Senate votes to acquit Trump in historic impeachment trial

The Senate on Saturday acquitted Donald Trump of inciting the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial that exposed the fragility of America’s democratic traditions and left a divided nation to come to terms with the violence sparked by his defeated presidency.

The vote was 57-43, short of the two-thirds needed for conviction. Seven Republicans broke for their party to find Trump guilty.

Indiana Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun, both Republicans, voted against impeachment.

“I remain troubled and saddened by the events leading up to and on the day of the Capitol riots,” Young said in a statement immediately after the vote.

However, he said, “the U.S. House of Representatives conducted a rushed and incomplete process for this snap impeachment. In its haste to impeach the former president, the House declined to engage in any fact-finding, investigation, hearing, or testimony before adopting the article of impeachment,” he said.

The vote came after House Democrats wrapped up their impeachment case against Donald Trump on Saturday, following a tumultuous morning in which they gave up a last-minute plan for witness testimony that could have prolonged the trial and delayed a verdict.

An unexpected morning vote in favor of hearing witnesses threw the trial into confusion just as it was on the verge of concluding. But both sides ultimately reached a deal to instead enter into the record a statement from a Republican House lawmaker about a heated phone call on the day of the riot between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that Democrats say established Trump’s indifference to the violence.

Republicans were anxious to get the trial over with and the national focus on Trump and the Capitol invasion behind them. Democrats, too, had a motive to move on since the Senate cannot push ahead on new President Joe Biden’s agenda including COVID-19 relief while the impeachment trial is in session.

The Senate chamber is split 50-50 between the parties, with Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, able to cast a deciding vote. But conviction required a two-thirds vote, which meant acquittal was always likely. After Republican leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues he would vote to acquit Trump on a “close call,” acquittal was all but certain.

At issue at first on Saturday was whether to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, one of 10 Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment in the House. She said in a statement late Friday that Trump rebuffed a plea from McCarthy to call off the rioters. Democrats consider it key corroborating evidence that confirms the president’s “willful dereliction of duty and desertion of duty as commander in chief.”

The situation was resolved when Herrera Beutler’s statement on the call was read aloud into the record for senators to consider as evidence. As part of the deal, Democrats dropped their planned deposition and Republicans abandoned their threat to call their own witnesses. The case then proceeded to closing arguments, where Democrats again alleged that Trump was responsible for the deadly Jan 6. siege on the day the Senate was certifying the election results.

“He abused his office by siding with the insurrectionists at almost every point, rather than with the Congress of the United States, rather than with the Constitution,” said lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

Raskin earlier said witnesses were necessary to determine Trump’s role in inciting the riot. Fifty-five senators voted for his motion to consider witnesses, including Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mitt Romney of Utah. Once they did, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina changed his vote to join them on the 55-45 vote.

Trump lawyers opposed calling witnesses, with attorney Michael van der Veen saying it would open the door to him calling about 100 of his own.

“If you vote for witnesses,” van der Veen said, crossing his arms and then then raising them in the air for emphasis, “do not handcuff me by limiting the number of witnesses that I can have.”

In his concluding remarks, van der Veen vigorously denied that Trump bore responsibility for the Capitol violence, saying there was no evidence the former president intended for his words to incite a riot or lead to an overthrow of Congress. He suggested that Democrats who now condemn the insurrection effectively condoned such civil unrest during the racial protests of last summer.

“As a nation we must ask ourselves: how did we arrive at this place where rioting and pillaging would become commonplace?” van der Veen said. “It was month after month of political leaders and media personalities, bloodthirsty for ratings, glorifying civil unrest and condemning the reasonable law enforcement measures that are required to quell violent mobs.”

The raw and emotional impeachment proceedings reflected a country divided over the former president and the future of his brand of politics. The verdict could influence not only Trump’s political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors.

“If we don’t set this right and call it what it was, the highest of constitutional crimes by the president of the United States, the past will not be past,” another impeachment manager, Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, told senators on Saturday. “The past will become our future.”

