Trump defence team argued the president’s speech was protected by First Amendment as trial races towards its conclusion.
- Trump has been acquitted on a charge of “incitement of insurrection”.
- Trump lawyers and House impeachment managers decided to avoid calling witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial after earlier voting to do so, a surprise move that would have likely prolonged the process.
Welcome to Al Jazeera’s coverage of the impeachment trial. This is Usaid Siddiqui.
Pelosi opposes censuring Trump: ‘It lets everybody off the hook’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, upset that Trump was not convicted in the Senate, said she does not support the idea of a congressional censure of the former president, arguing that would be just a “little slap on the wrist”.
“It lets everybody off the hook,” Pelosi told reporters after the vote. “All these cowardly senators who couldn’t face up to what the president did and what was at stake for our country are now going to have a chance to give a little slap on the wrist?”
“We censure people for using stationery for the wrong purpose, we don’t censure people for inciting insurrection that kills people in the Capitol,” she continued, before leaving the room.
Raskin: ‘Most bipartisan presidential impeachment’ in US history
Despite failing to convict Trump, lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin pointed out that a majority of the Congress agreed that he “incited” the Capitol riot.
“This was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment event in the history of the country,” Raskin said during a news conference after the vote.
“We have a clear and convincing majority of members of Congress that the president actually incited violent insurrection against the Union and against the Congress,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Trump ‘responsible’ for riot and but says impeachment ‘a narrow tool’
McConnell said Trump’s actions were wrong, but said the Senate did not have the right to convict him. “President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,” McConnell said.
“There’s no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for promoting” the events on January 6.
But McConnell says Trump is “constitutionally not eligible for conviction” because the article of impeachment did not reach the Senate while he was in office and that he is now a private citizen.
Trump reacts to Senate impeachment vote
“This has been yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country,” Donald Trump said after the US Senate found finding him not guilty of inciting the US Capitol riot.
He said his Make America Great Again movement “has only just begun”.
Statement by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America pic.twitter.com/mTCiVeUNXW
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 13, 2021
House majority leader Chuck Schumer excoriates Republicans who voted against impeachment
Chuck Schumer, addressing the Senate after the impeachment vote, hailed it as “the largest and most bipartisan vote of any impeachment trial in American history”. But he criticised the 43 Republicans who voted against the article of impeachment.
He called the incitement to the riot on January 6: “The most despicable act that any president has ever committed – and the majority of Republicans cannot summon the courage, or the morality, to condemn it.
“This trial wasn’t about choosing country over party, even not that this was about choosing country over Donald Trump and 43 Republican members chose Trump. They chose Trump.”
Seven Republicans vote in favour of conviction
Seven Republican senators joined their Democratic colleagues to vote to convict Donald Trump.
Senators Richard Burr, Pat Toomey Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Bill Cassidy and Ben Sasse all voted “guilty”.
Donald Trump acquitted on charge of inciting US Capitol riot
Former US President Donald Trump has been acquitted on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” in relation to the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol.
After a five-day impeachment trial in the US Senate, the vote was largely split along party lines.
Read more here.
Voting on impeachment charge under way
Voting on impeaching former Donald Trump continuing after the defence and prosecution wrapped up their closing arguments on the fifth day of the trial.
Trump is ‘innocent’ – lawyer
Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said was “innocent of the charges against him”.
“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 in his closing remarks.
“The act of incitement never happened,” van der Veen added.
‘Very desperate attempt’
Trump’s lawyer in his closing argument accused House Democrats of desperation for using previously unpresented evidence in its closing arguments.
“They tried to use evidence that they had never presented in the case in their closing arguments. That is a very desperate attempt by a prosecuting team that knew that their case has collapsed,” Michael van der Veen said.
“Their closing did not mention one piece of law … they didn’t talk about the Constitution.”
Trial ‘not borne from hatred’: Impeachment manager Neguse
House Democratic impeachment manager Joe Neguse in his closing remarks said the trial was “borne from love of country” and appealed to senators to convict former President Trump.
“This trial is not borne from hatred, far from it. It’s borne from love of country, our country, our desire to maintain it, our desire to see America at its best,” he said.
“The stakes could not be higher,” he added.
‘Used authority to incite’ – House manager
In closing arguments, House impeachment manager Madeleine Dean said Donald Trump “used his authority to incite” an attack on the US Capitol on January 6.
“The president of the United States, Donald J Trump, incited and directed thousands of people to attack the legislative branch,” she said.
“He knew what his supporters were capable of. He inflamed them, sent them down Pennsylvania Avenue, not on any old day, but on the day we were certifying the election. He failed to defend us – because this is what he wanted. He wanted to remain in power.”
