On Saturday, Feb. 13, the verdict on the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump was reached. After a trial filled with uncertainty and incredulity, the Senate voted to acquit Trump on charges related to his involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. The final count was 57 votes in favor of conviction, and 43 in favor of acquittal. To convict the former president, the Senate would have required 67 votes supporting a guilty charge.
Out of the 57 senators who were in favor of convicting Trump, Sen. Susan Collins made waves after joining six other Republican senators in voting to convict. Joining Collins in crossing the aisle were Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney of Utah. This marks the first time in Collins’ 5-term tenure that she has voted to convict a president or former president. In Trump’s first impeachment trial, Collins voted to acquit him, and became the center of national conversation after telling the press that she felt as though, “[Mr. Trump] has learned his lesson. Collins went against party lines and voted to acquit former president Bill Clinton during his 1999 trial.
Trump’s second impeachment began on Jan. 13, when the House voted to impeach Trump for ‘incitement of insurrection’ because of various statements Trump had made and actions that he had encouraged his voting base to participate in. The Jan. 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol was spurred by Trump’s refusal to publicly acknowledge that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had legally and fairly been elected by the American people and the electoral college. Trump repeatedly pushed the narrative that the election was illegally influenced, the voting system was flawed and encouraged his supporters to “stop the steal.” The trial before the Senate was met with a number of scheduling hiccups, but was initiated on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
The trial began with senators first voting on the legality of impeaching a president who was no longer in office, with Republican senators arguing that it would have been unconstitutional to try a private citizen. This was overturned when impeachment managers showed extensive footage of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, as well as presenting the speech that Trump delivered ahead of the riots. The footage of the riots was sobering to many senators, with a number remarking how immediate the danger from the crowd had been, as well as noting how the videos showed the immediate danger that was posed towards former Vice President Mike Pence.
Impeachment managers took to the floor, but did not use the full 16 hours that were allotted. Prosecutors argued that Trump acted as “the inciter in chief,” showing clips of rioter’s reactions to various phrases Trump had used during his speeches.
Trump’s defense rebounded on Friday, using only three hours of their allotted time. The former president was represented by Bruce L. Castor Jr. and Michael van der Veen. Castor argued that impeachment managers had manipulated the words of Trump, that the former president “stood for law and order,” according to the New York Times. Trump’s defense also relied on the argument that both Democrats and Republicans use the word “fight” figuratively in political exchanges.
On Saturday, the final day of the trial, the Senate reversed a prior decision to call witnesses. This decision was contradictory to a surprise vote that occurred the day before which would have allowed testimonies. After moving past this decision, the Senate continued to closing arguments, followed by the vote which found the former president not guilty.