| Arizona Republic
The Senate on Saturday acquitted former President Donald Trump of the charge he incited a Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, offering a partisan coda to his tumultuous single term and no formal consequences for him in connection with the deadly riot.
Most senators — all 50 Democrats and seven Republicans — voted to convict Trump and bar him from seeking federal office again. But the 57-43 vote fell well short of the two-thirds super-majority needed to convict in the 100-member chamber.
Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona had made plain even before the trial they held Trump responsible for the mob attack that killed five people, including a police officer, and left 140 other police injured. They posed no questions to either side.
Sinema and Kelly each stood during the conclusion of the trial, saying the words “guilty” to the charge.
After the vote, Sinema noted that elected officials swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.
“Former President Donald Trump betrayed his oath willfully, as no president has before,” Sinema said in a written statement. “He incited a violent insurrection against his own government because he did not like the outcome of a free and fair election. What is at stake today is the future of our democracy and whether we will be a country that fiercely protects democracy, or let it slip away to claims of party loyalty.
“May we all be loyal to our Constitution, rather than a political party or a person – because we must rebuild Americans’ faith in our democracy and our trust in each other.”
In a written statement, Kelly said Trump needed to be held accountable for the attack to make clear it could not happen again.
“I listened to the testimony during this trial closely and considered the case put forward by the House Managers and the defense,” Kelly said. “The evidence demonstrated that former President Donald Trump incited the violence at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, with the intention of overturning the decision of the voters of Arizona and other states, and then did nothing to stop it because he hoped it would be successful. That makes him guilty of the charge laid out in the article of impeachment, and it also makes him guilty of violating his oath of office.”
The former president decried the impeachment trial as a “witch hunt” and celebrated his acquittal in a statement.
“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,” his statement said.
“… Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun. In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. There has never been anything like it!”
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The verdict capped a month of bitter partisan clashes over Trump’s culpability in summoning rioters to Washington, D.C., to “stop the steal” of the 2020 presidential election, priming them with incendiary language and then taking little evident action as lives were lost.
The weeklong trial reopened the traumatic wounds of Jan. 6 for those who were the targets of the mob’s violence and returned the public’s focus to the former president and a seemingly permanent partisan split.
The vote capped five days of arguments by House managers who used chilling video, Trump’s own words and those of his supporters, to make the case that rioters thought they were acting at the direction of Trump.
For their part, Trump’s lawyers argued that the crowd acted on its own and that Trump never intended for the violence that unfolded.
But House managers argued that Trump fired up rioters for weeks by bullying election officials, governors — including Arizona’s Republican Doug Ducey — and other public officials by baselessly claiming the election had been stolen from him by Democrats.
“He summoned the mob, assembled the mob and when the violence erupted, he did nothing to stop it, instead, inciting it further,” said Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., during closing arguments.
After assembling his supporters in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 — the day Congress was set to certify the election results — managers said Trump unleashed the mob on the Capitol, setting off unprecedented violence against police as he remained singularly focused on stopping Democrat Joe Biden’s win.
After Trump was made aware of the intensifying violence and threats to lawmakers and former Vice President Mike Pence, he responded with indifference, House managers said.
“He reveled in it,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead House manager, said.
Impeachment trial: House managers backtrack on calling witnesses
A statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was read instead of subpoenaing her-and potentially hundreds of others-as a witness.
USA TODAY, Wochit
The managers, acting as prosecutors, entered into the record Saturday a witness statement from a media report by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash. They said it further demonstrated Trump’s mindset as the attack intensified.
In it, she recounted a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., relayed to her that he had had with Trump as the attack unfolded on live TV before the entire world.
Herrera Beutler had said that in the middle of the riot, when McCarthy asked Trump to call off the pro-Trump rioters, the former president first tried to blame the siege on extreme leftists. When McCarthy told Trump they were his supporters, Trump responded with indifference, saying the rioters appeared more upset about the results of the presidential election than McCarthy, a supposed ally, did.
“The cold, hard truth is that what happened on Jan. 6 can happen again,” Neguse told a hushed chamber. “I fear like many of you do that the violence we saw on that terrible day may be just the beginning.
“We’ve shown you the ongoing risks, the extremist groups who grow more emboldened every day. Senators, this cannot be the beginning. It can’t be the new normal. It has to be the end. And that decision is in your hands.”
Trump’s legal team used just a fraction of their allotted time to defend the president, blasting Democrats’ case by casting the former president as a stalwart defender of police and law and order. They rejected the notion that Trump ever encouraged violence during his Jan. 6 speech ahead of the riot, and accused Democrats of taking the former president’s words out of context.
Trump’s team noted that Trump had used similar vocabulary at many other rallies and speeches that did not result in violence. And they highlighted Democrats’ own, unsuccessful efforts in 2017 to challenge the certification of Trump’s electoral win.
At the center of Trump’s legal argument was the contention that his Jan. 6 speech before the riot was within the norms of political discourse, and was free speech protected by the First Amendment, a point with which House managers and legal scholars disagreed.
Trump’s team said House managers’ contention that the attack on the Capitol was planned and premeditated by his supporters “demonstrates the ludicrousness” of the impeachment charge that Trump incited the crowd, some of whom Trump’s attorneys said were already at the Capitol while Trump was speaking.
“You can’t incite what was already going to happen,” his attorney, Michael van der Veen said earlier in the trial.
During closing arguments, van der Veen said the riot was a “heinous act” and noted that Trump’s team has denounced the riots and has said rioters should be punished.
“No matter how much truly horrifying footage we see of the conduct of the rioters and how much emotion has been injected into this trial, that does not change the fact that Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him,” he said. “Despite all of the video played, at no point in their presentation did you hear the House managers play a single example of Mr. Trump urging anyone to engage in violence of any kind.
“At no point did you hear anything that could ever possibly be construed as Mr. Trump encouraging or sanctioning an insurrection. Senators, you did not hear those tapes because they do not exist because the act of incitement never happened.”
The votes to convict by Sinema and Kelly — both witnesses to the attack — are not surprising.
Both had previously told The Arizona Republic they thought Trump incited the rioters.
“That is fact,” Sinema said days after the riot. “If you listen to the president’s speech, that is what it is. We should be honest about it, but we should also provide opportunities now more than ever for people to stop engaging in behavior that is inciteful or that supports this kind of very dangerous, sedition-type behavior and instead bring people back to this concept of patriotism to our country, which means honoring our Constitution.”
One day after the siege, Kelly signaled how he felt, saying he was talking with GOP and Democratic colleagues about how Trump had “violated his oath of office by inciting” the violence.
On that fateful day, Sinema and Kelly were in the Senate chamber as rioters stormed the building and bedlam erupted as Republicans were challenging Arizona’s electoral votes.
Both sought to console a young staffer while Kelly’s twin brother texted him that rioters were climbing up walls and wielding clubs. They fled the chamber with their colleagues as the angry mob descended after Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman redirected Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, away from the rioters, and the rioters away from the chamber.
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