The nearly weeklong trial had delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.

House prosecutors have argued that Trump’s rallying cry to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” for his presidency just as Congress was convening Jan. 6 to certify Biden’s election victory was part of an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Trump’s lawyers countered Friday that Trump’s words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

Only by watching the graphic videos — rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the vote tally — did senators say they began to understand just how perilously close the country came to chaos. Hundreds of rioters stormed into the building, taking over the Senate. Some engaged in hand-to-hand, bloody combat with police.

Many Republicans representing states where the former president remains popular doubt whether Trump was fully responsible or if impeachment is the appropriate response. Democrats appear all but united toward conviction.

Trump is the only president to be twice impeached and the first to face trial charges after leaving office.

Unlike last year’s impeachment trial of Trump in the Ukraine affair, a complicated charge of corruption and obstruction over his attempts to have the foreign ally dig up dirt on then-campaign rival Biden, this one brought an emotional punch over the unexpected vulnerability of the U.S. tradition of peaceful elections. The charge is singular, incitement of insurrection.

On Friday, Trump’s impeachment lawyers accused Democrats of waging a campaign of “hatred” against the former president as they wrapped up their defense.

His lawyers played video clips showing Democrats, some of them senators now serving as jurors, also telling supporters to “fight,”  aiming to establish a parallel with Trump’s overheated rhetoric.

“This is ordinary political rhetoric,” said van der Veen. “Countless politicians have spoken of fighting for our principles.”

Democratic senators shook their heads at what many called a false equivalency to their own fiery words. Impeachment managers say that Trump was the “inciter in chief” whose long campaign against the election results was rooted in a “big lie” and laid the groundwork for the riot, a violent domestic attack on the Capitol unparalleled in history.

Rep. Joe Neguse, another impeachment manager, pointed out Saturday that none of those Democratic speeches precipitated an insurrection at the Capitol.

Six Republican senators who joined Democrats in voting to take up the case are among those most watched for their votes.

Early signals came Friday during questions for the lawyers.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, asked the first question, Two centrists known for independent streaks, they leaned into a point the prosecutors had made, asking exactly when Trump learned of the breach of the Capitol and what specific actions he took to end the rioting.

Democrats had argued that Trump did nothing as the mob rioted.

Another Republican who voted to launch the trial, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, asked about Trump’s tweet criticizing Pence moments after the then-president was told by another senator that Pence had just been evacuated.

Van der Veen responded that at “no point” was the president informed of any danger. Cassidy told reporters later it was not a very good answer.

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36 thoughts on “Senate votes to acquit Trump in historic impeachment trial

    1. Waste of time and money. Based on this news service, Hogsett could’ve been put on trial for his lack of action. More evidence supporting his hand in the destruction of our city than Trump’s inciting a “horrific attack” on our capital.

    2. Yeah, Trump only incited an insurrection to try to stop the counting of electoral votes. Yeah, that’s “nothing” all right.

  1. VERY envious of those that that live in states that have senators who actually vote for what’s right and aren’t just political party puppets who place the party above their country. THANK YOU to Sens. 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 of Pennsylvania. Braun and Young should be ASHAMED of their votes to condone insurrection and violence and stand in the way of free and fair elections.

    1. You could save many keystrokes by merely citing, “the usual jealous RINOS,” rather than naming all of them, Matthew C.

      Free and fair elections? On what planet do you live? Have you spent more than 5 minutes taking an objective look at the metrics proving fraud in the cities of Madison, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta; the 4 cities necessary to swing four states to swing the election?

      (Note: I am not suggesting “widespread voter fraud” because I don’t believe there was any. There need not have been; all that was needed was targeted fraud in those 4 cities…and it worked! Congratulations to all you Trump-haters who knowingly or otherwise gifted the country with leadership by a dementia-addled old white segregationist happily endorsed by the leaders of America’s enemies the world over.)

