impeachment round 2
February 14, 2021

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) didn't hold back on Saturday when she issued a "scorching" statement on why she decided to vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.

"The facts make it clear that the violence and desecration of the Capitol that we saw on Jan. 6 was not a spontaneous uprising," Murkowski said, explaining that she believes Trump "set the stage" for the insurrection months before by repeatedly pushing unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election. Trump, she said, "did everything in his power to stay in power," ultimately calling on his supporters "to come to Washington, D.C., ... to 'Stop the Steal' of an election that had not been stolen" and giving the crowd on Jan. 6 "explicit instructions" to march to the Capitol.

Once the riot started, Murkowski continued, Trump was "not concerned" about members of Congress, the Capitol Police, or former Vice President Mike Pence. "He was concerned about his election and retaining power," she said.

Lawmakers were still able to finish certifying the Electoral College results that day because of "brave men and women who fulfilled their oath to protect and defend Congress. I regret that Donald Trump was not one of them," Murkowski said as she wrapped up the statement.

Murkowski will be the first of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump to come up for re-election in 2022 (two of the senators are retiring), though any risk she may face for defying Trump is mitigated somewhat by Alaska's unique electoral system, analysts say. Either way, Murkowski has built a reputation as one of the more bipartisan senators, so there's no reason to think she would have changed her vote under different circumstances. Read the full statement here. Tim O'Donnell

February 14, 2021

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) has already been censured by the Louisiana GOP for his vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial Saturday, keeping with a trend across the country, in which Republicans breaking with Trump have faced backlash at home. It appears the Nebraska Republican Party may take the same route with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).

Meanwhile, two other senators who joined Cassidy and Sasse in voting to convict — Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) — faced rebukes from the Republican parties in their home state, but so far, it seems, the parties are stopping short of voting to censure.

The Utah GOP's executive director Laurel Price told Forbes the party doesn't have a statement on Sen. Mitt Romney's (R-Utah) vote to convict, adding "I'm not certain about a censure effort just yet."

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) round out the group of seven GOP lawmakers who voted guilty. There's been no word from their state parties as of yet, but Murkowski is up for re-election in 2022, making her the first of the seven (Burr and Toomey are retiring) to face the ballot box test. Read more about the backlash the seven senators are facing at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

February 13, 2021

Republican senators let former President Donald Trump off "on a technicality," Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), a House impeachment manager, said Saturday after Trump escaped conviction for the second time in a little over a year.

Castro was arguing that many of the 43 GOP lawmakers who voted that Trump was not guilty of inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6 did so because they believed it wasn't constitutional to try an ex-president. He likely won't hear much of a rebuttal from within that contingent. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), for example, said Trump's actions in the lead up the Capitol riot were "inexcusable," but couldn't shake his stance that the trial shouldn't have taken place in the first place.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also said the constitutionality question was his primary reason for acquitting before tearing into Trump on the Senate floor. Others, like Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), were less direct in their criticism of the president, but similarly suggested they based their votes on whether they thought the trial was constitutional, rather than the case itself.

In the end, only Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) separated the two votes. While he agreed the trial was unconstitutional initially, once the Senate decided to move forward, he accepted the proceedings in full and wound up voting to convict. Tim O'Donnell

February 13, 2021

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted to acquit former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, while still rebuking his "disgraceful" and "reckless" actions.

The Republican leader spoke on the Senate floor on Saturday afternoon shortly after Trump was acquitted on a charge of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Despite McConnell voting not guilty, he again strongly criticized the former president's conduct surrounding the riot.

"Former President Trump's actions [that] preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty," McConnell said. "There's no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it."

McConnell continued to slam Trump over his response to the riot and for engineering a "campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it." At the same time, McConnell defended his not guilty vote by arguing Trump is "constitutionally not eligible for conviction" as a former president.

"We have no power to convict and disqualify a former office holder who is now a private citizen," McConnell argued.

Wrapping up his remarks, McConnell noted that despite the Senate's acquittal, Trump is "still liable" for his actions in office as a private citizen.

"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen," McConnell said. "He didn't get away with anything yet. Yet. We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one."

