WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump was acquitted in an unprecedented second impeachment trial on the charge of inciting an insurrection for the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol Saturday afternoon.
A majority of all senators found Trump guilty in a 57-43 vote, but the number fell short of the supermajority needed to convict the president. Had Trump been convicted, the Senate would likely have moved to bar the President from holding federal office again.
Seven Republican senators who joined with all Democrats in finding Trump guilty were: senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who presided over the trial, announced the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed and therefore Trump is “hereby acquitted of the charge.”
The acquittal means that, as of now, Trump can leave the door open to another White House bid, although some senators have hinted they may still try to bar him from office in a separate 14th Amendment measure.
TRUMP STATEMENT FOLLOWING ACQUITTAL
“I want to first thank my team of dedicated lawyers and others for their tireless work upholding justice and defending truth.
“My deepest thanks as well to all of the United States Senators and Members of Congress who stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country.
“Our cherished Constitutional Republic was founded on the impartial rule of law, the indispensable safeguard for our liberties, our rights and our freedoms.
“It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree. I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.
“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.
Through the impeachment process the President has largely stayed silent.
Trump’s second impeachment trial lasted just five days, making it the shortest in presidential history. The previous record was held by Trump in 2020 when his trial related to inviting foreign interference into the election in 2016 went 21 days.
House impeachment managers accused Trump of inciting an insurrection by spreading a “big lie” that the election was stolen from him, asking his supporters in Washington to “fight like hell.”
Trump legal’s team denounced the proceedings as an unconstitutional “sham impeachment” against a private citizen, driven by Democrats’ “hatred” for Trump and desire to silence a political opponent.
Trump lawyers also argued the former president’s political speech is protected by the First Amendment and his words on January 6th to his supporters to “fight like hell” were not meant literally. To drive home that point during the trial, Trump’s defense played an 11-minute video of nearly every Democrat in the chamber using the words “fight” in their past speeches and interviews.
EARLY SATURDAY CALL FOR WITNESSES
In a surprise move, the Senate Saturday morning voted 55-45 to allow witnesses at the trial after the House Impeachment Manager said he wanted to hear from GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler – Raskin, D-Md., citing the news overnight about details Beutler revealed of a heated phone call that Trump had with House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy during the middle of the Capitol attack.
QUICK DECISION REVERSAL
At this point Trump’s legal team threatened to depose hundreds of people in the case. A visibly angry and animated Michael van der Veen said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Vice President Kamala Harris would “absolutely” need to be deposed, too, but not by Zoom.
The surprise vote on witnesses shook Washington and seemed to even catch senators off guard. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the move set off “chaos” in the chamber. He speculated the trial could last until April with witnesses. “At this point, it’s pandemonium,” Cruz told pool reporters.
Then, as quickly as the Senate went down the path of witnesses, lawyers reversed their course – with Trump’s legal team agreeing to allow a statement from Beutler to be entered into the trial as evidence. Armed with her statement, House lawyers then abandoned their demand that Beutler be called as a witness altogether.
MC CONNELL STILL CRITICAL
GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was very critical of Trump’s conduct surrounding the Jan. 6 riot saying – “There’s no question… that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said in a speech after the vote Saturday.
Still, McConnell found Trump “not guilty,” saying he believed convicting the former president is unconstitutional.