Former President Trump cheered his impeachment acquittal Saturday — while his successor, President Biden, said his thoughts were with those who died in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, and that the facts of the impeachment case are not in dispute.
Biden and Trump issued statements after the Senate voted 57-43 against holding Trump accountable for inciting the violent storming of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters.
The vote fell well short of the two-thirds needed to convict Trump as seven Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in voting to convict the former president.
Trump lauded his acquittal as the end of “yet another chapter in the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country,” and vowed to use his vindication as a springboard to return to the political arena even after the wide condemnation of his actions that day.
“Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” Trump wrote in a statement. “I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together.”
What Trump saw as vindication of his “beautiful movement” Biden labeled as a “sad chapter in our history” that “has reminded us that democracy is fragile.”
“I am thinking about those who bravely stood guard that January day,” Biden wrote. “I’m thinking about all those who lost their lives, all those whose lives were threatened, and all those who are still today living with terror they lived through that day.
“And I’m thinking of those who demonstrated the courage to protect the integrity of our democracy – Democrats and Republicans, election officials and judges, elected representatives and poll workers – before and after the election.”
Biden noted that while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted against conviction, McConnell said Trump “was guilty of a ‘disgraceful dereliction of duty’ and ‘practically and morally responsible for provoking’ the violence unleashed on the Capitol.”
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said history would harshly judge both Trump and the GOP lawmakers who let him off the hook.
“The failure to convict former President Trump will live as a vote of infamy in the Senate,” Schumer said in a fiery speech after the acquittal. “This was about choosing country over Donald Trump and 43 Republican members chose Trump. Let it be a weight on their conscience.”
Among the surprising votes for conviction were Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who is retiring next year, and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
The historic impeachment trial moved to a quick conclusion after Democratic lawmakers backed off an explosive effort to call witnesses, a process that might’ve extended the proceedings by hours or days.
An unexpected vote in favor of hearing witnesses passed 55-45, a move that threw the trial into chaos just as it was on the verge of concluding.
Two hours later, both sides reached a deal to instead enter into the record a statement from a Republican House lawmaker about a heated phone call on the day of the riot between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that Democrats say established Trump’s indifference to the mob violence.
The situation was resolved when Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s statement on the call was read aloud into the record for senators to consider as evidence.
The compromise allowed the Senate to move onto closing arguments and the final vote.
Republicans remained desperate to avoid extending the trial with witnesses that were likely to shed more light on Trump’s refusal to defend the Capitol as his supporters ran wild and hunted down Democrats and Vice President Mike Pence.
But Democrats also worried that extending the impeachment trial could delay or derail President Biden’s push to enact a coronavirus stimulus plan and jump-start the economy.
The trial came after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say Trump egged on a mob enraged over his ridiculous claims that the presidential election was stolen at a rally that occurred as Congress met to rubber stamp President Biden’s election.
They agreed Trump knew that his MAGA backers were gunning for Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but resisted calling in reinforcements for the badly outnumbered Capitol Police.
Trump refused to testify and his lawyers dodged questions about why he failed to act, suggesting the House managers should have provided that evidence.
House impeachment managers laid out a detailed case showing that Trump urged on the crowd then failed to act for hours as they occupied the Capitol. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer were killed in the shocking attack that was televised around the world.
Trump’s defense derided the impeachment effort as a partisan sham that did not adhere to due process. They said Trump’s fiery speech was protected by the First Amendment, even though the impeachment is not a criminal trial.