The Senate voted Saturday to acquit Donald Trump of a charge of inciting the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, bringing the historic second impeachment trial of the former president to a close.
Fifty-seven senators voted to find Trump guilty — short of the two-thirds threshold needed for a conviction — while 43 voted to find him not guilty. Seven Republicans joined the 50 members of the Democratic caucus in voting for conviction.
In their final arguments, House managers on Saturday accused Donald Trump of having “willfully betrayed us” as trial neared its end on a day punctuated by surprises. Trump’s lawyers countered that Democrats were motivated by an “impeachment lust” and argued that Trump does not bear responsibility for the violent attack on the Capitol by his supporters.
Here’s what to know:
After his Senate acquittal, a defiant Trump called his second impeachment by the House “another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country” and hinted at a return to national politics.
Despite voting to acquit Trump, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered a speech following the vote in which he decried a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” by Trump. However, he also argued that the Senate did not have jurisdiction to try a former president.
During the trial, Democrats tried to build a case against the former president by using hours of video and audio evidence, hundreds of pages of documents and screenshots of the president’s social media postings, both before and on the day of the Jan. 6 attack.
President Biden has remained out of public view on Saturday at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Western Maryland. Aides said he plans to meet with national security advisers.
Sen. McConnell, who voted to acquit Trump, says former president is ‘practically and morally responsible’ for provoking attack on Capitol
In remarks on the Senate floor after he voted to acquit Trump, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Saturday that the former president is “practically and morally responsible” for provoking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — but that the Senate was upholding the Constitution by acquitting him.
“The Senate’s decision today does not condone anything that happened on or before that terrible day,” McConnell said. “It simply shows that senators did what the former president failed to do: We put our constitutional duty first.”
Trump, by contrast, appeared to take his acquittal as a vindication of his actions before, during and after the Jan. 6 attack. In a statement, Trump called his second impeachment by the House “another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country” and hinted at a return to national politics.
McConnell spent much of his remarks condemning Trump’s actions and directly linking them to the Jan. 6 insurrection. The former president’s supporters, he argued, launched their violent attack “because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth, because he was angry he lost an election.”
“There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said at one point. “No question about it.”
He argued, however, that it was beyond the power of the Senate to hold Trump accountable for those actions.
“This body is not invited to act as the nation’s overarching moral tribunal,” McConnell said. “We’re not free to work backward from whether the accused party might personally deserve some kind of punishment.”
But on Saturday, McConnell sought to deflect blame for that decision.
“Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s own scheduling decisions conceded what President Biden publicly confirmed: A Senate verdict before Inauguration Day was never possible,” he said.
In January, McConnell’s office informed aides to then-Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) that he would not agree to immediately reconvene the Senate to begin a trial, despite pressure from Schumer to invoke rarely used emergency powers that allow the two Senate leaders to unilaterally reconvene.
Without mentioning his own role in blocking an earlier trial, McConnell said Saturday that he might have voted differently if Trump were still president.
“If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded to McConnell’s remarks at a Capitol news conference later Saturday with the House impeachment managers.
“For Mitch McConnell — who created the situation where it could not have been heard before the 20th, or even begun before the 20th in the Senate — to say all the things he said, oh my gosh, about Donald Trump and how horrible he was and is, and then say, ‘But that’s the time that the House chose to bring it over’ — Oh, no. We didn’t choose. You chose not to receive it,” Pelosi said.
She argued that the issue of timing “was not the reason that he voted the way he did; it was the excuse that he used.”
Who is Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, whose tweet upended Trump’s impeachment trial?
With a single tweet Friday, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler stopped former president Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial in its tracks — if only for a few hours.
In the late-night statement, issued as the Senate appeared poised to acquit Trump of inciting the deadly Capitol riot, the Republican congresswoman from Washington said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told her Trump had voiced sympathy for the mob in a phone call as the Jan. 6 attack was unfolding.
It wasn’t the first time Herrera Beutler had publicly discussed the call — she has used it to justify her vote to impeach Trump — but House impeachment managers seized on her account as the proceedings began Saturday morning, saying they wanted to subpoena her as a witness. Soon after, in a surprising turn, the Senate voted to allow witnesses in the trial — only to reverse course later in the day, having her statement read into the record and pressing forward with closing arguments.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) chastised the 43 Republicans who voted to acquit Trump on a charge of inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, resulting in a violent assault that left a police officer and four others dead.
