Senate votes to acquit Donald Trump in impeachment trial
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWAY) — Former president Donald Trump has been acquitted by the Senate in his second impeachment trial.
Senators voted to convict the former president by a vote of 57-43, ten votes shy of the 67 votes (2/3 of the Senate) required by the Constitution to secure a conviction.
Seven Republicans, including North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, voted to convict Trump, along with all Democrats and the two independents in the Senate.
The seven Republicans who voted to convict the former president are Burr, Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA), Sen. Susan Collins (ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK), Sen. Mitt Romney (UT), Sen. Ben Sasse (NE), and Sen. Pat Toomey (PA).
Below are statements by Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis released by their offices explaining their impeachment votes:
“January 6th was a grim day in our nation’s history. The attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attempt to undermine our democratic institutions and overrule the will of the American people through violence, intimidation, and force.
“Seven lives were tragically lost as a result of that day. Law enforcement officers, outnumbered and overwhelmed, sustained debilitating injuries as they bravely defended Congress against an angry mob. We now know that lawmakers and congressional staff came dangerously close to crossing paths with the rioters searching for them and wishing them harm.
“When this process started, I believed that it was unconstitutional to impeach a president who was no longer in office. I still believe that to be the case. However, the Senate is an institution based on precedent, and given that the majority in the Senate voted to proceed with this trial, the question of constitutionality is now established precedent. As an impartial juror, my role is now to determine whether House managers have sufficiently made the case for the article of impeachment against President Trump.
“I have listened to the arguments presented by both sides and considered the facts. The facts are clear.
“The President promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to cast doubt on the integrity of a free and fair election because he did not like the results. As Congress met to certify the election results, the President directed his supporters to go to the Capitol to disrupt the lawful proceedings required by the Constitution. When the crowd became violent, the President used his office to first inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault.
“As I said on January 6th, the President bears responsibility for these tragic events. The evidence is compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government and that the charge rises to the level of high Crimes and Misdemeanors. Therefore, I have voted to convict.
“I do not make this decision lightly, but I believe it is necessary.
“By what he did and by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
“My hope is that with today’s vote America can begin to move forward and focus on the critical issues facing our country today.”
“My vote was based on two fundamental issues with the impeachment process. The first being the decision to hold a trial for a private citizen, and the second being the charge itself.
“There are valid questions whether it is constitutional for Congress to put a private citizen on trial. And even if it is constitutionally permissible, it isn’t prudent in the absence of a thorough impeachment inquiry. The House managers argued impeachment was necessary to bar former President Trump from running for president again. Their rationale is not rooted in any consistent, objective standard and collapses on itself: what accountability would a trial provide to a second-term president who commits impeachable offenses in their final days in office when they are already constitutionally barred from seeking another term? I have faith in the American people to determine whether former President Trump disqualified himself from seeking the presidency in the future.
“An impeachment trial is not the best or only way to hold a former elected official accountable for their actions. The ultimate accountability is through our criminal justice system where political passions are checked and due process is constitutionally mandated. No president is above the law or immune from criminal prosecution, and that includes former President Trump.
“Casting aside the question of whether it was wise or constitutional to hold the trial, there were also significant issues with the case made by House Democrats.
“During their impeachment inquiry, the House declined to interview a single witness and conduct a formal and thorough investigation. The impeachment power should be used sparingly and only after careful and deliberate consideration, regardless of whether the individual is still in elected office. In their haste to impeach, they completely bypassed all due process for the first time in our nation’s history— including no representation of defense counsel in House proceedings, limited sharing of validating evidence, and only calling for witnesses after they already rested their case before the Senate.
“The next presidential election is four years away. The House has plenty of time to follow due process to attempt to build a credible case if the goal is to disqualify President Trump from running for office again.
“The charge of incitement of an insurrection, which is a subjective standard where one elected official’s ‘passionate and fiery speech’ is another’s ‘incitement of violence,’ especially in an age where politicians on both sides of the aisle have repeatedly used overcharged and provocative rhetoric. That raises the question that if President Trump is to be impeached for such language, should it follow that any member of Congress who uses similar language, including telling a crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court that justices ‘have released the whirlwind and will pay the price’ be similarly sanctioned?
“The most serious aspect of President Trump’s conduct was not necessarily what he said in the lead-up to the attack of the Capitol, but the leadership he failed to provide to put an end to it, and yet the House curiously chose not to file a charge or build their case around this point.
“It is important to note that a not guilty verdict is not the same as being declared innocent. President Trump is most certainly not the victim here; his words and actions were reckless and he shares responsibility for the disgrace that occurred on January 6.
“Everyone knew going into this impeachment trial that it would infuriate one half of the electorate regardless of the outcome and make our nation even more polarized. I hope that the end result is short-lived, and the responsibility falls on all of us to do better. Elected officials must stop embracing and propagating dangerous and baseless conspiracy theories that undermine the faith we have in our nation and our institutions. And when we see violence, anarchy, and thuggery—regardless of whether it comes from white nationalists in the Capitol or ANTIFA in the streets of Portland and Seattle—we have an obligation to condemn it. And most importantly, we need to stop casting those who we disagree with as ‘enemies’ with evil motives and instead recognize that despite our differences we are all fellow Americans.”