Former President Donald Trump was acquitted by the US Senate on Saturday on an article of impeachment that he incited the deadly US Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.
Fifty-seven senators voted in favor of conviction, but a conviction needed 67 votes. Seven Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in voting to convict Trump.
Republican Sens. Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey voted in favor of convicting Trump.
Democrats were hopeful that had Trump been convicted, a simple majority of senators would vote in favor of permanently barring Trump from ever hold federal office in the future. As it stands, Trump is eligible to hold federal office again, and could run for president in 2024.
Saturday’s vote was paired with last-minute drama. A statement released by GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler late Friday prompted House prosecutors to call on witnesses. The motion for witnesses took the Senate by surprise early Saturday morning. After the Senate went on recess, House managers dropped their request for witnesses, and instead asked to put Beutler’s statement on the record.
Beutler, one of 10 GOP members of the House who voted to impeach Trump last month, confirmed a CNN report that Trump had a heated phone call with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the Jan. 6 insurrection of the US Capitol.
“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,” Beutler said on Friday. “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.’”
Overnight Friday, several Democratic senators responded to Beutler’s statement by calling on witnesses to be called.
“What did Trump know, and when did he know it?” questioned Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrats from Rhode Island.
Whitehouse’s question shifted some of the debate on whether Trump was responsible for the riots in the first place to did Trump do enough to stop the riots once they got underway.
On Friday, Trump’s legal team said that he was unaware that Vice President Mike Pence was being rushed to a secure location when he fired a scathing tweet about Pence not intervening during the counting of Electoral College votes. Sen. Mike Lee introduced a call log as evidence on Saturday that indicated his conversation with Trump came two minutes after the tweet was sent.
"The conduct described, not only perpetuated his continuing offense, but also provides to us here today, further decisive evidence of his intent to incite the insurrection in the first place,” lead impeachment manager Adam Raskin, D-Maryland, said. “When my opposing counsel says that you should ignore the president's actions after the insurrection began, that is plainly wrong.”
Democrats accused Trump of instigating the Jan. 6 riot that resulted in the deaths of five people, including a member of the US Capitol Police. The insurrection interrupted the counting of Electoral College votes, and forced members of Congress and Pence to be rushed to secure locations.
The Democrats’ argument hinged on that Trump lied to supporters about the results of the 2020 election, urged his supporters to “fight like hell,” and acted slowly to respond once the Capitol was under siege.
Trump’s lawyers argued that the president had the right to free speech and that Congress cannot impeachment someone not currently in federal office.
"For the first time in history, Congress has asserted the right to try and punish a former President who is a private citizen. Nowhere in the constitution is the power enumerated or implied. Congress has no authority, no right and no business holding a trial of citizen Trump, let alone a trial to deprive him of some fundamental civil rights," Trump attorney Michael van der Veen said.
The Trump’s team added that Trump’s language was akin to past statements made by Democrats and other prominent members of society, although their comments generally were not tied to any known violence.
Trump issued a statement following his acquittal.
Trump statement makes clear he’s not going away: “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun. In the months ahead I have much to share with you...” pic.twitter.com/vOCD30rTqW— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) February 13, 2021
There have only been two presidents that have been impeached: Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson in 1868. They were also both acquitted.