The U.S. Senate voted 57-43 to acquit former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, after he was charged by the House of Representatives with incitement of insurrection in connection with the January 6 Capitol building riot.
Two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, were required to convict Trump. All Democrats voted in favor of conviction, in addition to seven Republicans, including Richard Burr of North Carolina, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Cassidy has since been censured by the Louisiana Republican Party’s executive committee for his “guilty” vote, and the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party released a statement calling Burr’s “guilty” vote “disappointing.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who voted to acquit Trump along with 42 other Republican senators, argued after the trial concluded that Trump was still “practically and morally responsible” for the events of January 6, but also believed that the impeachment process was a specific remedy that did not apply to presidents who had already left office. “If president Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge,” said McConnell.
“We have no power to convict and disqualify a former office holder who is now a private citizen,” added McConnell.
The results of the trial came after the House impeachment managers and the former president’s defense provided their closing arguments.
“We know, this case isn’t one that requires a complicated legal analysis. You all, you lived it. The managers and I, we lived it. Our country lived it,” Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO), one of the nine House impeachment managers, said on the Senate floor before the final vote. “The president, in public view, right out in the open, incited a violent mob. A mob that temporarily at least, stopped us from certifying an election.”
Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the lead House impeachment manager, later added: “We proved he betrayed his country. We proved he betrayed his Constitution. We proved he betrayed his oath of office. The startling thing to recognize now is that he is even betraying the mob. He told them he would march with them, and he didn’t. They believed the president was right there with them, somewhere in the crowd, fighting the fantasy conspiracy to steal the election and steal their country away from them. They thought they were one big team working together. He told them their great journey together was just beginning, and now there are hundreds of criminal prosecutions getting going all over the country, people getting set to say goodbye to members of their family, and the president who contacted them — solicited them, lured them, invited them, incited them — that president has suddenly gone quiet and dark. Nowhere to be found. He cannot be troubled to come here and tell us what happened.”
Michael van der Veen, an attorney for former President Donald Trump, told the Senate that Trump’s language was Constitutionally protected speech. “Since he uttered not a single word encouraging violence, this action can only be seen as an effort to censor disfavored political speech and discriminate against a disapproved viewpoint,” said van der Veen.
Trump’s attorney also said Democrats have repeatedly “refused to tell their violent supporters to stand down” in riots last year, including then-Senator Kamala Harris, who encouraged people to donate to a Minnesota-based bail group back in June of 2020.
“She later said that those folks were not going to let up, and that they should not,” said van der Veen. “All of this was far closer to what the actual definition of incitement [than] anything that President Trump has ever said or done, never mind what he said on the 6th. It’s a hypocrisy that the House managers have laid at the feet of this chamber.”
Van der Veen also said this “recent history” was “highly relevant” as precedent, and provided “crucial context” to January 6. “As a nation, we must ask ourselves, how did we arrive at this place where rioting and pillaging would become commonplace? I submit to you that it was month after month of political leaders and media personalities, blood-thirsty for ratings, glorifying civil unrest and condemning the reasonable law enforcement measures that are required to quell violent mobs. Hopefully we can all leave this chamber in uniform agreement that all rioting — all rioting — is bad.”
Lawmakers were already expecting a final vote to occur Saturday, but those plans were briefly upended after Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the lead impeachment manager, called for a last-minute subpoena of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), one of the ten Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach Trump last month.
The House impeachment manager’s decision to seek testimony from the Republican congresswoman came after she released a statement saying she had a conversation with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that corroborated a recent news report.
That report alleged Trump told McCarthy during the riot that he believed Antifa was involved, and when McCarthy pushed back on Trump and told the president that his supporters were actually the ones attacking, Trump suggested that the supporters at the Capitol building must have been more upset about the election than McCarthy was.
Herrera Beutler previously described the situation to a local Washington state-based news outlet, but those details went largely unnoticed elsewhere until Friday afternoon. While all Democratic Senators and five Republicans — Susan Collins, Lindsay Graham, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse, and Mitt Romney — voted to call witnesses, the Senate ultimately struck a deal to insert Herrera Beutler’s statement, seen below, into the trial record without calling for her to actually testify in the impeachment trial itself.
— Jaime Herrera Beutler (@HerreraBeutler) February 13, 2021
This article has been expanded after publication to include additional information.