    2. Bob P –
      1. The elections were free, fair and accurate.
      2. President Biden is not “dementia-addled” or a “segregationist”.

      My advice to you is not to look in the mirror when typing things you believe Biden to be.

    3. Joe B. – One case was won that did show voter fraud. It was a single dead person voting for Trump. It didn’t really help Giuliani’s case…… So many people keep saying “the proof is coming” yet it seems a little late at this point. Maybe Bob knows where all the specific proof is hiding – “proof” that hasn’t already been debunked.

    4. There are always isolated cases of fraud. The insinuation that there are 100,000 cases of fraud that would change the outcome of the election is the Big Lie.

      What it’s rooted in appears to be racism. Look at Bob’s examples. All happen to be focused on urban centers which just so happen to have lots of minority Democratic voters. It couldn’t possibly be the case that after four years of having a racist President that those voters would go resoundingly for Biden (nothing is ever wrong with Dear Leader Trump), so it has to be “targeted fraud”. Trump made the same fraud allegations before the 2016 election and after he won, he put together a big panel to investigate which found … nothing.

      Rather than adapt their platform and candidates to appeal to these voters and bring them into their coalition, the Trumpublicans have doubled down on getting out their core voters (with a platform doesn’t actually benefit their voters, a different story) and doing everything possible to make it such that those minority voters don’t get to vote. Is it an accident that voting machines always seem to get distributed in such a way that there are big lines in urban areas and no lines in rural areas? Of course not.

      Trump even said this out loud – if everyone votes, we’d never win an election again.

      It will be the same in 2024 – either Trump runs again so he can plunder American government again, or someone with the same beliefs who is more conniving but who isn’t so stupid. Like Man of the People Josh Hawley, he of the elite education.

  2. Has there ever been such an obscene waste of time and money by those elected to [supposedly, allegedly] defend The United States Constitution?

    Local Libertarian talk show host Rob Kendall summed it up a couple of days ago with words to the effect of, “The actual purpose of this [second impeachment] stunt was to warn voters to never again try to interrupt what these actors consider to be the rightful the flow of power from those elected to those who elected them, rather than the other way around, by deigning to elect a political outsider such as Donald Trump.”

    Our pragmatic and now-retired pastor opined at least ten years ago that since the dawn of time, great cultures and empires have risen and fallen [by their own hand] and will continue to do so until Christ returns. Is more evidence required to validate his point?

    1. You’re right, Bob. Those 43 “Republicans” are a waste of time and money, and violated their oath to the Constitution with their deceit.

  3. Where was the outrage when Pelosi said people are gonna do what people are gonna do in response to rioting last summer. Trump’s actions were despicable as were the responses of Congress members when the riots were taking place. Our country is totally being let down by Washington DC. These impeachment proceedings were nothing but a waste of time and money as was the Mueller investigation. The clock is ticking Joe and Kamala. I don’t have my hopes up high based upon what I’ve seen so far. The first 100 days program is a joke so far

    1. Right, Larry. The clock is sure ticking on Joe Biden; one wonders how much time he has left before they find an excuse to finally install Kamala.

    2. And just think – Kamala can do whatever she wants in January 2025 with no chance of anyone doing anything about it!

      Probably not the most thought-through precedent by the Republicans…

  4. Joe B: There’s plenty of proof out there if you look for it. Don’t worry; I won’t bore you with any of it because guys like you and Matthew wouldn’t acknowledge it anyway.
    You and ‘most other liberals I’ve encountered after the election are of the opinion that, “Well, one branch of ‘the government’ investigated another branch of ‘the government’ and another branch of ‘the government’ looked at ‘the government’s’ own investigation, pronounced it good, and said, “nothing to see here, folks, move along,” and you’re good with that.
    (There’s no chance of collusion or turning a blind eye toward the obvious because no one in ‘the government’ has a vested interest in returning things to “normal” -Democrats doing whatever they damn well please and weak-kneed Republicans providing occasional nominal resistance while basically going along to get along- is there?)
    Great; knock yourself out and sleep tight. (Just remember, if they can do it FOR you, they can do it TO you.)