Seven Republican senators voted to convict Trump, making this the most bipartisan impeachment vote in American history. Prior to McConnell's remarks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) slammed those Republicans who voted to acquit Trump, saying they have signed "their names in the columns of history alongside his name forever." Brendan Morrow

February 13, 2021

These days, it can often feel like former President Donald Trump is off the grid, but he made himself known Saturday shortly after he was acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial for the second time in just over a year.

In a statement, Trump thanked his legal team and the lawmakers who voted not guilty, while blasting Democrats, whom he accused of getting a "free pass to denigrate the rule of law." The impeachment effort, Trump claimed, was "another phase" of what he considers "the greatest witch hunt" in American history.

Once he was done chiding his opponents, the former president turned his attention to his supporters, promising them "our historic, patriotic, and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun," and that "I have much to share with you" in "the months ahead." Tim O'Donnell

February 13, 2021

The Republican senators who voted to convict former President Donald Trump were quick to explain their thinking.

Trump was acquitted on charges of incitement of insurrection on Saturday, with a 57-43 Senate vote including seven Republicans who favored conviction. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) voted to convict, even though Burr and Cassidy had previously voted that the Senate does not have the jurisdiction to try an official once they no longer hold office.

Cassidy kept his explanation short and sweet:

Burr meanwhile argued "the evidence is compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting and insurrection against a coequal branch of government and that the charge rises to the level of high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Contradicting other Republicans' arguments that the trial was unconstitutional and therefore Trump must be acquitted, Burr said: "The Senate is an institution based on precedent, and given that the majority of the Senate voted to proceed with this trial, the question of constitutionality is now established precedent."

Both lawmakers were quickly denounced by their respective state party organizations. The North Carolina Republican Party called Burr's vote "shocking and disappointing," while the Republican Party of Louisiana said it condemned Cassidy's vote "in the strongest possible terms." Summer Meza

February 13, 2021

Former President Donald Trump on Saturday was acquitted by the Senate in an impeachment trial for the second time in just over a year. This time, a majority of senators voted guilty on the single article of impeachment — the final tally was 57-43 — but impeachment trials require a two-thirds majority for conviction.

All 50 senators who caucus with the Democrats voted to convict, and they were joined by seven of their Republican colleagues, including Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). That's the most conviction votes an impeached president has ever received from senators in his own party. In fact, in all three previous trials (including Trump's first) combined, only 1 senator voted to convict a president of the same party.

Romney, Collins, Murkowski, Sasse, and Toomey had long suggested they were prepared to vote guilty, while Cassidy appeared to flip earlier this week after he was disappointed by Trump's legal team. Burr's vote, on the other hand, legitimately caught folks off guard. The senator explained that while he still believes it's unconstitutional to try a former president, that opinion no longer mattered once the upper chamber went through with the proceedings, which he said convinced him Trump was guilty of inciting an insurrection.

It's worth noting that Toomey and Burr will not be seeking re-election, and Cassidy's term doesn't end until 2026. Tim O'Donnell

February 13, 2021

The twists and turns of President Trump's Senate impeachment trial just kept coming on Saturday.

Earlier in the day, the Senate surprised everyone by voting to consider witness testimony, which likely would have extended the trial into next week, at least. There was reportedly a lot of confusion, and even some harsh exchanges, on the Senate floor in the wake of the vote, and reports suggested those in Trump's orbit were stunned at the last-minute development. His legal team, meanwhile, seemed prepared to call a host of witnesses to counter the Democratic House impeachment managers, who wanted to bring in Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) to testify about a Jan. 6 phone call between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the contents of which she said McCarthy relayed to her.

But it wasn't meant to be. During a brief recess the two sides reportedly reached a deal, and once the upper chamber reconvened Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) simply read Herrera Beutler's statement about the call. That was entered into the Senate record, no further witnesses will be called, and closing arguments are underway.

Democrats were quickly accused of caving despite seemingly having momentum on their side, even if Trump's acquittal remained the most likely outcome. It's unclear why exactly they didn't follow through, but attorney Daniel Goldman, the lead counsel for the House's first impeachment inquiry into Trump last year, said he was told that the impeachment managers weren't able to round up the witnesses they wanted, especially on short notice. Tim O'Donnell

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