Republicans raise objections to Democrats’ closing arguments
Twice during the House Democrats’ closing arguments, Republicans complained that the Democrats were improperly introducing new video evidence.
Both points of order raised by Trump’s proponents slowed the trial as the Senate parliamentarian sorted through the issues.
It appears at least one of the points of order was upheld as Senator Patrick Leahy, who is presiding over the trial, announced that evidence, after the first complaint was raised, would be “stricken from the record”.
‘Surprising turn of events’
Former federal prosecutor Melanie Sloan said it was a “surprising turn of events” as Democrats decided to avoid calling witnesses, hours after voting in favour of it.
“It seems though that the largest reason is that because the outcome is preordained, everybody decided not to spend the time,” she told Al Jazeera.
“I think on Twitter, for example, and in social media, you’re seeing a lot of outcry about it, particularly because since so much of this is not about the conviction … but showing the American people what happened.”
The ripple effects of Herrera Buetler’s statement
The source of the trial delay – Republican Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler’s account of a conversation between President Donald Trump and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy – promises to have ramifications after the trial ends.
In telling the story of the mid-Capitol riot phone call last month to the Longview Daily News, Herrera Beutler said McCarthy told Trump, “you need to call these people off,” adding that Trump responded, “Kevin, they’re not my people.”
She said McCarthy then told Trump, “Yes, they are, they just came through my windows and my staff is running for cover. Yeah, they’re your people. Call them off.”
Herrera Beutler Friday night urged “the patriots” who were with Trump during this call to come forward and tell their stories.
That request set off pro-Trump Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who threatened that Trump supporters are taking note of Hererra Beutler’s actions.
“First voting to impeach innocent President Trump, then yapping to the press and throwing @GOPLeader under the bus,” she tweeted.
“The Trump loyal 75 million are watching.” Taylor Greene added.
The gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats.
First voting to impeach innocent President Trump, then yapping to the press and throwing @GOPLeader under the bus, and now a tool as a witness for the Democrats running the circus trial.
The Trump loyal 75 million are watching. https://t.co/XjC6pbdtyK
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) February 13, 2021
House manager Jamie Raskin cites Trump’s ‘dereliction of duty’ as central to incitement charge
In closing arguments, lead House manager Jamie Raskin repeated the outline of the case they have laid out for US senators – that Donald Trump “urged supporters to come to Washington”, “embraced violent extremist elements” that the former president “assembled the mob, incited it, lit the match, sending them off to the Capitol.”
Raskin said, “desertion of duty was central to his incitement of insurrection and inextricable from it.
“It’s now clear beyond doubt that Trump supported the actions of the mob and so he must be convicted. It’s that simple,” he added.
Senate moves to closing arguments
After uncertainty about whether the Senate would call witnesses to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial, House managers and Trump lawyers agreed to avoid witnesses altogether.
The prosecution and defence now will have four hours total to make their final arguments in the case.
House manager reads Herrera Beutler testimony into record
House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin read Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler’s account on the Senate floor.
Herrera Beutler’s account detailed communications with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – and what Trump reportedly told McCarthy in the middle of the insurrection on January 6.
In the statement, she said McCarthy had told her about a call he had with Trump in which the former US president said, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
Deal on witnesses ‘very close’: WH press pool
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Capitol Hill, said the White House press pool is reporting that US senators are close to reaching a deal on witnesses.
The deal would see Republican Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler’s account entered into the congressional record without objection, which means it will become part of the formal proceedings.
But there will be no witnesses called, said Fisher, adding that if the deal is reached, the vote on impeachment could happen later on Saturday.
‘It’s not at all clear where we are’
Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor, said it remains unclear how many witnesses will be called to testify in Trump’s trial.
“Are there going to be depositions? Are there going to be witnesses who speak before the Senate? I think it’s not at all clear where we are,” Sloan told Al Jazeera, adding she believed no more than five witnesses would be called.
She said Republicans’ push to call Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a witness “is not something that will go well” for the party.
“That undoubtedly will work to the benefit of the House managers’ case. Nancy Pelosi also was calling for help throughout the January 6 insurrection, so it’s hard to see how that works in their favour.”
Senator Cruz blames ‘leftist Twitter’ for decision to call witnesses
Republican Senator Ted Cruz said “leftist Twitter” pressure was likely what pushed House impeachment managers to ask to call witnesses.
“I think what happened was leftist Twitter got really upset last night that they weren’t calling witnesses … This is political theater,” Cruz told reporters while the Senate is in recess.
“The House Managers were feeling heat on their left flank and they surprised [Senate leader Chuck] Schumer and the Democrats” by their decision, he said.
