Acquittal Comes After Delay Over Calling Witnesses

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Former President Donald J. Trump boarding Marine One at the White House before leaving Washington on Inauguration Day. 
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The United States Senate voted 57-43 to acquit Donald J. Trump in his second impeachment trial, as Republicans in a Senate still bruised from the most violent attack on the Capitol in two centuries banded together to reject the charge that he incited the Jan. 6 attack.

But seven Republicans voted with all 50 Democrats to convict, the most bipartisan support for conviction in any of the four impeachments in U.S. history.

That outcome reflects two factors. First, many of the senators experienced the violence of the attack, fleeing for safety as marauders overwhelmed the Capitol Police and swarmed the Capitol during the attack, and that Democrats built a case that the former president undertook a monthslong effort to overturn the election, and then provoked the assault on the Capitol in a last-ditch attempt to cling to power.

“If that is not ground for conviction, if that is not a high crime and misdemeanor against the Republic and the United States of America, than nothing is,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead manager, pleaded with senators before the vote. “President Trump must be convicted, for the safety and democracy of our people.”

With most of Mr. Trump’s party coalescing around him, the final tally fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict him. Only with conviction could the Senate move to disqualify Mr. Trump from holding future office.

Minutes after the verdict was announced Mr. Trump sent out a statement thanking his legal team and decrying, as he did for most of his presidency the “witch hunt” he says is being waged upon him by his enemies.

“It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree,” he wrote, echoing the final arguments of his lawyers in the Senate on Saturday.

“I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.”

He also suggested that the Democrats’ attempt to end his political career had also failed, telling his supporters, “our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.”

The verdict brought an abrupt end to the fourth presidential impeachment trial in American history, and the only one in which the accused had left office before being tried. The senators were voting on a question with no precedent in American history: whether to convict a former president accused of seeking to violently thwart the peaceful transfer of power — and putting at risk the lives of hundreds of lawmakers and his own vice president.

The trial ended after just five days, partly because Republicans and Democrats alike had little appetite for a prolonged proceeding, and partly because Mr. Trump’s allies had made clear before it even began they were not prepared to hold him responsible.

So ends a 39-day stretch unlike any in the nation’s history. Dispensing with the customary investigations and hearings, the House moved directly to impeach Mr. Trump seven days after the attack, citing an urgent need to remove him from office. Ten Republicans joined Democrats to adopt the charge, more than had ever supported the impeachment of a president of their party.

In a surprise twist on Saturday, the House managers made an abrupt demand to hear from witnesses who could testify to what Mr. Trump was doing and saying during the rampage. The Senate voted to allow it, but the prospect threatened to prolong the trial by days or weeks without changing the outcome, and in a head-spinning move, the prosecutors quickly dropped it.

After a flurry of closed-door haggling with Republicans, they agreed with Mr. Trump’s lawyers to admit as evidence a written statement by a Republican congresswoman, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, who has said she was told that the former president sided with the mob as rioters were attacking the Capitol.

Joe Neguse, a House impeachment manager, preparing for the fifth day of President Trump’s trial on Saturday.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

After days of calling out former President Donald J. Trump actions, House Democrats summed up their case by accusing him of impeachable inaction — his unwillingness to stop the mob that killed, maimed and clawed at the heart of American democracy in his name.

“Think for a moment, just a moment, of the lives lost that day — of the more than 140 wounded,” said Representative Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Colorado, one of the House impeachment managers. “Ask yourself if, as soon as this had started, President Trump had simply gone onto TV, just logged onto Twitter, and said stop the attack. How many lives would we have saved?”

The Democrats’ tone throughout the accelerated trial, soft-spoken and emotional, represented a striking contrast with the angry, high-volume riposte of Mr. Trump’s defense team whose fiery final argument was inspired, and perhaps instigated by, the former president.

“Senators, do not let House Democrats take this maniacal crusade any further,” said Michael T. van der Veen, who emerged as the most outspoken member of Mr. Trump’s legal team.

“You do not have to indulge the impeachment lust, the dishonesty, and the hypocrisy,” added Mr. van der Veen, whose earlier statements prompted Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont, who presided over the trial, to call for civility on both sides. “It is time to bring this unconstitutional political theater to an end.”

Even if acquittal seemed preordained throughout the long closing arguments on Saturday, exoneration did not; Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, called his not-guilty vote “a close call,” and many Republicans, while ultimately siding with Mr. Trump’s arguments, seemed impressed by the evidence and empathy of the Democratic impeachment managers.

Representative Jamie Raskin, who was grieving the recent suicide of his son Tommy, 25, at the time of attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, offered sympathy to the families of those hurt or killed as a result of the attack, a toll that includes the suicides of two police officers in the aftermath.

