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Senate acquits Trump despite delay of impeachment vote

UPDATED: Sat., Feb. 13, 2021

The Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial on Saturday despite new attention to statements from a Washington congresswoman that nearly forced the proceedings into overtime.

A quick trial where House Democrats tried to convince the Senate that Trump knew about the Capitol siege on Jan. 6 and refused to act on it ended with a brief standoff over calling witnesses, closing arguments and a 57-43 vote. Seven Republicans voted to convict Trump, but the Senate failed to reach the required 67 votes for the two-thirds majority to convict.

The final decision followed a morning of confusion when senators voted to consider hearing witnesses, something neither side had originally said they would do.

Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican who represents southwestern Washington, released a statement late Friday about a conversation she had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy regarding Trump’s knowledge of the attacks. She also called on more Republicans to speak up about what they knew about Trump’s lack of efforts to quell the insurrection.

After a 55-45 vote to consider calling Herrera Beutler and others as witnesses, the Senate took a brief recess to consider how to move forward. Democrats and Republicans ultimately agreed to put her statement into evidence and move on to closing arguments.

When McCarthy reached Trump on Jan. 6 and asked him to publicly call off the riot, Trump initially said it was antifa who breached the Capitol, according to Herrera Beutler’s statement. McCarthy then refuted the president, saying the rioters were Trump supporters.

According to Herrera Beutler, Trump replied: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

In her Friday statement, she added she has shared these details with constituents, colleagues, media and at public events. In a virtual town hall event on Tuesday, Herrera Beutler recounted the phone call to attendees, just one day before Trump’s trial began.

“Did he send anyone in to help? No. But he did place calls to senators while they were in lockdown. And you know what he said? He said ‘can you do something to further delay the electoral counting?’ ”

She called Trump’s initial inaction a violation of Trump’s oath to protect the Constitution, according to the Daily Chronicle in Centralia.

“That’s as impeachable as it gets, in my books,” Herrera Beutler said.

In a speech on the House floor last month, Herrera Beutler spoke in favor of impeachment. Fear is the country’s enemy, she said, but truth prevails over fear. She added her decision to impeach was based on truth.

“I’m not afraid of losing my job, but I am afraid my country will fail,” she said.

But her concerns related to the McCarthy conversation didn’t receive widespread attention until Friday – after Trump’s lawyers asserted in the impeachment trial during a question-and-answer session that Trump never knew that Vice President Mike Pence was in danger during the insurrection, even though he was told that Pence was being escorted from the Senate chamber.

GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah had asked if Trump knew Pence was in danger when Trump sent a disparaging tweet about Pence.

Five Republicans joined Democrats in voting to consider witnesses, a surprise to some senators who expected a quick finale Saturday.

The result of the final vote, however, was no surprise to most, especially after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday he’d vote to acquit, clearing an almost certain path for acquittal.

Besides Collins and Romney, five other GOP senators voted to convict Trump: Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Both of Idaho’s Republican Senators voted to acquit the president. Sen. Mike Crapo called the trial “unconstitutional.”

“The House’s impeachment proceeding blatantly violated established guarantees of due process,” he said in a statement.

Investigations and arrests are currently underway for those responsible for the Jan. 6 act, he added. “The violent, despicable acts of January 6th have shaken our republic to its core and must not go unpunished.”

In a statement, Sen. Jim Risch said the Senate has no jurisdiction over a private citizen, which he considers Trump to be now that he is no longer in office.

“It’s time we stop the political hate and vitriol and move forward wiser and stronger just as America has countless times before,” Risch said in a statement.

Both of Washington’s Democratic Senators voted to convict. Sen. Patty Murray criticized those Republicans who chose to acquit.

“While too many of my Republican colleagues chose fear instead of justice today, I want to assure everyone in Washington state and across the country that I will never let fear or intimidation stop me from doing my duty to you and to our nation,” she said in a statement.

Murray said she saw and heard firsthand how “insurrectionists, at the behest of the former president” tried to overturn the election.

“I voted to convict today because I believe we must speak up for our democracy now, or we may lose it forever,” she said.

In a statement, Sen. Maria Cantwell said Trump put the country’s democracy at “real risk” when he promoted lies about the election.

“President Trump’s ‘process’ defense was not persuasive,” she said in her statement. “A bipartisan majority of senators found him guilty, but unfortunately not a supermajority. President Trump should still be held accountable for his actions.” 

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Feb. 13 to correct the spelling of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s first name.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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