‘Start with Pelosi’: Republicans want top Democrat to testify
US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he was in favour of calling “multiple witnesses” in Trump’s impeachment trial, including Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“We can start with Speaker Pelosi to answer the question as to whether or not there was credible evidence of preplanned violence before President Trump spoke?” Graham tweeted. “Her testimony is incredibly relevant to the incitement charge.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz also called for Pelosi to testify.
We can start with Speaker Pelosi to answer the question as to whether or not there was credible evidence of pre-planned violence before President Trump spoke?
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) February 13, 2021
Senate in recess
The Senate has gone into recess until 12:30pm local time (17:30 GMT).
Trump likely to be ‘deeply unhappy’
Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher, reporting from West Palm Beach, Florida, said Trump is likely to be “deeply unhappy” by the Senate vote to hear witnesses in the trial against him.
“It’s changed everything for former President Donald Trump, who I’m sure was counting on this entire process being over today,” Gallacher said. “This is a game-changing scenario.”
Decision to call witnesses puts House minority leader ‘in a difficult spot’
The Senate’s decision to allow witnesses in the trial could change the outcome, law expert Claire Finkelstein of the University of Pennsylvania told Al Jazeera.
The Senate could call House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, after reports that he “was begging, or angrily urging President Trump to call off the mob”, Finkelstein said.
That would place McCarthy “in a difficult spot”, she explained, as Trump’s defence team has claimed that the alleged conversations between the congressman and the former president never happened.
“Now, that’s actually an invitation to have witnesses come in and say, either they did happen or they didn’t happen and remember that if Kevin McCarthy does testify, he’ll have to testify under oath,” Finkelstein explained.
House managers in charge of the prosecution had said House and Senate members warned Trump of the magnitude of the riot’s danger as it was happening. The defence has denied that.
Five Republicans vote in favour of witnesses
Five Republican senators joined their Democratic colleagues to vote in favour of calling witnesses in the impeachment trial.
Senators Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Ben Sasse voted for the measure.
Hopes for a quick impeachment trial dashed
So much for a speedy impeachment trial.
The wishes of members of both parties – and President Joe Biden – for a quick trial are now dashed after senators voted to call witnesses to hear more details about what happened on and in the run-up to the January 6 Capitol riot, Al Jazeera political editor Steve Chaggaris says.
Biden, who has not weighed in much during the trial, hoped the Senate would dispense with the process quickly, as it has paused all other legislative business, including the confirmation of several of his Cabinet officials.
Biden and congressional Democrats are also hoping to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill by mid-March. While the House can move full-steam ahead on that, the uncertainty about the Senate’s impeachment commitment could potentially alter that timeline.
US Senate votes to allow witnesses
The US Senate voted 55-45 to allow witnesses to be called in Trump’s impeachment trial.
That decision will likely prolong the process.
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Capitol Hill, said there could be one or more depositions.
House Manager Jamie Raskin said earlier on Saturday morning he wanted to depose Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler.
Trump lawyer rejects request for witnesses
“We should close this case out today,” said Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen, blasting House request for witnesses.
Van der Veen accused the House managers of violating and ignoring the US Constitution in the impeachment trial.
House Manager Raskin wants to subpoena witnesses
House Manager Jamie Raskin has said he would like the opportunity to subpoena Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler “regarding her communications” with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Raskin said he would also like to subpoena Beutler’s notes about what Trump told McCarthy in the middle of the insurrection.
Beutler was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump last month.
How will Republicans vote on impeachment charge?
While it is unexpected that 17 Republican senators – in addition to 50 Democrats – will vote to convict Donald Trump, there are a handful of Republicans who could break ranks and vote for conviction.
Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse are frequent Trump critics and their earlier impeachment-related votes suggest they could be Republican votes against Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly told his party that their votes are a vote of conscience, according to The Associated Press news agency, though he told his colleagues on Saturday morning that he will vote to acquit.
Republican Senator Bill Cassidy criticised Trump’s defence team after they made their preliminary arguments on Tuesday and made positive comments about the House Democrats’ presentation. However, Cassidy was spotted on Friday holding notes that appeared to be a draft of a statement indicating he would vote to acquit.
Republican says Trump showed lack of concern during riot
During a phone call amid the January 6 US Capitol riot, Trump complained to the House’s top Republican that the mob was “more upset” than Republican legislators were about the election’s outcome.
Republican Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump last month, recalled the conversation between Trump and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, saying that Trump had initially said that the left-leaning Antifa movement was responsible for the riot, not Trump’s supporters, a claim that has been debunked.
“‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,'” Beutler quoted Trump as telling McCarthy.
— Jaime Herrera Beutler (@HerreraBeutler) February 13, 2021