The Senate has voted to acquit Donald Trump on the charge of incitement of insurrection against the U.S. government. The vote Saturday brought to conclusion the second impeachment trial of the former president, who is now the only U.S. president and only federal official to be impeached and acquitted twice. Mr. Trump was first impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to his effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate now-President Biden and his son. He was later acquitted of both charges by the Republican Senate majority.
The House voted 232-197 last month to impeach Mr. Trump for encouraging the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Democrats alleged that several of Mr. Trump’s statements, such as “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore,” along with his false allegations of voter fraud and calls for his supporters to “fight” and march to the Capital, were acts of incitement made in a last-ditch attempt to stop Congress from declaring Mr. Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Democrats closed their case Saturday saying that the former president prepared his supporters for violence by spending money to amplify the message that the election was stolen and issuing a “save the date” invitation for January 6th, and that he failed to call for help after having “summoned the mob.” Mr. Trump’s lawyers closed their arguments saying Democrats failed to prove that the former president incited the riot, and that Mr. Trump simply used standard political rhetoric and never intentionally instigated the mob. They also said Mr. Trump should not be subject to an impeachment trial as a former president and highlighted the problem with the hurriedness of the trial. Leaders of both the Republicans and Democrats had incentives for wanting a speedy trial, however. For Democrats, it was primarily to enable them to proceed with a coronavirus relief package.
While only one Republican senator voted to convict Mr. Trump during the first impeachment trial, seven Republicans voted in favor of conviction during the second impeachment trial on Saturday, marking a record level of support for conviction from a president or former president’s own party. Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania were the Republicans who voted for conviction. Yet, Mr. Trump remains popular among the Republican base and has never acknowledged Mr. Biden won the election. He thanked his lawyers and senators who voted against his conviction after the fact on Saturday, and foreshadowed his political future.