On Saturday, February 13, the Senate came up 10 votes short in the effort to convict former President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial held to decide the charge that he incited an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. With all senators participating, the 57-43 vote did not meet the constitutional requirement of 67 votes necessary to convict.
Seven Republicans joined all Democrats and Independents in the final tally. Those seven included Senators 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 Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Trump issued a statement thanking his legal team and supporters.
“I want to first thank my team of dedicated lawyers and others for their tireless work upholding justice and defending truth,” Trump said. “My deepest thanks as well to all of the United States Senators and Members of Congress who stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country.
Trump also assured his supporters that he was not done in politics.
“Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” he said. “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!”
Reactions from senators who participated in the historic event – the second impeachment trial of the same president – revealed wildly diverging views.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who voted for Trump’s acquittal on the basis that, constitutionally, a former president cannot be tried after he leaves office, was still critical of the former president in a floor speech following the vote.
“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.
“The House accused the former President of, quote, ‘incitement.’ That is a specific term from the criminal law.
“Let me put that to the side for one moment and reiterate something I said weeks ago: There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., voted for acquittal and disagreed with McConnell’s criticism of Trump. He issued his own statement condemning the entire impeachment process.
“The charge against former President Trump for inciting violence was contrary to the evidence. And using the standard of incitement the House Managers proposed, many politicians could find themselves on the wrong side of impeachments in the future.
“It was never the goal of the House to find out what happened on January 6 and then assign blame. They were assigning complete and total blame to President Trump regardless.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., joined six Republicans in voting to convict the former president.
“Our Constitution and our country is [sic] more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty,” the senator said in a video statement.
President Joe Biden issued a statement highlighting Sen. McConnell’s post-acquittal condemnation of Trump’s actions and said the “substance of the charge is not in dispute.”
“This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile” Biden said. “That it must always be defended. That we must be ever vigilant. That violence and extremism has no place in America. And that each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., took aim at Senate Republicans, perhaps eyeing a chance to pick up Democratic seats in 2022. “Just look what Republicans have been forced to defend,” Schumer said. “Look what Republicans have chosen to forgive.”
There has been some talk on both sides of the aisle about creating a commission to examine the January 6 assault on the Capitol.
Photo from Carlos Barria/REUTERS