Impeachment Briefing: The Senate Acquits Trump

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This is the Impeachment Briefing, The Times’s newsletter about the impeachment investigation. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

  • Mr. Trump was acquitted for the second time in 13 months. The Senate voted 57-43 in favor of convicting him — not enough to meet the required two-thirds majority.

  • Democrats needed 17 Republicans to vote with them to convict Mr. Trump of inciting an insurrection. In the end, they got seven: Senators Richard M. 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 Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

  • The House impeachment managers unexpectedly called for witnesses and then abruptly dropped the request, after striking a deal with Mr. Trump’s defense team to add to the trial record a written statement from Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington — a Republican who said she had been told that Mr. Trump sided with the rioters as they were attacking the Capitol.

  • Minutes after the verdict was announced, Mr. Trump sent out a statement decrying the “witch hunt” he claimed was being waged against him. He also suggested that Democrats’ attempt to end his political career had failed, telling his supporters, “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.”


Forty-three Republicans voted to acquit Mr. Trump of inciting an insurrection against the United States — more than enough to prevent the two-thirds majority needed for conviction. Mr. Trump was found not guilty, a verdict he immediately celebrated.

And yet seven Republicans voted to convict him, making this by far the most bipartisan impeachment effort in American history. It is worth remembering that until a year ago, when Mr. Romney cast the lone Republican “guilty” vote in Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial, no senators had ever voted to convict a president from their own party.

A two-thirds majority to convict Mr. Trump, which would have cleared the way for a simple-majority vote to bar him from holding future office, was always extraordinarily unlikely, and everybody involved knew it. That was why — as The Times’s chief White House correspondent, Peter Baker, wrote two days ago — the House impeachment managers often seemed to be speaking less to the Senate than to history.

Representative Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, an impeachment manager, put it bluntly: “If we don’t set this right and call it what it was, the highest of constitutional crimes by the president of the United States, the past will not be past. The past will become our future,” she said in closing arguments. “Senators, we are in a dialogue with history.”

In speeches and statements after the vote, several Republicans who had voted to acquit Mr. Trump still declared him responsible for the assault on the Capitol. Among them was Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” Mr. McConnell said, “and having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet earth.”

Mr. McConnell’s stated reason for his “not guilty” vote was that Mr. Trump was no longer in office — even though it was Mr. McConnell who prevented the Senate from beginning the trial while Mr. Trump was in office.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi took that reasoning to task when she made an unexpected appearance at a Democratic news conference after the vote.

“It is so pathetic that Senator McConnell kept the Senate shut down so that the Senate could not receive the article of impeachment and has used that as his excuse for not voting to convict Donald Trump,” she said.

Nevertheless, it was striking that the leader of the Senate Republicans excoriated Mr. Trump using language that could have come from the House managers trying to convict him — something he certainly did not do the last time Mr. Trump was impeached.

“A mob was assaulting a Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him,” Mr. McConnell said. “There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”

Ultimately, that may be history’s verdict as well.


  • The Justice Department does not plan to focus on Trump in its investigation into the riot, but the evidence may give a clearer — and possibly more damning — picture of his role in the attack.


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