Senate votes to acquit Donald Trump in impeachment trial

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The Senate on Saturday acquitted former President Donald Trump of an article of impeachment that charged he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The 57-43 vote fell far short of the Constitution’s two-thirds requirement.

Seven Republicans broke ranks and voted to convict Trump: 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.

Trump thanked the 43 Republicans who voted to acquit him in an emailed statement.

“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, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. There has never been anything like it!” Trump said.

“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.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke after the vote and said those who voted to acquit Trump should be ashamed of themselves and warned that the acquittal could open the door to further political violence.

“The failure to convict Donald Trump will live as a vote of infamy in the history of the United States Senate,” Schumer said.

Schumer said that “if lying about the results of an election is acceptable, if instigating a mob against the government is considered permissible, if encouraging political violence becomes the norm, it will be open season on our democracy and everything will be up for grabs by whoever has the biggest clubs, the sharpest spears, the most powerful guns.”

Trump attorney Michael van der Veen maintained in closing arguments that Democrats were hypocritical for impeaching Trump over a heated pre-riot speech and said the proceeding was unconstitutional.

“Throughout the summer Democrat leaders including the current president and vice president repeatedly made comments that provided moral comfort to mobs attacking police officers,” van der Veen said.

Van der Veen said that the Capitol break-in that disrupted certification of President Biden’s victory and left five dead actually “was pre-planned and premeditated by fringe left and right groups.”

“The gathering on Jan. 6 was supposed to be an entirely peaceful event,” van der Veen said. He argued that local officials failed to provide adequate security for the Capitol.

Trump’s now second impeachment acquittal followed a dramatic request by House managers to call at least one witness — threatening to drag the trial weeks longer — only for a compromise to be reached adding a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (D-Wash.) into the record.

Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) argued that Trump must be convicted and banned from holding office again to preserve US democratic traditions.

“We’ve shown you how President Trump created a powder keg, lit a match and then continued his incitement even even as he failed to defend us from the ensuing violence,” Raskin said Saturday.

“This case is about whether our country demands a peaceful, non-violent transfer of power.”

Raskin said that Trump knew there would be violence at the Capitol after he concluded a pre-riot speech and that he didn’t join the march because “he didn’t want to be too close to the action when all hell was about to break loose.”

“We’re defending the US Senate and the US House against a president who acted no better than a marauder and a member of that mob by inciting those people to come here. And in many ways he was worse. He named the date, he named the time and he brought them here. And now, he must pay the price,” Raskin closed.

The trial’s outcome was long viewed as a foregone conclusion due to the 17 Republican votes needed to convict. Last month, just 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump and on Tuesday only six GOP senators voted that the trial was constitutional.

Many Republican senators said they could not see past their belief that the trial was unconstitutional because Trump no longer holds office. Others said that they believed that impeachment managers failed to prove that Trump incited the violence.

Among those voting to acquit was Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who said last month that the rioters were “provoked by the president” and his wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, was the first Trump cabinet member to resign over the violence.

No. 2 Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota, against whom Trump has encouraged a 2022 primary challenge, also voted to acquit Trump, despite saying on Wednesday that the Democratic case was “very effective” and “I think they’ve done a good job connecting the dots.”

It was the fourth Senate impeachment trial in US history and follows Trump’s acquittal last year in a separate trial for allegedly obstructing Congress and abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate now-President Biden and his son Hunter.

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