WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump on Saturday was acquitted of an impeachment charge that he incited the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C. It is the second time in a year the U.S. Senate determined Trump was not guilty of impeachment charges brought by the Democratic-controlled House.
A majority of senators voted to convict Trump in the 57-43 vote, but that fell short of the two-thirds majority of 67 votes needed to convict the former president. Seven Republican senators joined all 50 Democrats in their vote to convict.
Shortly after the vote, Trumped thanked his legal team and Republican senators who stood by him, and called the impeachment political.
“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,” Trump said in a statement. “I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.”
The House’s move to impeach for a second time came after Trump spoke to supporters Jan. 6 outside the White House as the House and Senate met in joint session in the Capitol to certify each state’s Electoral College votes declaring President-elect Joe Biden the winner of the Nov. 3 election.
Trump told the crowd he would not concede and that he knew “everyone would be making their way over to the Capitol to protest peacefully and patriotically” and they should “give our Republicans the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back this country.”
Thousands of people later descended on the Capitol and hundreds breached the doors, entering the building and sending lawmakers into hiding. Democrats said Trump’s words “incited an insurrection.”
The single article of impeachment against the former president, with 190 co-sponsors in the U.S. House, read in part: “In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
Trump is the first president ever to be impeached twice and the first to beat the charges twice.
GOP 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 joined with Democrats in voting guilty.
Cassidy said he joined Democrats in voting to convict because he thought Trump was guilty.
“Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person,” Cassidy said. “I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty.”
In February 2020, Trump was acquitted of two impeachment counts brought by the House in connection to his dealings with Ukraine. The first article accused Trump of abusing his power for his own political gain by engaging in an alleged quid pro quo with the Ukrainian government to interfere in the 2020 election. The second count accused Trump of obstructing Congress in its efforts to investigate the alleged abuse. A majority of senators voted to acquit Trump on both of those counts.
Though Trump was no longer in office, a conviction would have meant Trump could not run again. His acquittal leaves the door open for a potential run in 2024.