    1. I’m not a liberal, Bob. I’m just not in thrall to a con man and liar like you are.

      Feel free to post all that evidence that couldn’t help in any of those court cases. Guess those judges Trump appointed should have been more loyal to him than their oath to the Constitution…

  5. All of these comments show conclusively that this second attempt at impeachment and conviction of Trump has done nothing to bring about any semblance of unity in our country. It now seems obvious that anything like unity among the people is so far away that we have no chance of finding it within a reasonable period of time. How terribly sad for everyone now alive as citizens of the U.S. and for our progeny for only God knows how far into the future.

    1. The chance for unity was lost when “Republicans” chose loyalty to their party over their country.

      Look at McConnell – he votes to acquit but turns around and gives a speech worthy of being a House impeachment manager.

      What a coward.

    2. Stephen — 57 senators voted for unity and accountability. It’s the other 43 we need to still be worried about.

    3. I find it odd that folks say the Republicans have politicized this and that the 43 Republicans are Trump puppets. Last I looked the Dems are the ones who voted straight ticket in both the House and the Senate for these series of charades. One doesn’t have to look to far to find the political puppets

    4. Larry – it’s not just the IU basketball team that misses easy shots, 43 Republicans missed the easy shots too. Trump should have been convicted both times … just as Clinton should have been convicted for lying in court. As it is, impeachment and conviction will now never happen in America. Enjoy the Biden/Harris administration!

  6. Today’s vote glaringly proves that Trump OWNS the Republican Party. The senators who voted “not guilty” are afraid of him, and voted to preserve their own political existence rather than preserving their own integrity. For those who used the “constitutionality” excuse for acquittal, they would better have served the Constitution by voting to convict and letting the Supreme Court resolve for once and forever the debate. There is, nonetheless, some consolation that while the final vote was 57 “guilty” vs 43 for “not guilty” (10 votes shy of conviction), a 57-43 margin is a political landslide by any definition.

  7. Even Moscow Mitch admitted that Trump was at fault for the riots, but he failed to vote to convict. This trial is affirmation that 43 Republican senators are LINOS — Leaders In Name Only — and cowards. Now there is legal precedent that a lame duck president can do basically whatever he wants with no consequences.

    Anybody with half a brain knows that comparing things Nancy said over the summer to the repeated nods to violence Trump made over the years is a false equivalency. But go ahead, put her through trial. See if she had any reasonable reason to believe that she has cult-like followers who attack her enemies per her (non-existent) requests. Spoiler: she doesn’t.

    1. The best part is Moscow Mitch prevented a trial while Trump was in office … then turned right around and said he couldn’t vote to convinct Trump because he was no longer in office.

      There’s a reason McConnell has been dubbed the gravedigger of American democracy.

      I suspect not even the mob getting their hands on a Senator and harming them would have changed the vote… I feel bad for the Capitol Police officers who put their lives on the line for nothing.

    1. You lost me when you called Rob Kendall a “libertarian.” Kendall is a Trumper, someone who isn’t interested in actual facts. All he does is repeat Trump talking points. No original thought whatsoever.

  8. As a lifelong conservative Republican, please let me apologize for Bob P. He is not a conservative or a Republican. He is a Trumper and couldn’t care less about the causes I’ve fought for all my life. He is about worshiping “Dear Leader,”” doing whatever Dear Leader wants. It’s sad. It really is.

    1. This is the problem, Paul. The Republican Party has been going down this road since Obama was elected. It’s now a white grievance party. It’s not a conservative party.

