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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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Senators burst out laughing when Trump lawyer says depositions should be done in his Philly office

Senators in the chamber burst out laughing as Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen told them that depositions of witnesses should be done in his office in Philadelphia. 

Van der Veen also named his city with an accent, pronouncing it "Philly-delphia."

"These depositions should be done in person in my office in Philadelphia. That's where they should be done," he said on the floor, which then led to a number of senators laughing. 

At first, van der Veen began to chuckle, too, but then he said he didn't understand why people were laughing.

"There's nothing laughable here," he said.

Democrats say they want to subpoena Rep. Herrera Beutler about McCarthy, Trump exchange

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., opened Saturday morning by announcing that the House managers would like to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., about her communications with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Herrera Beutler released a statement Friday night confirming a conversation between Trump and McCarthy on Jan. 6 that contradicts the the defense argument that Trump was horrified by the attack and acted to quell it immediately. 

Raskin said they would like to subpoena the congresswoman and hold a deposition over Zoom for an hour or less as well as subpoena her contemporaneous notes. If other witnesses come forward, Raskin said they would seek the opportunity to take their depositions over Zoom as well and subpoena relevant documents. 

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen responded by saying that the fact that they want to subpoena witnesses proves that the House didn't do enough to investigate the Capitol attack. 

McConnell will vote to acquit Trump

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told his Republican colleagues that he will vote to acquit former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, according to an email obtained by NBC News. 

McConnell had left open the possibility of voting to convict, but also twice voted that he thought the trial was unconstitutional because Trump has already left office. 

“I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” McConnell wrote.

Read more here.

What's on tap for Saturday

With the trial set to resume at 10 a.m. Saturday, a vote on whether to convict Trump on the article of impeachment could happen sooner rather than later.

Senators will then consider whether to subpoena witnesses and documents. Should any attempts be voted down, the managers and defense then split a four-hour block of time for their closing arguments.

Under that timeline, a conviction vote could come as early as Saturday afternoon. Already, both sides have presented in under their maximum allotted time.

But if a request for witnesses does come, it would prolong the trial considerably, as the process for how witnesses would be subpoenaed and deposed has not been agreed to yet.

Two Democratic senators are saying they want to hear from witnesses after news broke Thursday night about a Jan. 6 call between House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump that contradicts Trump's lawyers argument that he was immediately "horrified" by the attack and took swift action.

Trump said to be pleased with defense's presentation

Trump was pleased with his defense team’s short presentation on Friday and fully expects to be acquitted when a final vote is called, according to two sources familiar with the legal strategy.

The former president particularly enjoyed the video montages because they resembled his campaign ads at times, one source said.

All week long, Trump has been advised by close aides and allies not to weigh in on the trial proceedings to ensure his comments wouldn’t derail an all-but-assured outcome. The former president hasn’t spoken publicly or on-camera since leaving office last month.  


Two Senate Democrats call for witnesses

As new information about Trump's actions on Jan. 6 have come to light, Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon are voicing their support for hearing from witnesses in the impeachment trial. 

"I think that the questions that were raised yesterday focused very heavily on this matter," Whitehouse told NBC News on Saturday morning. "And it appears that the Trump counsel gave less than complete and candid answers. So it's not just a question of whether the managers want to pursue these questions. It's also a question of what the Trump counsel want to do to make sure that their presentation ends up having been completely candid."

The last-minute push for witnesses comes after a Friday night news report detailing a Jan. 6 call between House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump that contradicts Trump's lawyers argument that he was immediately "horrified" by the attack and took swift action.

The call for witnesses also follows comments made by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., earlier in the week when he told reporters he had informed Trump of the danger Vice President Mike Pence was facing as the attack on the Capitol was underway. 

Still, two senators calling for witnesses does not make a majority. The House managers have until 10 a.m. to decide whether to request a vote to call witnesses. 

McCarthy and Trump got into expletive-filled argument during riot, sources say

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and former President Donald Trump got into an expletive-laden argument on a phone call as the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was still unfolding, three sources briefed on the matter told NBC News on Friday.

As throngs of pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol during the certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College win, which resulted in the death of five people, McCarthy, R-Calif., phoned Trump to get him to control his supporters.

Sources described the call, which was placed by McCarthy, as “not cordial” and borderline incoherent, but it illustrates more than what was publicly available at the time about Trump's real-time reaction to the mob.

McCarthy called Trump, according to a source familiar with the matter. Another source told NBC News that McCarthy was shaken up during the call and was asking the president for help.

Trump told McCarthy on the call, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," according to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and another Republican member familiar with the conversation.

At one point during the phone call, McCarthy told Trump: “Who the f--- do you think you are talking to?” according to a Republican lawmaker briefed on the conversation. 

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'Constitutional cancel culture': Key takeaways from day 4

Trump's lawyers put up a pugnacious if brief defense presentation in his impeachment trial Friday, saying his rally speech before the Capitol riot was "ordinary political rhetoric" and blasting the proceedings as a "sham" fueled by Democrats' "political hatred" for the ex-president.

Parts of the attorneys' presentation invoked the former president's language and arguments, with his lawyers charging that Trump's second impeachment trial is "constitutional cancel culture" while making numerous false claims.

During the question-and-answer session, however, the lawyers wouldn't say when Trump discovered the Capitol had been breached on Jan. 6 and what, if anything, he did to stop it.

Here are some key takeaways from the fourth day of the trial.

Trump's defense team confident ahead of closing arguments

Bruce Castor, one of Trump defense attorneys, said their arguments Friday at the impeachment trial "went exactly as planned." 

Castor said he plans for his closing argument on Saturday to be concise, and if the House managers plan to call witnesses the defense team would also call their own witnesses. 

The team was criticized by pundits on both sides for their free-wheeling presentation earlier this week, but they declined to tell reporters if the president was pleased with their presentation. 

"I think he would have let me know if he was displeased," Castor told reporters as he was leaving the Capitol. 

Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman gets standing ovation

Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman received a standing ovation Friday during a break of the impeachment trial after it was announced he would receive the Congressional Gold Medal.  

Congress' highest honor is being awarded to Goodman for his actions Jan. 6. He was seen on video during attack leading the mob away from the Senate chamber and to a different area as lawmakers escaped. 

Goodman was stoic in the back of the chamber during the ovation, and joined in for the round of applause for Capitol Police in general, according to a pool report.

He was swarmed by appreciative senators as they left, exchanging fist and elbow bumps.

Goodman exchanged salutes with Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who are former military members, and Ernst gave him a hug.

After that, the trial ended for the day.