Politics

7 Republicans explain their vote to convict Trump for Capitol attack

Share
Key Points
  • The Senate acquitted Trump in a 57-43 vote on the charge of inciting insurrection for his role in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
  • Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania voted to convict Trump.
  • Democrats needed 17 Republicans to join them to convict Trump.
VIDEO20:2820:28
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivers statement after Trump acquittal

WASHINGTON – Seven Republican senators alongside all Democrats found former President Donald Trump guilty on Saturday for inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol, though the bipartisan vote wasn't enough to reach the two-thirds majority required to convict.

In Trump's second impeachment trial, Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania voted to convict the 45th president.

The seven GOP senators joined 48 Democrats and two senators who are independents.

The Senate acquitted Trump in a 57-43 vote on the charge of inciting insurrection for his role in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Democrats needed 17 Republicans to join them to convict Trump.

Some Republicans who voted for acquittal based their vote largely on procedural grounds, not the merits of the case. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, for example, said Trump was responsible for the riot and suggested the former president could still face criminal charges.

The verdict came after House impeachment managers reversed course and dropped a call for witnesses that would have delayed the outcome. The acquittal marks the end of a five-day impeachment trial.

Trump is the first president to be impeached and tried twice.

Mitt Romney, Utah

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks during a news conference with a group of bipartisan lawmakers to unveil a COVID-19 emergency relief framework in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.
Caroline Brehman | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

During Trump's first impeachment trial, Romney was the sole Republican to break from his party and convict the president. The Senate acquitted Trump in 2020 on impeachment charges stemming from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

"President Trump incited the insurrection against Congress by using the power of his office to summon his supporters to Washington on January 6th and urging them to march on the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes. He did this despite the obvious and well-known threats of violence that day," Romney explained in a statement.

"President Trump also violated his oath of office by failing to protect the Capitol, the Vice President, and others in the Capitol. Each and every one of these conclusions compels me to support conviction," he added.

Susan Collins, Maine

Senator Susan Collins, R-ME, speaks during a hearing for Marty Walsh to be labor secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 4, 2021.
Graeme Jennings | Pool | Reuters

Collins faced a fiercely contested senate race in Maine last year due to her support for Trump's judicial nominees, but broke with her party over the former president's actions during the Capitol riot. She explained her vote to convict from the Senate floor.

"Instead of preventing a dangerous situation, President Trump created one. And rather than defend the constitutional transfer of power, he incited an insurrection with the purpose of preventing that transfer of power from occurring," Collins said. "His actions – they interfere with the peaceful transition of power, the hallmark of our constitution and our American democracy – were an abuse of power and constitute grounds for conviction."

Lisa Murkowski, Alaska

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee nomination hearing for Marty Walsh to be labor secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 4, 2021.
Graeme Jennings | Pool | Reuters

Murkowski, who is up for re-election in 2022, previously called for Trump's resignation on the heels of the riot at the Capitol.

"Before someone assumes the office of the presidency, they are required to swear to faithfully execute the office of the President and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States," Murkowski wrote after the trial.

"President Trump – the nation's elected leader, the Commander in Chief of our armed forces – swore an oath to defend America and all that we hold sacred. He failed to uphold that oath," she added.

Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) questions Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a hearing on "Examination of Loans to Businesses Critical to Maintaining National Security" before the Congressional Oversight Commission at Dirksen Senate Office Building, in Washington, December 10, 2020.
Sarah Silbiger | Pool | Reuters

Toomey had also called for the president's resignation. He has stated that he will not run for re-election when his seat expires in 2022.

"I was one of the 74 million Americans who voted for President Trump, in part because of the many accomplishments of his administration. Unfortunately, his behavior after the election betrayed the confidence millions of us placed in him," Toomey wrote in a statement.

"His betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction," he added

Ben Sasse, Nebraska

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) speaks during the U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 13, 2020.
Patrick Semansky | Pool | Reuters

Sasse said last month that he was open to considering articles of impeachment against the former Republican president.

"An impeachment trial is a public declaration of what a president's oath of office means and what behavior that oath demands of presidents in the future," Sasse wrote after conviction.

"But here's the sad reality: If we were talking about a Democratic president, most Republicans and most Democrats would simply swap sides. Tribalism is a hell of a drug, but our oath to the Constitution means we're constrained to the facts," Sasse added.

Richard Burr, North Carolina

Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on efforts to get back to work and school during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Washington, D.C., June 30, 2020.
Al Drago | Pool via REUTERS

Burr, who has said he will not seek re-election, had previously voted to dismiss the impeachment trial on constitutional grounds. Burr's term expires in 2022.

"I have listened to the arguments presented by both sides and considered the facts. The facts are clear," explained Burr in a statement.

"By what he did and by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States," he explained, adding that he didn't come to "this decision lightly."

Bill Cassidy, Louisiana

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) speaks to the media as he departs after House impeachment managers rested their case in impeachment trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump, on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 11, 2021.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Cassidy originally said he would dismiss the trial on the grounds that it was unconstitutional but then switched his vote in the past week saying Trump's lawyers had done a "terrible" job explaining the matter.

"He brought together a crowd but a portion of that was transformed into a mob, and when they went into the Capitol it was clear that he wished lawmakers be intimidated," Cassidy told ABC's "This Week" in explaining his vote to convict. "And even after he knew violence was taking place, he continued to basically sanction the mob being there. And not until later did he actually ask them to leave. All of that points to a motive and a method and that is wrong — he should be held accountable.

Cassidy is already facing pushback in his home state. The executive committee of the Louisiana Republican Party voted unanimously to censure Cassidy for his vote to convict Trump.

VIDEO21:3921:39
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House impeachment managers respond to Trump's acquittal

Trump's defense team denied that the former president incited the attack and argued that the former president's rhetoric was protected under the First Amendment. His lawyers also described the trial as unconstitutional since Trump was no longer president. 

"Democrats were obsessed with impeaching Mr. Trump from the very beginning of his term," Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said in closing arguments.

"In short, this impeachment has been a complete charade from beginning to end. The entire spectacle has been nothing but the unhinged pursuit of a longstanding political vendetta against Mr. Trump by the opposition party," he added.

Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland urged senators to consider what he described as "overwhelming," "irrefutable" and "unrefuted" evidence during his closing remarks.

"This trial, in the final analysis, is not about Donald Trump. The country and the world know who Donald Trump is. This trial is about who we are," Raskin said.