CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate voted Saturday to acquit former President Donald Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, marking the second time senators have found Trump not guilty for his actions as president.
Seven Republicans joined the Democratic caucus in the 57-43 vote, in which 67 senators had to find Trump guilty for a conviction. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted the former president was guilty, while Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted not to convict.
North Carolina’s Richard Burr, Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Utah’s Mitt Romney, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey joined Democrats in voting to find Trump guilty.
The vote Saturday afternoon came after the Senate agreed to allow witness testimony, but House managers settled for reading a public statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., for the record. Herrera Beutler issued a statement Friday regarding a phone call between Trump and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in which McCarthy asked Trump to act on the people attacking the Capitol building.
The impeachment trial, which began this week, took place a month after a pro-Trump crowd stormed the Capitol in opposition to certifying the presidential election results. The president spoke to supporters before the riot, pushing false claims that widespread voter fraud impacted the November election.
The House approved the impeachment resolution 232-197 on Jan. 13; West Virginia’s representatives — Republicans David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller — opposed. The approved article of impeachment also noted Trump’s efforts to pressure Georgia officials to find votes and overturn the state’s election results in his favor.
Trump left office on Jan. 20.
The Senate agreed on Jan. 26 to move forward with the impeachment trial. Capito was among 45 Republicans who voted for dismissing the proceedings as unconstitutional. Capito has said the U.S. Constitution does not give lawmakers the ability to impeach a private citizen.
The senator voted Tuesday the former president is not subject to impeachment; the Senate agreed 56-44 to continue with the trial.
“Given that President Trump no longer holds public office, my ‘no’ vote today is based solely on this constitutional belief,” Capito said Saturday in a statement.
“My prior votes related to this matter have been consistent with this principle. As a United States Senator, my duty is to follow the Constitution, and my vote today reflects this. The precedent of impeaching private citizens is one that gives me great pause because of what it would mean for the future. If we do this now, what and who will be deemed impeachable next? This is a dangerous path that we should not go down.”
Manchin and Capito have said Trump was responsible for the riot in which five people died. Capito said following Saturday’s vote her decision to acquit the former president does not signal a change with this stance.
“What happened on January 6 threatened our foundational transfer of power and the actions were an embarrassment to our country and everything that we stand for. The actions and reactions of President Trump were disgraceful, and history will judge him harshly,” she said.
Manchin stated Trump should have been held accountable for his actions connected with the insurrection, but it is now time for lawmakers to address the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.
“Now more than ever, it is on each of us to seek unity over division and put partisanship aside for the good of our country,” he said.
Capito struck a similar tone while calling impeachment “incredibly divisive.”
“The fact is that the Trump presidency is now over, but the challenges facing our nation are not,” she said. “It is time to turn our full attention to the American people and move forward.”
Trump is the first president to be impeached twice and the first commander-in-chief whose impeachment trial happened after leaving office. The Senate acquitted Trump last February on charges related to a phone call with Ukraine’s president, in which Trump discussed a possible investigation into then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.
“This has been yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country,” Trump said after Saturday’s vote. “No president has ever gone through anything like it, and it continues because our opponents cannot forget the almost 75 million people, the highest number ever for a sitting president, who voted for us just a few short months ago. ”
Biden, now president, was elected with 81.2 million votes from the populace and 306 votes in the Electoral College compared to Trump’s 74.2 million votes and 232 electoral votes respectively.