Trump acquitted in second impeachment trial after final 57-43 Senate vote

Senate had earlier voted in favor of witnesses on a wild final day of the trial, before both sides later agreed to proceed with closing arguments of up to 4 hours.

Published: February 13, 2021 9:27am

Updated: February 13, 2021 9:05pm

The Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump Saturday on a single impeachment article of incitement of insurrection, falling 10 votes short of the two-thirds necessary to convict with 57 voting guilty vs. 43 not guilty.

All Democrats and 7 Republicans voted guilty on Saturday, including Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

House managers and Trump's defense team had agreed Saturday to move to closing arguments for up to 4 hours in the Senate impeachment trial of the former president. 

The agreement to move to closing arguments came after the timetable for the rest of the trial had been pitched into uncertainty following a morning of surprises. The Senate voted in favor of calling witnesses after the House impeachment managers said they wanted to call Washington Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler to testify about the statement she issued on Friday evening regarding House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy's conversation with Trump on the day of the riot. 

Trump defense counsel Michael van der Veen said he would seek depositions from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris in the event of an extended trial with witness testimony. Raskin also said he wanted Trump to testify. Trump's defense and the impeachment managers eventually agreed to enter Herrera Beutler's statement into trial evidence and proceed to closing arguments.

In his closing argument, lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) called Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney as a "hero" for voting to impeach Trump and "resisting" a "retaliatory cancel culture that she was subjected to" when the Republican caucus voted on whether to keep her in a leadership role. She was ultimately not stripped of her position as conference chair.

Trump's counsel objected to a new video used in Pennsylvania Rep. Madeleine Dean's closing argument.

"This is crooked," one of Trump's lawyers said. 

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is presiding over the trial as the Senate pro tempore, ruled the evidence would be "stricken" from the record.

"New evidence is not permitted in closing argument. References to such new evidence will be stricken," he said.

"The statement was in evidence, the slide was not, so we will withdraw the slide."

Trump's defense team is not making their closing argument. 

"Hopefully we can all leave this chamber in uniform agreement that all rioting, all rioting, is bad and that law enforcement deserves our respect and support," Van der Veen said after mentioning the rioting that occurred after the death of George Floyd. "That has been Mr. Trump's position from the very beginning."

Van der Veen said the House managers made up a "legal standard" in the case that he called the "Raskin doctrine."

"Any speech made by Democrat elected officials is protected speech while any speech made by Republican elected officials is not protected," he said. "This impeachment has been a complete charade from beginning to end."

He argued that the Democrats have had an "obsessive desire" to impeach Trump since he took office in 2017.

Raskin said he embraces the Raskin doctrine.

"If that is the Raskin doctrine that a president of the United States cannot incite violent insurrection against the union and the Congress then I embrace it and I take it as an honor. Most law professors never even get a doctor named after them so I will accept that," he said. 

Before closing arguments began, senators voted 55-45 to call witnesses. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voted with Democrats to subpoena witnesses and documents.

"This is a political theater, and I think the House managers were feeling heat on their left flank," Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said. "At this point, nobody knows what's going to happen."

Ahead of the vote to call witnesses, Trump defense lawyer van der Veen had called on senators to "close this case out today." He said the House managers included 100 people in their case who were arrested after the riot took place. Before the Senate voted in favor of witnesses, van der Veen said he would need 100 depositions and an ample amount of time to do the "investigation" that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn't done yet.

"This entire proceeding is based on rumor, report, innuendo," he said. "There's nothing to it."

Trump's defense had up to 16 hours to present their case on Friday but used less than 4 hours. Senators had up to 4 hours to question both sides after Trump's defense presented. The questioning lasted for more than 2 hours on Friday.

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