Donald Trump acquitted in second impeachment trial by Senate – CNET

Donald Trump impeachment trial in Congress

A verdict has been reached in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

James Martin/CNET

The Senate voted Saturday to acquit former President Donald Trump on an impeachment charge of incitement of insurrection, bringing Trump’s second impeachment trial to a close. The vote came after a five-day proceeding in which arguments focused on whether Trump incited the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, and whether it’s constitutional to conduct an impeachment trial of a former president who’s now a private citizen.

The acquittal, largely along party lines, was expected. Though the Senate is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris a potential tie-breaking vote as president of the Senate, the impeachment trial required a two-thirds supermajority for a conviction, meaning 17 Republican senators would’ve had to break with Trump. In the end, the vote was 57-43 to convict, with all 48 Democrats, two independents and seven Republicans finding Trump guilty. That wasn’t enough.

A conviction was an unlikely outcome from the beginning. In a Jan. 25 vote led by Sen. Rand Paul on whether the impeachment trial of an ex president is unconstitutional, just five Republicans voted in favor of a trial. The first day of the impeachment trial, earlier this week, saw a similar vote, during which six Republicans voted with Democrats to continue the proceeding.

On Saturday, the Republicans who voted alongside Democratic senators to convict Trump were Sens. Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse, Pat Toomey, Bill Cassidy and Richard Burr.

During the trial, prosecutors relied on disturbing video footage showing the Capitol riot, as well as video and audio clips and social media posts showing Trump repeatedly calling on supporters to march on the building on Jan. 6 and in the days and months leading up to that date. House impeachment managers additionally showed tweets where Trump lauded violent actions by his supporters in the lead-up to the 2020 election, continued stoking the violence during the insurrection and “did nothing to protect us.”

Trump’s defense team used more dispassionate constitutional and legal analysis to argue the trial is a violation of the former president’s First Amendment rights, as well as claiming Trump’s rally speech was taken out of context — and that Democrat leaders have used the same language in the past in calling on their own supporters to “fight.”

The trial began Feb. 9, with Trump facing a single impeachment article for incitement of insurrection regarding his role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol, which left five people dead including a Capitol Police officer. In a speech that day in front of the White House, Trump urged supporters to march to the Capitol.

The siege of the Capitol building sought to overturn the 2020 election results and halt the process of confirming Biden’s win in the Electoral College. Biden was confirmed after the riot and later inaugurated on Jan. 20. In a historic moment, 10 House Republicans broke with their party to vote in favor of impeachment.

The Senate may next consider a bipartisan censure, which is a formal, nonbinding statement of disapproval, of Trump, for which only a simple majority would be required.