      John McCain was strong enough to tell voters “no” when they showed up peddling conspiracy theories at his rallies. But the GOP learned quickly that turning Obama into a super villain was good for them. Never mind he implemented their health care plan instead of something truly liberal like single payer … it really fired up the base to let the lies propagate… but they completely lost control of it, and now it’s a Trump personality cult.

      The Republican Party is dangerous to American democracy in their current form.

  9. Joe B. The “white grievance party” swung more black voters than any before. The “white grievance party” swung more latino than any before. Caution on your assumption as FREEDOM is becoming more important that party lines. On all the other remarks about our current administration, WAKE UP. In what business can you waste the money this administration is wasting already without having a revenue stream in place to shore up the losses (jobs). On the public facing positions, from the Press Sec down to the Director of Health and Human Services…Trumps kids vs. Biden’s, THIS IS THE B-TEAM (at best). We have grown accustomed to American interest being first, instead of other countries. We have grown accustomed to tough answers instead of “I’ll circle back”, and actually NEVER circling back. The pork-belly filled bail out…the delayed Covid response…it goes on. IN WHAT BUSINESS do we hire people based on what they look like or what they stand for instead of their uniquely keen qualifications? These pro-Biden responses are ANTI-Business, ANTI-Intelligent, and ANTI-Freedom. I’m not against this group of hacks personally but I certainly am hopeful that America first will be restored at some point.

    1. Scott, cmon. Trump’s cabinet of acting Secretaries he couldn’t even bother to get approved (by a Republican Senate, no less) to replace the replacements for the people who left who originally got fired? And don’t even start with the Trump kids, who couldn’t even get security clearances without Daddy coming to the rescue (and someone tell me what they did with their four years of security clearances). Buttigieg is smarter than the three oldest Trump kids combined.

      Spare me the nonsense about wasting money when we’re off the backs of a giant tax cut. You want money, raise taxes on the rich. Don’t change the tax code so companies like Amazon pay NOTHING in federal taxes and are able to pay their workers so little that they’re on the government dole to make ends meet. Just like they said would happen, the rich didn’t spend that tax cut they got. They put it in their pockets. Trickle down economics doesn’t work.

      I get it, the Trumpublicans are all angry as hell. So angry they can’t think straight because “the other” is taking their jobs and changing America in ways they can’t understand. But voting for the Republican Party isn’t the answer … they don’t care about you, they want their rich donors to get tax cuts. That’s all Trump delivered over four years, a big tax cut and a lot of judges to make sure the rich people can keep their money. He made you feel good because he was angry at the same people you’re angry at, and that feeling was more important than actually doing anything to improve the life of middle class voters. That’s not something that someone of his skill set is capable of because he can’t think of anyone but himself, and it’s not something that Republicans actually care about.

      Look at Purdue Pharma – they got rich and killed a lot of people, a lot of Trump voters no less, with their products. Remind me why the Trump administration didn’t drop the hammer on them and claw back the billions they made? Is that the freedom you’re after – freedom for consequences for the rich?

      Or ask the folks at Carrier in Indianapolis. Trump kept their jobs for, what, an extra year or so?

      Are the Democrats the answer? Probably not much more than the Republicans. But I get it, they’re friendly with those threatening “people” who are “different” so they’re worse. There’s a definite issue that both parties aren’t reaching a lot of voters.

      If you want America First, you’d best be willing to pay for it. You will pay for it in higher wages for your fellow workers and for the products you buy that will cost more. You will pay more in taxes so the government can help bootstrap businesses to ensure they can make the products in America so the needed supply chains for products like electronics can be made in America 100%. It’s literally a multiple decade effort that Big Business would fight with more dollars to make you think your FREEDOM is being threatened, when what’s really being threatened is their insatiable appetite for more profits so they can buy that third home and that yacht and more money hidden in an offshore account.

      Does that sound a little socialist? Yes, America First would require capitalism to be turned down. Which is why when I think about the disconnect between the Republican Party and what America First really entails … it makes me think people aren’t thinking it through.

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