“What we saw in that Senate today was a cowardly group of Republicans who apparently have no options, because they were afraid to defend their job, respect the institution in which they serve,” Pelosi told reporters. “What is so important about any one of us? What is so important about the political survival of any one of us than the Constitution we have sworn to protect and defend?”
She singled out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who voted not guilty Saturday but moments later delivered a lengthy speech excoriating the former president for a “disgraceful dereliction of duty.” McConnell had argued that it wasn’t appropriate to pursue impeachment of Trump, who is out of office.
Pelosi pointed out that after the House impeached Trump on Jan. 12, McConnell refused to bring the Senate back into session for a trial, sticking with the plan to return on Jan. 19 — the day before the inauguration.
“Remember when he talked about incitement … he was hedging all over the place. I don’t know whether it was donors or what. But whatever it was, it was very disingenuous,” she said.
Pelosi attended the news conference held by the House impeachment managers, who defended their initial decision Saturday to pursue witnesses — getting the Senate to back the move on a bipartisan vote — but then abandoned the plan.
“We could have had 5,000 witnesses, and Mitch McConnell would be giving the same speech,” said Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager.
Trump says impeachment effort was ‘another phase of the greatest witch hunt’
After his Senate acquittal, a defiant Trump called his second impeachment by the House “another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country” and hinted at a return to national politics.
“This has been yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country. No president has ever gone through anything like it,” Trump said in a statement, which did not include a condemnation of the mob of his supporters that breached the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to make America Great Again has only just begun,” Trump 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 our people.”
He provided no further elaboration about his plans.
Trump thanked his lawyers and lashed out at Democrats.
“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,” he said in the statement.
Despite losing seven Republicans in the most bipartisan impeachment vote in history, Trump’s legal team expressed gratitude and said a win was a win. One of Trump’s lawyers, Michael van der Veen, in particular, appeared thrilled with the outcome, joking with fellow members and posing with wide smiles for an array of cameras. As the team departed in a subway car in the basement of the Capitol, van der Veen fist-bumped a member and said, “We’re going to Disney World!”
GOP Sens. Burr, Cassidy, Collins, Murkowski, Romney, Sasse and Toomey vote with Democrats to convict Trump
In a 57 to 43 vote, the Senate acquitted Trump of the charge of inciting an insurrection, concluding the former president’s second impeachment trial.
Seven GOP senators voted alongside all 50 Democrats on Saturday, but it fell short of the number of votes needed — two-thirds of the senators present — for Trump to be convicted.
GOP Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Patrick Toomey (Pa.) were the Republicans who voted with Democrats.
Of those, Burr’s vote elicited the biggest reaction in the chamber by far, with gasps all around. Burr had not given any previous indication he was leaning toward convicting Trump.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted to acquit Trump.
Afterward, Toomey said it was the “right call” to vote to convict Trump but gave no further comments.
Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.
Republicans vote to acquit Trump on impeachment charge of inciting deadly attack on the Capitol
Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen accused Democrats of “impeachment lust” as he made his final appeals to senators to acquit Trump.
“You do not have to indulge the impeachment lust, the dishonesty and the hypocrisy. It is time to bring this unconstitutional political theater to an end,” van der Veen said in remarks that took up just a fraction of the two hours that Trump’s defense team was allotted.
He argued that the second impeachment of Trump was the culmination of an effort to destroy the Republican president that spanned his entire term in office.
“In short, this impeachment has been a complete charade from beginning to end the entire spectacle, a spectacle has been nothing but the unhinged pursuit of a long-standing political vendetta against Mr. Trump by the opposition party,” van der Veen asserted.
He offered four grounds on which he said senators should acquit Trump: that the Senate does not have jurisdiction to try a former president; that the impeachment article should have been divided into multiple articles; that Trump’s due-process rights were violated; and that his speech was protected by the First Amendment.
Trump attorney blames Senate for not trying Trump in January, does not mention Sen. McConnell blocked trial
Trump attorney Michael van der Veen on Saturday blamed the Senate for not holding the impeachment trial in January, without mentioning that then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked the chamber from doing so.
“The ‘January exception’ argument is a creation of the House managers’ own conduct by delaying — they sat on the article,” van der Veen said. “They could have tried the president while he was still in office if they really believed he was an imminent threat. They didn’t.”
