Enough senators vote not guilty to acquit Donald Trump
Bruce Castor, lawyer for former President Donald Trump, arrives on the third day of the second impeachment trial of Trump in the Senate, at the Capitol, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in Washington. Image via AP.

bruce castor
Barely a month since the deadly riot on Jan. 6, closing arguments are set for the historic trial in a rare Saturday session.

Enough senators have cast “not guilty” votes to acquit Donald Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The vote will give the former president an historic second acquittal in an impeachment trial.

House Democrats, who voted a month ago to charge Trump with “incitement of insurrection,” needed two thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, to convict him.

The Democrats argued in the short trial that Trump caused the violent attack by repeating for months the false claims that the election was stolen from him, and then telling his supporters gathered near the White House that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. Five people died when they then laid siege to the Capitol.

Trump’s lawyers argued that the rioters acted on their own accord and that he was protected by freedom of speech, an argument that resonated with most Republicans. They said the case was brought on by Democrats’ “hatred” of Trump.

House Democrats began wrapping up their impeachment case against Trump on Saturday after a chaotic morning in which they gave up a last-minute plan for witness testimony that could have significantly prolonged the trial and delayed a vote on whether the former president incited the deadly Capitol insurrection.

An unexpected 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.

16Republicans are anxious to get the trial over with and discussion of Trump and the Capitol invasion behind them. Democrats, too, have a motive to move on since the Senate cannot move ahead on President Joe Biden’s agenda including COVID-19 relief while the impeachment trail is in session.

While most Democrat were expected to vote to convict the former president, acquittal appeared likely with a two-thirds majority required for conviction and the chamber split 50-50 between the parties. Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he would vote to acquit Trump, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Closely watched, the GOP leader’s view could influence others in his party.

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 subpoena hundreds of their witnesses. The case then proceeded to closing arguments.

Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland had said that witnesses were necessary to determine Trump’s role in inciting the riot. There were 55 senators who 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 as many as 100. He said the depositions could be done in his law office in Philadelphia, prompting laughter from senators.

“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.”

The outcome of the raw and emotional proceedings is expected to reflect 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.

“What’s important about this trial is that it’s really aimed to some extent at Donald Trump, but it’s more aimed at some president we don’t even know 20 years from now,” said Sen. Angus King, the independent from Maine.

The nearly weeklong trial has 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.

Acquittal is expected in the evenly-divided Senate. That verdict could heavily influence not only Trump’s political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors.

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 Joe 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 in a short three hours 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.

While it is unlikely the Senate would be able to mount the two-thirds vote needed to convict, several senators appear to be still weighing their vote. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will be widely watched for cues, but he is not pressuring his GOP colleagues and is telling senators to vote their conscience.

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 vigorously denied that Trump had incited the riot and they played out-of-context 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 ordinarily political rhetoric,” said Trump lawyer van der Veen. “Countless politicians have spoken of fighting for our principles.”

But the presentation blurred the difference between the general encouragement that politicians make to battle for health care or other causes and Trump’s fight against officially accepted national election results, and minimized Trump’s efforts to undermine those results. The defeated president was telling his supporters to fight on after every state had verified its results, after the Electoral College had affirmed them and after nearly every election lawsuit filed by Trump and his allies had been rejected in court.

Democratic senators shook their heads at what many called a false equivalency to their own fiery words. “We weren’t asking them ‘fight like hell’ to overthrow an election,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Democrats say that Trump was the “inciter in chief” whose months-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.

“Get real,” said the lead prosecutor, Rep. Jamie Raskin, at one point. “We know that this is what happened.”

The Senate has convened as a court of impeachment for past Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton and now twice for Trump. But the unprecedented nature of the case against an out-of-office president has provided Republican senators one of several arguments against conviction.

Republicans maintain the proceedings are unconstitutional, even though the Senate voted at the outset of the trial on this issue and confirmed it has jurisdiction.

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 and Lisa Murkowski 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.

_____

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Associated Press


8 comments

  • Ron Ogden

    February 13, 2021 at 4:54 pm

    “Witch hunt” is exactly the case, but in a different sense. The crooked and dribbling old witch has been riding her shrieking broom ever since President Trump declined to shake her withered and bloodstained hand. Whether it is within the existing Republican Party or within a new and reformed Republican Party, the cycle of history will return to Capitol Hill within three years. I will do all I can.

  • James Robert Miles

    February 13, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    The GOP is on it’s way out! It represents racism and bigotry and is the major source of divisiveness in the U.S.! Hopefully the American people will see this and put the GOP in the trash heap of history where it belongs. It has become more and more irrelevant and un American. It continues to support a dictator wanna-be! Democracy is a foreign idea to the GOP as is equality for all! I have NEVER voted for, nor will I ever vote for a Republican and will do ALL THAT I CAN to defeat this band of fascists in the next election(s)!

  • teel

    February 13, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    This has been a major win for Patriots. You can join us and those that want to save our country.

    President Trump is not like all those other politicians who has promised and then abandoned us, he delivered.

    Take a moment to realize… Your Vision of the GOP is over.

    Patriots are rising up across the US. First course of action is too unseat all RINO’s and change the direction of the Rep. party forever.

    Remember everything President Trump did for every American.

    Do not forget, today is the morale boost many have needed.

    So My fellow deplorable – We are not finished yet. Do not forget how far we’ve come and always remember where we still need to go.

    Nothing can stop what is coming. NOTHING.

  • Ocean Joe

    February 13, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    The wheel man got away! But not before running the bus over his “followers.” Sounds like Teel plans to eliminate the old Republican party and completely turn it over to the failed casino operator. Go for it!

  • Sonja Fitch

    February 14, 2021 at 5:39 am

    Yo insurrection loooosers! Are you in jail? Lol lol lol Once again the GOPQ and goptrump death cult sociopath Trump punked you to kill. Yeah you are killers. You are COP killers. You are Fing traitors. Rutherford you are a cop killer and traitor. Little Marco and Nazi Rick you are cop killers and traitor. Vote Democrat up and down ballot for the elections in 2022.

  • James Robert Miles

    February 14, 2021 at 7:36 am

    Trump has done NOTHING but bring shame to the U.S.! The make-up wearing, hair dying whiny bitch is a looser who has proven to be as anti-American as a traitor can get. Democracy always trumps fascism and will ultimately win out. Authoritarianism has no place in the USA!

  • martin

    February 14, 2021 at 7:38 am

    Patriots will rise up and primary out all the repugnant republicans who voted yes. The republican party is evolving to represent the constitution as it was written, not as it is being re-imagined.

    WE the PEOPLE are sick and tired of career politicians of both parties.

  • Sonja Fitch

    February 17, 2021 at 4:30 am

    More “patriots” bs. A bunch of paranoid delusional racist sexist sociopaths pretending to be WHATEVER! Go to a cos con and play your games . The reality is truth and facts for the common good. The “patriots” are damn losers suckered into the goptrump death cult and the GOPQ! Vote Democrat up and down ballot for the elections in 2022!

Comments are closed.


#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




Sign up for Sunburn


Categories