The Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump a second time after a historic and highly unconventional impeachment trial.
Trump was the first president impeached twice by the House and acquitted by the Senate and the first to be tried as a private citizen, after leaving office.
The Senate trial began in January with debate on the constitutionality of impeaching a private citizen. All but five Republican senators voted to declare the trial unconstitutional. Democrats maintained they have precedent to support trying former officeholders as the Senate tried Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876 after he resigned.
The trial was also the first presidential impeachment to be presided over by a member of the Senate, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), rather than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, as proscribed by the Constitution.
The Supreme Court had no comment regarding Roberts’ absence from the second impeachment trial, But in a statement Leahy stated that when those out of office are tried, such as Belknap, the president pro tempore of the Senate has “historically presided.”
House managers who prosecuted the case argued Trump should be convicted and disqualified from holding future office because they claimed he incited the Capitol Hill riots on January 6.
Trump’s lawyers and most Senate Republicans argued that he couldn’t be held responsible for the mob’s violence. They played the actual January 6th speech in which he asked his supporters to protest peacefully. They also countered the accusations of Trump’s fiery rhetoric being incitement to violence by playing a montage of Democrats using fiery rhetoric, threats of violence and the words “fight” and “fight like Hell”.
The Senate voted by being called upon and stating either “guilty” or “not guilty”. 57 Senators voted “guilty” including all 50 Democrats and 7 Republicans. 43 Republicans voted “not guilty.” The Constitution requires 67 votes, a two-thirds majority to convict. The vote fell 10 votes short of conviction.
The seven Republicans who voted guilty were Sens. 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.
Trump issued a statement thanking his supporters in Congress.
“Our cherished Constitutional Republic was founded on the impartial rule of law, the indispensable safeguard for our liberties, our rights and our freedoms,” Trump said. “It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree.”