Yesterday’s Senate impeachment vote took an unexpected turn before former President Donald Trump was acquitted of inciting insurrection. The 57-43 vote did not meet the two-thirds majority of votes needed to convict Trump.
There was uncertainty early Saturday, following the disclosure of a statement by Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA). Beutler asserted that Trump backed the insurrection, citing a conversation she claimed she had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the lead House impeachment manager, mentioned in a press conference Saturday afternoon that he just became aware of this evidence late Friday. McCarthy described to Herrera his phone call with Trump, when The Capitol was being stormed, wherein Trump sided with the mob. “Well Kevin,” Trump reportedly told McCarthy, “I guess they’re just more upset about the election theft than you are.” A few hours later, Trump appeared in a White House video, telling the mob to go home as the siege on Capitol Hill was already winding down.
Due to Beutler’s statement, a measure allowing witnesses to testify in the case was proposed by Raskin and passed 55 to 45. Five Republican Senators joined Democrats and Independents in support of it. Rather than opening up the trial for witnesses for both the prosecution and defense to question, and to avoid what Raskin said would have been “a circus” by the defense -- who threatened to call in more than 100 witnesses -- he agreed to have Beutler’s statement submitted as evidence, rather than start the deposition process to have her testify in person.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted to acquit Trump, seen by some observers as a cover to Republicans intent on doing the same for political reasons and likely out of fear of reprisal from Trump supporters extremists across the nation. After the vote, McConnell said impeachment was not “jurisdictionally appropriate” because President Trump was no longer in office.
When asked in a press conference after the Senate voted to acquit why the Impeachment managers decided not to call more witnesses against Trump, Raskin responded, “We could have had 5,000 witnesses, and Mitch McConnell would be giving the same speech.”
Before the trial, the House Impeachment managers argued before the Senate that there was already a historic precedent for impeaching a U.S. official after they’d left office. The Senate agreed with the motion on Jan. 26 by a 55-45 vote, paving the way for the impeachment trial.
While McConnell said it was no longer jurisdictionally appropriate to impeach and convict Trump, because he’s no longer in office, the Senate Minority leader claimed the former President was “practically and morally guilty” of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The House impeached the President on Jan. 13 and was ready to move the case to the Senate, but McConnell, who was then the Senate Majority Leader, refused to receive it before the Jan. 20 inauguration of Joe Biden.
Initially, McConnell took no public position on the second impeachment. However, after voting yesterday to acquit Trump, he suggested the former President could face criminal and civil charges. His statement, according to some observers, was aimed at assuaging some major Republicans donors, who stated that they would not support senators who do not convict Trump.
Trump’s second impeachment faced long odds in the Senate from the beginning. With 50 Democrats voting as a bloc, they needed 17 Republicans to vote to convict. In the end, only seven Republicans crossed the aisle to vote to convict. They were Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).
Even though he was acquitted of impeachment a second time in the Senate, Trump is under investigation for his official conduct and past business dealings in Georgia and New York, respectively. He is not barred from running for public office again.