McConnell Blames Trump After Vote to Acquit: Impeachment Update

Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial ended in a not guilty verdict on a vote of 57-43, short of the two-thirds majority required.

The nine House impeachment managers presenting the charge against the former president argue that he betrayed his oath of office by inciting his followers to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump’s lawyers counter that he didn’t encourage violence and simply exercised his First Amendment rights.

McConnell Blames Trump After Voting to Acquit (4:20 p.m.)

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a scorching speech assailing Trump as “practically and morally responsible” for the attack on the Capitol minutes after the Kentucky senator voted to acquit him on the impeachment charge.

McConnell said the mob attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 because “they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man” on Earth.

Echoing the case made by the Democratic House impeachment managers, McConnell said it wasn’t just Trump’s speech but “the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe” that preceded it.

“The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering” and “feign surprise when people who hear him do reckless things,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Still, the Kentucky senator told his Republican colleagues in a statement Saturday morning that he would vote to acquit the former president. “While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction” because Trump is a former president, he said.

He pointedly added that former presidents can be subject to criminal and civil litigation. He said Trump “didn’t get away with anything yet -- yet.”

Democrats have said McConnell refused to convene the Senate to begin an impeachment trial while Trump was still in office. -- Mike Dorning and Steven Dennis

Trump Says He Triumphed as Champion of the Law (3:55 p.m.)

“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,” former President Trump said in a statement minutes after the effort to convict him failed in the Senate.

He said it’s “a sad commentary” 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.”

Indicating he has political plans for the future, Trump said, “We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future.”

Senate Has Votes to Acquit Trump (3:48 pm)

The Senate has the votes to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial, as the roll call continued. Republicans reached the 34 votes they needed to block a conviction in the evenly divided Senate.

Senate Begins Final Vote in Trump Trial (3:40 p.m.)

The Senate began its final vote on Trump’s impeachment. With two-thirds required, Republicans need 34 “no” votes to block conviction in the evenly divided Senate.

Trump’s Lawyer Says He Never Urged Violence (3:12 p.m.)

“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,” Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said in his closing argument.

“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,” he said, calling the Democrats’ claims “false and defamatory.”

Although van der Veen said there’s no excuse for the “depraved rioters” at the Capitol, he said Democratic political leaders “spent the six months immediately prior to the Capitol assault giving rhetorical aid and comfort to mobs, making excuses for rioters, celebrating radicalism and explaining that angry, frustrated and marginalized people were entitled to blow off steam like that.”-- Mark Niquette and Laura Litvan

Trump Stays Silent on Bloody Day: Lawmaker (1:34 p.m.)

Trump “has remained silent about what he was doing during one of the bloodiest attacks on our Capitol since 1812,” Representative David Cicilline, one of the House impeachment managers, said as the Democrats made their closing argument in the impeachment trial.

He said “no one is suggesting that President Trump intended every detail of what happened on January 6. But when he directed the sea of thousands before him who were reportedly ready to engage in real violence, when he told that crowd to fight like hell, he incited violence targeted at the Capitol, and he most certainly foresaw it,” Cicilline said.

Cicilline also said Trump “did nothing” to help Vice President Mike Pence who was among the intended targets of the mob of Trump supporters enraged that Pence was presiding over the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. -- Mark Niquette

Senate Moves to the Closing Arguments (1 p.m.)

The Senate moved to closing arguments in the impeachment trial, starting with lead House manager Jamie Raskin summarizing the case against Trump.

After arguments from Raskin and Trump’s lawyers, the Senate can decide if it wishes to hold a closed session to discuss the evidence before a final vote.

“We’ve offered you overwhelming and irrefutable –- and certainly unrefuted -- evidence that former President Trump incited this insurrection,” Raskin said. “The evidence, the video, documentary, eyewitnesses have only grown stronger and stronger and more detailed right up until today -- right up to 10 minutes ago -- over the course of this Senate trial.” -- Mark Niquette

Deal Reached to Avert Calling Witnesses (12:49)

House impeachment managers dropped their request to obtain testimony from Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler after senators agreed instead to enter into the record an account of her secondhand account of a phone call between Trump and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The accord averted the prospect of a cavalcade of requests for testimony from both sides that could have extended the impeachment trial beyond its expected conclusion later on Saturday.

Senators Used Break to Seek a Compromise on Witnesses (12:30 p.m.)

Senators in both parties said negotiations were underway to find a deal on calling witnesses after the Senate’s surprise vote in favor of seeking more evidence. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said a deal had been reached, although he offered no details.

Republican Senator Mike Braun said members of his party are prepared to allow a news article into the record about Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler’s secondhand account of a phone call between Trump and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy in exchange for Democrats dropping their request to depose Herrera Beutler. Then the trial would proceed to closing arguments and a final vote later on Saturday.

It’s not clear Democrats would accept such a deal. Republican Senator Thom Tillis said he expects a bipartisan deal to be worked out in a few hours -- or the Senate would face a series of votes on witness requests.

Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been advising Trump’s legal team, switched his vote from opposing the the prospect of calling witnesses to favoring it.

He made clear he’s trying to make a point: Graham said that if the Senate agrees to the request by House impeachment managers to depose Herrera Beutler, he’ll insist on “multiple witnesses” -- starting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He said she should be required “to answer the question as to whether or not there was credible evidence of pre-planned violence before President Trump spoke? Whether Speaker Pelosi, due to optics, refused requests by the Capitol Hill Police for additional resources like the National Guard?”

Graham and Trump’s lawyers, however, would need 51 votes to call any witnesses, meaning he’d need to recruit at least one Democrat. -- Steven Dennis

Senate Recesses to Negotiate Over Witnesses (11:43 p.m.)

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the Senate will take a break until 12:30 p.m., as members negotiate over whether to extend the impeachment trial by calling witnesses.

Senate Approves House Request to Consider Witnesses (10:30 a.m.)

The Senate approved 55-45 a request to consider calling witnesses, a move that may extend the trial that was expected to end within hours.

House managers said Republican Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler had important information about a phone call during the mob attack at the Capitol between House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump. Trump’s attorney, Michael van der Veen, said he’d need to call hundreds of witnesses if any were to be allowed.

Amid confusion over what the vote meant, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said it opened a debate on whether to actually call witnesses and how many. “I don’t think there’s any limit right now, and that’s part of what will be debated.”

Although it would take a two-thirds vote to convict Trump, it would take just a simple majority to allow subpoenas of particular witnesses and agree to the process for calling them.

After the vote, members huddled in small groups on the Senate floor discussing strategy on the issue.-- Daniel Flatley and Steven Dennis

House Managers Ask to Subpoena Lawmaker (10:19 a.m.)

Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, asked that a Republican congresswoman be asked to testify on a conversation she said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told her he had with Trump during the mob insurrection.

Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington State, who voted to impeach Trump, issued a statement Friday recounting the conversation.

She said McCarthy told her he asked Trump to call off his supporters. According to Herrera Beutler’s account, Trump first claimed that the rioters were members of the leftist movement Antifa. When McCarthy responded that they were indeed his supporters, Trump told him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Herrera Beutler said in the statement.

Raskin asked for Beutler’s notes and a Zoom call of less than an hour.

But Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen answered that if witnesses are to be called, “I’m going to need more than 100 witnesses, not just one.” He said “we should close this case out today.” But if not, “Do not handcuff me by limiting the number of witnesses I can have.”

The Senate began a roll call on the issue.-- Laura Litvan and Steven Dennis

McConnell Tells GOP He’ll Vote to Acquit (9:45 a.m.)

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has kept silent on his intentions until now, has sent GOP senators a message that he will vote to acquit Trump, three people familiar with his announcement said.

McConnell previously has previously declined to disclose his intentions, while describing the impeachment vote as a matter of conscience for each senator.

“While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” the Kentucky senator said in the message reported earlier by Politico. But he added that “the Constitution makes perfectly clear that Presidential misconduct while in office can be prosecuted after the President has left office.”

He said that resolves concern about the “otherwise troubling ‘January exception”’ for wrongdoing cited by the House. -- Josh Wingrove, Billy House and Steven Dennis

Trump’s Silence in Riot Fuels New Dispute (8 a.m.)

A Republican congresswoman has prompted renewed focus on Trump’s silence while a mob of his supporters rampaged through the U.S. Capitol.

Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington State, who voted to impeach Trump, issued a statement Friday recounting a telephone conversation that she said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told her he had with Trump during the Jan. 6 assault.

She said McCarthy told her he asked Trump to call off his supporters. According to Herrera Beutler’s account, Trump first claimed that the rioters were members of the leftist movement Antifa. When McCarthy responded that they were indeed his supporters, Trump told him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Herrera Beutler said in the statement.

Trump eventually posted a video saying it was time for the rioters to leave the Capitol and that “we have to have law and order” but adding, “We love you, you’re very special.”

The impeachment trial was expected to move toward a vote Saturday with neither side calling witnesses, but Herrera Beutler urged those who knew of Trump’s inaction to come forward.

“To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president, if you have something to add here, now would be the time,” she said in the statement.

Trump’s conversation with McCarthy, which was the subject of a CNN report earlier Friday, couldn’t be independently confirmed. Hours after the riot, McCarthy voted with other Republicans to reject Electoral College votes from two states that Joe Biden won. And on Jan. 28, he visited Trump at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to discuss the 2022 elections.

But before Trump’s impeachment, McCarthy said, “the president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” His office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday night.

-- John Harney and Billy House

Where to Watch:

You can catch the proceedings live on the Bloomberg Terminal or streaming on the web at bloomberg.com. Cable news networks CNN, Fox News and MSNBC are likely to show significant portions of the trial. C-SPAN 2, which covers Senate floor proceedings, will broadcast it on cable and online.

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