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Feb. 13 highlights: Trump acquitted in Senate impeachment trial for second time

The House impeached Trump last month for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Seven Republican senators voted to convict him.
Image: Illustration shows former President Donald Trump between teal and red strips that show the Capitol and words like \"impeached\" \"high crimes\" and insurrection.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The Senate on Saturday acquitted former President Donald Trump in a 57-43 vote in his second impeachment trial.

The vote came on the fifth day of trial after the House impeached Trump last month on a charge of incitement of insurrection for his role in the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. There were seven Republican senators who voted in favor of conviction, short of the 67 total votes needed to bar Trump from running for public office again.

The trial was the fourth of an impeached president, the second for Trump. No president has ever been convicted.

The Democrats argued that Trump purposely incited a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol in an effort to overturn the results of the presidential election he lost to Joe Biden, after months of laying the groundwork by relentlessly pushing false election fraud claims.

In response, Trump's lawyers argued that his speech at the rally that preceded the riot was "ordinary political rhetoric" protected by the Constitution, and claimed that Democrats were motivated by their "political hatred" of the former president and impeached him as an act of retribution.

Trump issued a statement after the vote thanking his team and saying this was "yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country."

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What's next for the GOP after Trump acquittal?

Louisiana GOP unanimously censures Sen. Cassidy over impeachment vote

"The Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Louisiana has unanimously voted to censure Senator Bill Cassidy for his vote cast earlier today to convict former President Donald J. Trump on the impeachment charge," the Louisiana GOP said in statement just a few hours after Cassidy, R-La., joined six other Republicans in voting to convict the former president. 

Cassidy said in a video posted to Twitter that he "voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty.":

Herrera Beutler would have testified, spokesman says

“Rep. Herrera Beutler offered all the information she had, and she would have testified under oath," said her communications director, Craig Wheeler.

House mangers opened Saturday morning by announcing that they wanted to subpoena Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., about her communications with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

'Cowardly group of Republicans': Pelosi on senators who voted to acquit Trump

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for his speech condemning former President Donald Trump after voting to acquit him.

"He was hedging all over the place," Pelosi said. "It was a very disingenuous speech and I say that regretfully because I always want to be able to work with the leadership of the other party."

Pelosi criticized McConnell for delaying the Senate trial until after Inauguration Day, and then using Trump's status as a former president to argue that the Senate no longer had jurisdiction. 

"What is so important about the political survival than any one of us that is more important than our constitution that we take an oath to protect?" Pelosi continued, calling the senators who voted to acquit a "cowardly group of Republicans." 

Still, House manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., celebrated the vote as the "most bipartisan" in history and took McConnell's floor speech as a sign of concession that the managers had proven their case. 

"It is what it is. Mitch McConnell clearly feels that Donald Trump remains a huge problem for the Republican Party," he said.

Raskin touched on the episode earlier this morning when the House mangers made a last-minute push to include witnesses, delaying the trial for a few hours. 

He said their intention was to get a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., entered as evidence. Once that was agreed on, they saw no reason to pursue additional witnesses due to the fact that Republicans were not hinging their decision on the evidence presented but rather on an argument that the Senate lacks jurisdiction.

"All of them are hinging it on a legal argument that could never have been overcome by any number of witnesses," Raskin said.

RNC already fundraising off of Trump's acquittal

The Republican National Committee has already started fundraising off of Trump's acquittal. A text message sent to supporters said: "BREAKING: Pres Trump has been ACQUITTED! Do you stand with the Republican Party? Donate NOW & DOUBLE your impact."

"ACQUITTED AT LAST! The biggest political circus of ALL TIME is finally over and we want to send a message that the Republican Party is STRONGER THAN EVER BEFORE," it continued. 

It asked people to contribute "ANY AMOUNT IMMEDIATELY to stand with the Republican Party."

GOP Sen. Toomey: Trump's 'betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction'

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement explaining his vote to convict Trump on the article of impeachment that the former president's "betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction."

Toomey said that Trump began with "dishonest" attempts to convince voters that he had won the 2020 election and applied "intense pressure" on election officials to reverse the results in their states.

 “When these efforts failed, President Trump summoned thousands to Washington, D.C. and inflamed their passions by repeating disproven allegations about widespread fraud," he said. "He urged the mob to march on the Capitol for the explicit purpose of preventing Congress and the vice president from formally certifying the results of the presidential election. All of this to hold on to power despite having legitimately lost." 

“As a result of President Trump’s actions, for the first time in American history, the transfer of presidential power was not peaceful," Toomey said, adding that he voted for Trump during the election. 

"Unfortunately, his behavior after the election betrayed the confidence millions of us placed in him. His betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction," Toomey said. 

Moments after voting to acquit, McConnell says Trump was 'responsible for provoking' the attack

After voting in favor of former President Donald Trump, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., delivered a scathing rebuke of the former president's actions, a move that appeared at odds with his vote to acquit just moments earlier. 

"There's no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

"The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president," he said. "And having that belief was a forceable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting out through the largest megaphone on planet earth."

McConnell also acknowledged that Trump did not respond swiftly once it was clear that then-Vice President Mike Pence and Congress members were in danger, saying that Trump instead "watched television happily as the chaos unfolded."

McConnell said he ultimately did not to vote for conviction because he did not believe the constitution allows for the Senate to convict a former president. He could have called the Senate back into session earlier to ensure that the trial happened while Trump was still in office, but didn't.

"If President Tump were still in office I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge," he said. "The question is moot because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction."

McConnell said the vote to acquit did not excuse Trump's behavior and said that the former president is still liable for everything he did while in office now that he is a private citizen. 

Read more here.

GOP Sen. Cassidy explains why he voted to convict

Key takeaways: With acquittal, Trump wins battle for the Republican soul

The Republican civil war ended on Feb. 13, 2021. Donald Trump won.

The decision by most GOP senators to acquit Trump in the 57-43 vote on charges of incitement of insurrection on the Capitol demonstrates that there is little appetite in the party to denounce the former president or his brand of politics. That comes despite Trump's alleged role in the deadly Jan. 6 siege that endangered their safety and that of others, in a failed attempt to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election.

While the Senate achieved a majority of votes to convict Trump, with seven Republicans joining all 50 Democrats, it fell short of the two-thirds majority of 67 votes required under the Constitution for the vote to convict to pass.

The impacts are likely to reverberate in American politics for years.

Here's how it affects the relevant parties.