Senate Votes To Acquit Donald Trump On Impeachment Charge Of Inciting Capitol Siege

In this image from video, senators vote during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (Senate Television via AP)

FIFTH UPDATE: The Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump on the impeachment charge of inciting the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol, bringing to an end a trial that lasted just five days.

The Senate voted 57-43 to convict Trump, short of the 67 votes needed. Seven Republicans joined with 48 Democrats and two independents in favor of conviction.

This is the second time that Trump has been acquitted of impeachment charges. On Jan. 13, he became the first president to be impeached twice.

The Republicans who voted to convict were Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey. In Trump’s last impeachment trial, Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the case against Trump was “open and shut,” calling it a “textbook example” of an impeachable offense.

“January 6th would not have happened but for the actions of Donald Trump,” Schumer said.

Romney said that Trump “also violated his oath of office by failing to protect the Capitol, the vice president and others in the Capitol.”

Minutes after the vote, Trump released a statement in which he said, “This has been yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country. No president has ever gone through anything like it, and it continues because our opponents cannot forget the almost 75 million people, the highest number ever for a sitting president, who voted for us just a few short months ago.” He made no mention of the events of Jan. 6 and the casualties that day.

A conviction would have prevented Trump from running for federal office again.

“Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” Trump said.

Biden garnered 81 million votes, a record, and Trump skipped his inauguration, after falsely claiming for months that the election was stolen from him.

Shortly after the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a blistering summary of Trump’s conduct, calling his actions “a disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

He said that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for “provoking the events of the day,” and pushed back against claims made by the former president’s legal team. “This was an intensified crescendo of conspiracy theories by an outgoing president.”

But he said that he voted to acquit because he believes the Senate is outside the bounds of the Constitution in trying to convict a former office holder. He added that Trump could still face criminal prosecution.

“Impeachment was never meant to be the final forum for American justice,” McConnell said. “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office.”

“He didn’t get away with anything yet.”

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “hedging all over the place…I don’t know if it was for donors or what.” She said that after the House impeached Trump on Jan. 13, McConnell declined to reconvene the Senate to accept the articles and start a trial. That delay made Trump a former president, at the heart of McConnell’s procedural argument for why he voted to acquit.

Burr’s vote to convict was a surprise, as he originally voted that he thought that the trial was unconstitutional. In a statement, he said that Trump violated his oath of office. “When the crowd became violent, the president used his office to first inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault.”

Another surprise vote was that of Cassidy. “Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.

FOURTH UPDATE, 12:10 PM PT: Democrats moved briskly through their closing arguments, with lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin telling senators that Donald Trump betrayed even the mob that stormed the Capitol.

He was referring in part to Trump’s promise, made at his Jan. 6 rally, that he would be “there with you” as they marched down to the Capitol.

“The president who contacted them, solicited them, lured them, incited them, that president has suddenly gone quiet and dark, nowhere to be found,” Raskin said. “He cannot be troubled to come here to tell us what happened, and to tell us why this was the patriotic and the constitutional thing to do.”

“Senators, this trial in the final analysis is not about Donald Trump,” he said. “The country and the world know who Donald Trump is. This trial is about who we are.”

“The stakes could not be higher because the cold hard truth is that what happened on January 6th can happen again,” said Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO). “I fear, like many of you do, that the violence we saw on that terrible day may be just the beginning.”

Trump’s attorney, Michael van der Veen, tried to characterize Democrats as “obsessed” with Trump and accused them of conducting a “complete impeachment show trial.” But he again went through what has been the bulk of Trump’s defense: whataboutism, by pointing to provocative statements that have been made by Democrats. He also falsely left-wing mobs of being part of the siege on the Capitol, even though reports of antifa involvement have been debunked.

THIRD UPDATE, 9:55 AM PT: The impeachment trial of Donald Trump moved forward after a confusing few hours in which the Senate voted to call witnesses but ultimately avoided doing just that.

It means that a vote on whether to convict or acquit Trump will likely come later today, after impeachment managers and Trump’s attorneys deliver their closing arguments.