McConnell’s office informed aides to then-Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) that he would not agree to immediately reconvene the Senate that week, according to a person familiar with the matter, despite pressure from Schumer to invoke rarely used emergency powers that allow the two Senate leaders to unilaterally reconvene.
Van der Veen also on Saturday falsely claimed the House impeachment managers had not referenced the Constitution or due process in making their closing arguments.
Several of the managers had done just that. Just minutes earlier, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) had called out Trump’s defense team for not allowing the former president to be a witness.
“You can’t claim there’s no due process when you won’t participate in the process,” Neguse said.
Van der Veen also charged that the House impeachment managers had “fabricated” evidence, taking issue with an image published in the New York Times of Raskin evaluating a tweet on a computer screen.
The “fabricated” evidence amounted to a mistake on the graphic — a blue check on the Twitter account that should not have been there. (The date was correct when entered into evidence.)
Glenn Kessler contributed to this report.
Trump lawyer says ‘the act of incitement never happened’
As he began the defense’s final arguments, Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said that Trump “is innocent of the charges against him” and that “the act of incitement never happened.”
“The question before us is not whether there was a violent insurrection of the capital. On that point, everyone agrees,” van der Veen said. “Based on the explicit text of the House impeachment article, this trial is about whether Mr. Trump willfully engaged in incitement of violence and even insurrection against the United States. How much truly horrifying footage we see of the conduct of the rioters and how much emotion has been injected into this trial, that does not change the fact that Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him.”
Van der Veen said the House managers did not produce explicit evidence of Trump’s calling for violence, arguing that they fell short of meeting the definition of “incitement of insurrection.”
“No unbiased person honestly reviewing the transcript of Mr. Trump’s speech on the Ellipse could possibly believe that he was suggesting violence,” van der Veen said, referring to remarks Trump made near the White House on the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
‘The stakes could not be higher,’ Rep. Neguse tells Senate in closing argument
In impassioned closing arguments, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) implored senators to vote to convict Trump because “the stakes could not be higher.”
“Because the cold, hard truth is that what happened on Jan. 6 can happen again. I fear, like many of you do, that the violence we saw on that terrible day may be just the beginning. We’ve shown you the ongoing risks,” Neguse said. “The extremist groups who grow more emboldened every day. Senators, this cannot be the beginning. It can’t be the new normal. It has to be the end. And that decision is in your hands.”
Neguse said he might be naive because he is the youngest House impeachment manager — which drew some laughter from the chamber — but he still believed senators would not be swayed by the “distractions” that Trump’s defense team put forth.
“I know what this body is capable of. I may not have witnessed it, but I’ve read about it in the history books,” said Neguse, who added he has actually watched C-SPAN archival footage for hours. “The amendment abolishing slavery was passed in this very room. … not figuratively, literally.”
He also fired back at the defense’s claim that Trump was not afforded due process: “You can’t claim there’s no due process when you won’t participate in the process,” Neguse said.
“This trial is not born from hatred. Far from it. It’s born from love of country, our country, our desire to maintain it, our desire to see America at its best.”
Neguse said the case was not one that required “complicated legal analysis” — in part because they were all present.
“You lived it. The managers and I, we lived it. Our country lived it,” Neguse said. “The president, in public view, right out in the open, incited a violent mob. A mob that temporarily, at least, stopped us from certifying an election.”
‘This is almost certainly how you will be remembered by history,’ Rep. Raskin tells senators in closing remarks
Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) focused his final argument on children — his own children, and their concern about the children of the insurrectionists who launched the attack on the Capitol.
Raskin, a House impeachment manager, said he had a conversation Saturday night with his daughter Hannah that “stopped me cold.”
“Hannah told me last night she felt really sorry for the kid of a man who said goodbye to his children before he left home to come and join Trump’s actions,” Raskin said. He said his daughter asked him: “How can the president put children and people’s families in that situation and then just run away from the whole thing?”
Raskin then told the Senate that his daughter “saw through the politics of the situation all the way to the humanity of the situation, the morality of the situation.”
“The children of the insurrectionists, even the violent and dangerous ones, they’re our children, too. They are Americans. And we must take care of them and their future,” he said.
Raskin appealed to senators to put country before party, asking them: “If we can’t handle this together as a people, all of us forgetting the lines of party and ideology and geography and all of those things — if we can’t handle this, how are we ever going to conquer the other crises of our day?”
