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Senate Acquits Donald Trump in Impeachment Trial

Trump Acquitted

The Senate decided to acquit former President Donald J. Trump in a vote of 57 for conviction to 43 against, lacking the two-thirds majority required to convict. This marks a second acquittal for the former president, who was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year for inciting the January 6th insurrection.

Of the 57 senators that voted to convict Trump, seven were Republicans. Those seven include: Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), Ben Sasse (NE), and Pat Toomey (PA). Several of them have a history of criticizing the former president or have announced that they will not be seeking re-election.

Sen. Richard Burr, who is among those that will not be seeking re-election, addressed his vote in a statement made Saturday. In that statement, he said that Trump was responsible for the insurrection and claimed that the former president “violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The Trial

On February 9th, former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial commenced. This historic day began with arguments from the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team regarding the constitutionality of holding an impeachment trial for a former president. The Senate would later vote 56 to 44 that the trial was constitutional, with six Republicans choosing to join Democrats in the vote.

The second day, however, was focused on the argument of impeachment managers. To prove that Trump had incited insurrection, they cited his words and actions throughout the event, as well as those of his supporters, and laid out a timeline of the chaos. Previously unseen footage of the events at the Capitol was also presented, with video placing prominent lawmakers in close proximity to the mob. Former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Mitt Romney had particularly close encounters.

As arguments were concluded for the day, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) requested that a part of the prosecution’s presentation was stricken from the official record, claiming that statements ascribed to him were inaccurate. 

A sense of confusion quickly overwhelmed the Senate chamber as the process played out, with legislators needing clarification as to what they would be voting on and asking how the statements attributed to Lee were untrue. This led to the trial being paused for a brief period of discussion amongst senators, and impeachment managers then complying with Lee’s request.

House impeachment managers continued their argument the next day, presenting evidence that showed the effects of the Capitol insurrection and put Trump’s history of making inflammatory statements on full display. They eventually concluded their case with remarks from the lead impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who reminded senators of their duty to “render impartial justice in this case.”

On the fourth day of the impeachment trial, the former president’s defense team presented their argument for Trump’s acquittal. They claimed that the impeachment trial was a political move made by Democrats to avoid running against Trump in the future. The defense also used video evidence to show that rhetoric similar to the former president’s could be found on both sides, with a montage of various Democrats using the word “fight” and otherwise “over the top” rhetoric.

Also on Friday, senators were able to ask questions to the House impeachment managers and the former president’s lawyers. Several of the questions asked discussed how Trump’s conduct may have influenced events at the Capitol.

The last day of the impeachment trial allowed impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team to make their closing statements before a final vote. However, the Senate unexpectedly voted to call witnesses after new developments regarding a phone call between the former president and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that took place on January 6th. Though it was later decided that witnesses would not be introduced, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s (R-WA) statement about the call was entered into the record.

The trial concluded after Senate votes were cast and counted, with a result of 57 votes for conviction and 43 votes for acquittal. This was ten votes short of the two-thirds majority that was required to convict Trump. The former president was ultimately acquitted for the charge of “incitement of insurrection,” though this will likely not be the last time Trump is seen in court.  

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