WASHINGTON (CN) — Facilitated by a small group of Republican legislators loyal to the former president, the U.S. Senate failed to convict Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection after a siege on the Capitol roughly a month ago left five dead and hundreds injured, voting 57-43 to acquit the one time television host turned political neophyte.
Like the first time Trump was impeached — that time for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for his role in a foreign political pressure campaign — there were, again, no witnesses called at the end of this week’s five day trial.
Though there was a vote 55-45 for witness testimony ending, Senate Democrats demurred and instead moved to present closing arguments.
Reams of evidence were produced, senate jurors themselves were privy to the chaos, danger and destruction of the siege and heard the former president, in his own words for weeks challenge the legitimacy of the 2020 election as whipping supporters and fringe elements into a fraudulent frenzy, House lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, said in his closing arguments.
On Saturday, seven Republican senators voted to convict:
Republican Senators Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Richard Burr of North Carolina all voted in favor of conviction.
A two-thirds majority was needed for conviction by the Senate. But for the history books, the House will mark Trump as impeached by the body for incitement of insurrection, an act they charged began with his delivery of a fiery speech riddled with falsehoods about the 2020 election to a crowd of thousands who for weeks had planned to assemble there at his invitation.
Ultimately unpersuasive to Republican holdouts was a public statement reported first by the New York Times from Representative Jamie Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington. It showed that she had knowledge of Trump telling House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the siege that the rioters were “more upset about the election than you are.”
“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,” the congresswoman said in a statement.
The FBI has said there is no indication antifa activists were involved in the attack.
After about 45 minutes, both sides came back to the chamber where they announced they’d agreed to entering Beutler’s statement into the record as evidence in lieu of calling witnesses, of which, Republicans had reportedly more than 300.
Raskin, a constitutional scholar of 30 years, in his closing remarks said to fellow lawmakers: “I have no doubt you have noticed, despite the various propaganda reels, Trump’s lawyers have said nothing to overcome evidence of Trump’s conduct much less have they brought their client forward to tell his side of the story.”
Trump had his chance to appear but as he did in his first impeachment, refused to testify.
The trial was delayed at times on Saturday including when Raskin broadly outlined House impeachment managers’ two-day evidentiary presentation and van der Veen objected to statements from another House manager David Cicilline involving a tweet published Friday from Josh Dawsey.
Dawsey reported Vice President Mike Pence’s team didn’t agree with the Trump counsel assertion that the 45th president was concerned with Pence’s safety. As Cicilline finished a presentation focused on Trump’s incitement, Senator Mike Lee again objected to House impeachment managers’ characterization of a phone call Trump mistakenly placed to the Utah Republican — when he had meant to call Senator Tommy Tuberville.