He also cast the moment as one that will determine nothing less than each senator’s political legacy.
“This is almost certainly how you will be remembered by history,” Raskin said. “That might not be fair. It really might not be fair. But none of us can escape the demands of history and destiny right now. Our reputations and our legacy will be inextricably intertwined with what we do here and with how you exercise your oath to do impartial justice.”
Sen. Murray recounts harrowing tale of hiding in room as rioters stormed the Capitol
The power had been cut, her phone battery was running low, she couldn’t find a gas mask, and her husband was propping his foot against the door as insurrectionists on the other side chanted, “Kill the infidels.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was under siege for more than an hour inside a room in the Capitol on Jan. 6, inches away from an “incredibly loud, angry, even jubilant mob outside our door,” she recalled in an interview Friday with “PBS NewsHour.”
Murray had been preparing for a debate on certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Her husband of 49 years, Rob Murray, was with her in the Capitol. She texted her family that she was safe. Then chaos broke loose.
“We heard loud explosions,” Murray told anchor Judy Woodruff. “My husband yelled at me to get down. We were lying on the floor. And all of a sudden, they were in the hall, they were yelling. They were yelling that they had breached the castle. They were yelling, ‘Kill the infidels.’ ”
Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), one of the House impeachment managers, used her closing argument to address three claims made by Trump’s defense team — that Democrats view Trump’s Jan. 6 speech as the sole incitement for the attack; that Trump could not have known that violence would erupt on that day; and that the insurrectionists came to Washington of their own accord and for their own reasons.
On the first point, Dean responded that Democrats are not suggesting that Trump’s speech alone incited the attack.
“This was not one speech. This was a deliberate, purposeful effort by Donald Trump over many months that resulted in the well-organized mob’s attack on January the 6th,” she said. The fact that the insurrection was preplanned, Dean argued, further supports Democrats’ point.
“The evidence overwhelmingly confirms that Donald Trump’s conduct over many months incited his supporters to believe: One, his big lie that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged; two, that to ensure the election would not be stolen, to prevent the fraud, they had to ‘stop the steal’; and three, they had to fight to stop the steal or they would not have a country anymore,” Dean said.
On the second point made by the defense, Dean noted that Trump “knew the people he was inciting” in the lead-up to Jan. 6. “He saw the violence they were capable of. He had a pattern and practice of praising and encouraging supporters of violence, never condemning it,” she said.
Dean also pointed to the online posts indicating that many of those who came to Washington on Jan. 6 were planning to launch a violent attack. She added that Democrats are not suggesting that Trump “knew every detail of what would unfold” on Jan. 6 — and that, regardless, it wouldn’t be necessary for Democrats to prove that as part of their case.
On the last point, that the crowd came to Washington of its own accord, Dean said that the evidence presented by the House managers “makes clear the exact opposite — that they did this for Donald Trump, at his invitation at direction, at his command.”
Dean quoted from a post by one Trump supporter who wrote: “If Congress illegally certifies Biden, Trump would have absolutely no choice but to demand us to storm the Capitol and kill/beat them up for it.”
At points during her remarks, Dean withdrew some slides from her presentation after Republican objections that she was violating rules against introducing new evidence during closing arguments.
Dean concluded by urging senators to hold Trump accountable.
“Senators, the insurrectionists are still listening,” she said.
Trump ‘willfully betrayed us,' Rep. Cicilline says as part of final arguments
Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), one of the House impeachment managers, argued Saturday that Trump “willfully betrayed us” in a presentation that included a heavy focus on what Cicilline characterized as Trump’s indifference to the safety of Vice President Mike Pence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“The undisputed facts confirm that not only must President Trump have been aware of the vice president’s danger, but he still sent out a tweet attacking him, further inciting the very mob that was in just a few feet of him inside of this very building,” Cicilline said.
The tweet expressed Trump’s disappointment that Pence was not willing to intervene in the counting of the electoral college vote.
In his presentation, Cicilline also argued that senators should take Trump’s unwillingness to testify at the trial under consideration.
“In fact, I would insist on it if I were accused of a grave and serious crime that I was innocent of, I would demand the right to tell my side of the story,” Cicilline said. “President Trump declined.”
Cicilline also noted that Trump’s defense team did not formally object to the admission of evidence presented during the trial by the House managers even though earlier this week they accused the managers of manipulating videos and tweets.