirds majority, needed for conviction.
Republican Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Pat Toomey all voted guilty.
“The stakes could not be higher,” House manager Joe Neguse, D-Colo argued. “Because the cold, hard truth is that what happened on January 6 can happen again. I fear, like many of you do, that the violence we saw on that terrible day may be just the beginning.”
Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin, D-Md asked Senators to consider the future – “This trial is about who we are, who we are,” Raskin said.
The outcome was forecast for weeks as a growing number of GOP senators embraced the argument that it was unconstitutional to convict a president after being removed from office by voters.
The former president could do nothing but praise his legal team, who argued that he was nothing but a “victim of vengeful Democrats and a biased news media.” The trial was a “charade from beginning to end,” Trump’s lawyer Michael van der Veen said.
The trial went largely how it was predicted to, except a brief discussion Saturday morning of introducing witnesses after reports of a Jan 6 phone call between Trump and Rep. Kevin McCarthy came to light again.
During the call, Mr. McCarthy asked Trump “to publicly and forcefully call of the riot.” Mr. Trump replied by saying that Antifa, not his supporters, was responsible. When Mr. McCarthy said that was not true, the former president responded, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
McCarthy shared this with GOP Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler at the time. The contents of that call answer the crucial question of what Trump was doing and saying while the attacks were ongoing.
House impeachment managers wanted to call Herrera Beutler to testify to corroborate the contents of the call. After a lengthy discussion, both sides agreed to enter her statement into evidence but not call witnesses.
After the vote, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit Trump, gave a blistering speech from the Senate floor where he said Trump was “morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said.
In a press conference afterward, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called out McConnell, “It is so pathetic that Senator McConnell kept the Senate shut down so that the Senate could not receive the Article of Impeachment and has used that as his excuse for not voting to convict Donald Trump.”
During the same press conference, House impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett stood by the decision not to call witnesses.
“Individuals that others of us would have like to have called, like the President, is in fact the defendant and does not have to testify. Other individuals would have required subpoenas and months of litigation.”
She continued, “We believe that we have shown that this President is a disgrace to our country…These senators have decided to hang their hat on jurisdictional grounds which are not based in the evidence, which are not based on the facts, and they will have to be judged for that.”
Plaskett: “We believe that we have shown that this President is a disgrace to our country…These senators have decided to hang their hat on jurisdictional grounds which are not based in the evidence, which are not based on the facts, and they will have to be judged for that.” pic.twitter.com/BOjowlDKlx
— Poli Alert (@polialertcom) February 13, 2021
In statements after the trial, many Senators agreed that while Trump may have some culpability for the attacks, the impeachment trial itself was unconstitutional because he is out of office.