Earlier, the Senate voted 55-45 to call witnesses, after lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin (D-MD) called for deposing Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican congresswoman who said that she was briefed about a call that Trump made with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as the siege was unfolding. Instead of deposing her, both sides agreed to enter her statement into the record.

In her statement, Herrera Beutler,said, “When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said:‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”

It was unclear how the deal unfolded to avoid calling witnesses, but such a move could have extended the proceedings for weeks. Trump’s team said that it should have been allowed to call its own witnesses.

The decision to ultimately not call witnesses drew quick criticism of Democrats. “Yup. Huge, huge cave. Would’ve been better off not even raising the witness issue at all,” Jon Favreau, the PodSaveAmerica co-host, wrote.

But MSNBC’S Chris Hayes wrote on Twitter, “I think they should absolutely pause the trial and depose witnesses. As many as they need! But in the end, basically everyone wants this over, because literally no matter what was found R’s are going to vote to acquit and time is precious. That’s the long and short of it.”

SECOND UPDATE, 7:28 AM PT: The Senate voted to call witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, after a last-minute report of a call that the then-president made with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as the siege was unfolding.

The vote was 55-45. There was some confusion over what the senators actually voted on — whether it was to call witnesses in general or just one witness, a Republican congresswoman who said she was briefed on the details of the call.

Five Republican senators voted with Democrats to call witnesses: Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney. Lindsey Graham changed his vote from nay to yay, as he has said that he would like to call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about how much she knew about the threat to the Capitol in advance of the storming of the Capitol.

Democrats want to call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), who released a statement on Friday evening that confirmed a CNN report on what McCarthy told her about the call. Herrera Beutler was among the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump.

She said in a statement, “When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said:‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”

“Since I publicly announced my decision to vote for impeachment, I have shared these details in countless conversations with constituents and colleagues, and multiple times through the media and other public forums.” She said that she had been public on the details of the conversation, sharing them in another news report and with constituents.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said that the phone call will provide evidence as to Trump’s state of mind.

The decision to move forward with even one witness likely will extend the proceedings after there was some expectation that the proceedings would wrap up Saturday afternoon. All signs were that Trump would be acquitted, as impeachment managers would fall short of the 2/3 of members needed to convict.

If Trump is convicted, he would be barred from running for president again.

UPDATE, 7:20 AM PT: Democrats prosecuting the case against Donald Trump moved to call at least one witness in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said that the impeachment managers want to subpoena testimony from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), one of the sources of a CNN report that Trump, in a phone call with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was unconcerned about the Capitol siege as it was unfolding on Jan. 6.

Raskin said that they also would seek Beutler’s notes about the conversation.

According to the CNN report, McCarthy begged Trump to call off the rioters as the Capitol was under attack, but Trump told him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” The report was based on accounts of lawmakers who were briefed on the call.

One of Trump’s attorneys, Michael van der Veen, reacted angrily to the new development, arguing that “if they wanna have witnesses, I’m gonna want over at least 100 depositions.” He even demanded that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris be deposed in his office. Democrats laughed after the comment.

“Now is the time to end this, now is the time to hear closing arguments,” he said.

The Senate then moved to a vote on whether to allow witnesses in the trial.

It had looked as if Democrats wanted to move swiftly through the trial without calling witnesses, as it looked unlikely that extending the proceedings further would sway enough Republican votes to convict.. But the revelation of the Trump-McCarthy call changed that equation. Raskin said that the call was central to showing Trump’s state of mind as the siege unfolded.

Trump was impeached on one article of inciting an insurrection.

PREVIOUSLY: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to vote to acquit Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, multiple news outlets reported on Saturday.

That make it all the more likely that Trump will not be convicted, with a vote possible later in the afternoon.

Politico and other sources reported that he informed colleagues in a letter of his decision. While critical of Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, McConnell has up to now declined to say which way he was leaning. During the trial, he has stared straight ahead as the impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team has presented their arguments.

The trial will resume on Saturday morning with closing arguments, unless impeachment managers make a move to call witnesses. The Senate has set aside four hours for closing arguments, meaning a vote could come mid-afternoon.

There have been renewed calls for Democrats to call witnesses after a CNN report on Friday that revealed details of a call that Trump had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

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