Updated Feb 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The Senate acquits Trump

In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, Senate votes 57-43 to acquit on the fifth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial

Photo by congress.gov via Getty Images

The Senate failed to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to convict former President Trump on charges of high crimes and misdemeanors, with a final vote of 57-43 cementing his acquittal.

Why it matters: Seven Senate Republicans voted ‘guilty,’ the most bipartisan margin in favor of conviction in history.

  • The Republican senators who voted to convict: Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey.

What they're saying: "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, and it continues because our opponents cannot forget the almost 75 million people, the highest number ever for a sitting president, who voted for us just a few short months ago," Trump said in a statement.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a floor speech following his vote to acquit, unleashed his harshest criticism for the former president: "Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty.”
  • Trump is “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, no question about it,” McConnell makes clear, despite voting to acquit the former president.

The big picture: The vote came after a chaotic day, during which the House impeachment managers sought, and then abandoned, plans to call witnesses.

  • House impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, unexpectedly announced Saturday morning that his team would seek testimony from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) to talk about her knowledge of a conversation between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump during the Capitol attack.
  • Beutler — one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump — said McCarthy told her he pleaded with Trump to go on television and call off the riots, but the president refused to do so for hours.
  • The Senate then voted 55-45 to call at least one witness. All Democrats and five Republicans voted in favor of seeking witness testimony.
  • The five GOP Senators included: Susan Collins (Maine), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Lindsey Graham (S.C).
  • Trump’s defense team was furious with the 11th-hour decision and threatened to subpoena House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a series of other witnesses. Other Republicans also said they'd drag out the trial if the House managers decided to move forward with subpoenas.

The trial then recessed as both sides hashed out a deal. They agreed that, rather than calling for witnesses to testify before the Senate — which likely would have dragged out the trial for several more days, if not weeks — that they would instead submit a statement from Beutler for the record.

Behind the scenes: The managers were arguing amongst themselves until 3 am about how to handle the report of the Trump-McCarthy phone call.

  • Schumer encouraged the caucus to support whatever the managers decided.
  • Five minutes before the Senate convened, the managers indicated to Senate Democrats that they wanted witnesses.
  • Senate Democrats gave them the votes, but the managers didn’t know what their next step was.
  • The managers decided to reach an agreement with Trump counsel.

They then proceeded to closing arguments, during which the House impeachment managers alleged that Trump had egged his supporters on for months, culminating in the deadly attack on Jan. 6. Trump then sat by for hours as his vice president and members of Congress were under siege, before telling his supporters to go home, the managers claim.

  • Meanwhile, Trump's lawyers insisted that the former president never directed his supporters to use violence or incite the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. They argued that the "Stop the Steal" rally Trump spoke at was meant to be peaceful, but "fringe groups" hijacked the event with their malintent.

Between the lines: The White House was deliberate in its messaging to show that it was not focused on the trial: President Biden went to Camp David for the weekend and aides announced he was meeting Saturday with national security advisers. Vice President Harris and her husband visited a veteran’s hospital in DC and brought cookies to healthcare workers.

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