U.S. Senate acquits Trump as Republicans save him in impeachment again
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[February 13, 2021]
By Richard Cowan, David Morgan and Makini Brice
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate
acquitted Donald Trump on Saturday in his second impeachment trial in a
year, with fellow Republicans blocking conviction over the former
president's role in the deadly assault by his supporters on the U.S.
The Senate vote of 57-43 fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to
convict Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection after a five-day
trial in the same building ransacked by his followers on Jan. 6 shortly
after they heard him deliver an incendiary speech.
In the vote, seven of the 50 Senate Republicans joined the chamber's
unified Democrats in favoring conviction.
Trump left office on Jan. 20, so impeachment could not be used to remove
him from power. But Democrats had hoped to secure a conviction to hold
him responsible for a siege that left five people including a police
officer dead and to set the stage for a vote to bar him from ever
serving in public office again. Given the chance to hold office in the
future, they argued, Trump would not hesitate to encourage political
Trump's attorneys argued that his words at the rally were protected by
his constitutional right to free speech and said he was not given due
process in the proceedings.
Republicans saved Trump in the Feb. 5, 2020, vote in his first
impeachment trial, when only one senator from their ranks - Mitt Romney
- voted to convict and remove him from office.
Romney voted for impeachment on Saturday along with fellow Republicans
Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Ben Sasse, Pat Toomey, and
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted "not guilty," offered
scathing remarks about the former president after the verdict.
"There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally
responsible for provoking the events of the day," he said. "The people
who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and
instructions of their president."
The drama on the Senate floor unfolded against a backdrop of gaping
divisions in a pandemic-weary United States along political, racial,
socioeconomic and regional lines. The trial provided more partisan
warfare even as Democratic President Joe Biden, who took office on Jan.
20 after defeating Trump in the November election, called for healing
and unity after his predecessor's four turbulent years in power and a
caustic election campaign.
Seventy-one percent of American adults, including nearly half of all
Republicans, believe Trump was at least partially responsible for
starting the Capitol assault, but only about half of the country thought
Trump should be convicted of inciting insurrection, according to an
Ipsos poll conducted for Reuters.
Trump, 74, continues to hold a grip on his party with a right-wing
populist appeal and "America First" message. The wealthy
businessman-turned-politician has considered running for president again
Trump is only the third president ever to be impeached by the House of
Representatives - a step akin to a criminal indictment - as well as the
first to be impeached twice and the first to face an impeachment trial
after leaving office. But the Senate still has never convicted an
Democrats forged ahead with impeachment despite knowing it could
overshadow critical early weeks of Biden's presidency.
The House approved the single article of impeachment against Trump on
Jan. 13, with 10 Republicans joining the chamber's Democratic majority.
That vote came a week after the pro-Trump mob stormed the neoclassical
domed Capitol, interrupted the formal congressional certification of
Biden's victory, clashed with an overwhelmed police force, invaded the
hallowed House and Senate chambers, and sent lawmakers into hiding for
their own safety.
[to top of second column]
The U.S. Senate votes to acquit former U.S. President Donald Trump
by a vote of 57 guilty to 43 not guilty, short of the 2/3s majority
needed to convict, during the fifth day of the impeachment trial of
the former president on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the
U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 13,
2021. U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters
'FIGHT LIKE HELL'
Shortly before the rampage, Trump urged his followers to march on
the Capitol, repeated his false claims that the election was stolen
from him through widespread voting fraud, and told them that "if you
don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."
During the trial, nine House lawmakers serving as trial managers, or
prosecutors, urged senators to convict Trump to hold him accountable
for a crime against American democracy and to prevent a repeat in
the future. They played searing video of rioters swarming inside the
Capitol and making violent threats toward politicians including
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Vice President Mike Pence. The
House managers said Trump summoned the mob to Washington, gave the
crowd its marching orders and then did nothing to stop the ensuing
The defense lawyers accused Democrats not only of trying to silence
Trump as a political opponent they feared facing in the future but
of attempting to criminalize political speech with which they
disagreed and aiming to cancel the voices of the tens of millions of
voters who backed him.
Trump's lawyers argued the trial was unconstitutional because he had
already left office. The words Trump used, they argued, were no
different than those regularly employed by Democrats.
In his previous impeachment trial, the Senate voted to acquit Trump
on two charges - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. That
impeachment arose from Trump's 2019 pressure on Ukraine to
investigate Biden as he sought foreign aid to sully a domestic
A common theme in the charges at the heart of the two impeachments
was Trump's abandonment of accepted democratic norms to advance his
own political interests.
The U.S. Constitution sets out impeachment as the instrument with
which the Congress can remove and bar from future office presidents
who commit "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Impeachment, once a rare occurrence, has become more commonplace
during America's era of poisonous political polarization in recent
decades. In the 209 years after the first U.S. president, George
Washington, took office in 1789, there was only one impeachment.
Since 1998, there have been three, including Trump's two. Andrew
Johnson was impeached and acquitted in 1868 in the aftermath of the
American Civil War and Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 and
acquitted in 1999 of charges stemming from a sex scandal.
Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 rather than face impeachment over the
Trump's acquittal does not end the possibility of other
congressional action against him such as a censure motion.
Republicans seemed dead set against an idea floated by Democrats of
invoking the Constitution's 14th Amendment provision barring from
public office anyone who has "engaged in insurrection or rebellion"
against the government.
The impeachment proceedings also can be viewed in the context of a
battle for the future of the Republican Party. Some Republicans -
mostly moderates and establishment figures - have voiced alarm at
the direction Trump has taken their party. Detractors have accused
Trump - who had never before held public office - of undermining the
institutions of democracy, encouraging a cult of personality and
pursuing policies built around "white grievance" in a nation with a
growing non-white population.
(Reporting by Rick Cowan and David Morgan; Additional reporting by
Jeff Mason, Susan Cornwell, Makini Brice, Ted Hesson and Michael
Martina; Writing by Jeff Mason and Will Dunham; Editing by Scott
Malone, Daniel Wallis and Jonathan Oatis)
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