“We must recognize and exercise these crimes against our nation and then we must take care of our people and our children, their hearts and their minds,” he said. “As Tommy Raskin used to say, it’s hard to be human. Many of the Capitol and Metropolitan Police officers and guardsmen and women who were beaten up by the mob also have kids.”

The Democrats seemed to have a far more sophisticated understanding of the senatorial mindset than Mr. Trump’s team.

In his summation, Mr. van der Veen implored senators, a group that prides itself on being steeped in history and conversant with the nation’s great documents, “to read the Constitution.”

Mr. Neguse offered a barbed lecture of his own. But his was hidden in a reference to Mr. McConnell’s hero, a fellow Kentuckian, Representative John Sherman Cooper, who braved a political backlash to support civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

“We’ve always risen to the occasion when it mattered the most, not by ignoring injustice or cowering to bullies and threats, but by doing the right thing,” he said of Mr. Cooper.

President Biden boarded Air Force One on Friday as he departed Washington for a weekend at Camp David.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Biden may have anticipated a quiet weekend, far from debate over the fate of his predecessor, for his first trip to Camp David — but the Senate vote to summon witnesses complicates his plan to refocus the country on his efforts to fight the pandemic.

Mr. Biden has mostly distanced himself from the particulars of the trial, with a notable exception on Thursday, when he declared that a graphic video of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol that was shown during the trial might have changed “some minds.”

The approach was in keeping with how Mr. Biden has often handled himself, previously as a candidate and now as president, working quietly in the lee of former President Donald J. Trump’s political storms.

But the White House’s expectation that the impeachment trial would end this weekend, allowing Mr. Biden to quickly pivot the country’s attention back to his legislative priorities, was undermined Saturday morning when the Senate approved calling witnesses, putting off a verdict that had been expected to come later that day.

The Biden administration was hoping the next week would be largely Trump-free, and the pivot will take place even if the trial is still going.

Aides have scheduled a televised town hall focusing on his efforts to fight the pandemic in Wisconsin on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Michigan on Thursday to tour a vaccine-production facility.

White House officials had no immediate reaction to Saturday’s dramatic developments, telling reporters at the presidential retreat that Mr. Biden’s plans for the day included a meeting with his national security team.

The White House has taken advantage of the attention being paid to Mr. Trump’s trial, dealing with potential embarrassments that would have otherwise gotten more media attention, including the confirmation of Mr. Biden’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, who has drawn fire for her history of leveling personal attacks on social media.

On Friday evening, Mr. Biden took the briefest of Air Force One flights (25 minutes and 57 seconds, according to the press pool accompanying him) to Hagerstown, Md.; loped down the stairs in a mask and leather bomber jacket; then took a 40-minute motorcade drive through the darkened byways of small-town Maryland to a presidential refuge seldom used by Mr. Trump.

He had no public events scheduled for the weekend.

Members of the pro-Trump mob swarm the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

The pure savagery of the mob that rampaged through the Capitol that day was breathtaking. One police officer lost an eye, another the tip of his finger. Still another was shocked so many times with a Taser gun that he had a heart attack.

They suffered cracked ribs and multiple concussions. At least 81 members of the Capitol force and 65 members of the Metropolitan Police Department were injured, not even counting the officer killed that day or two others who later died by suicide. Some officers described it as worse than when they served in combat in Iraq.

And through it all, President Donald J. Trump served as the inspiration if not the catalyst. Even as he addressed a rally beforehand, supporters could be heard on the video responding to him by shouting, “Take the Capitol!” Then they talked about calling the president at the White House to report on what they had done.

If nothing else, the Senate impeachment trial has served at least one purpose: It stitched together the most comprehensive and chilling account to date of last month’s deadly assault on the Capitol.

Yet for all the heart-pounding narrative of that day and the weeks leading up to it presented on the Senate floor, what was also striking after it was all over was how many questions remained unanswered on issues like the financing and leadership of the mob, the extent of the coordination with extremist groups, the breakdown in security and the failure in various quarters of the government to heed intelligence warnings of pending violence.

And then, most especially, what the president was doing in the hours that the Capitol was being ransacked.

The Trump camp has never provided a definitive and official account of the former president’s knowledge or actions during the attack. But advisers speaking on the condition of anonymity have told reporters that he was initially pleased, not disturbed, that his supporters had disrupted the election count and that he never reached out to Vice President Mike Pence to check on his safety even after Mr. Pence was evacuated from the Senate chamber.

What really struck some senators, particularly the handful of Republicans open to conviction, is what Mr. Trump did next — or what he did not do. Despite pleas from Mr. McCarthy, other allies, key aides and his daughter Ivanka Trump, the president was still more focused on pressing his effort to block the election than coming to the aid of his vice president and Congress.

Matthew Rosenberg, Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt contributed reporting.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking at a news conference earlier this month.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The back-and-forth in the Senate on Saturday about calling witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump put a spotlight on the former president’s calls to Republican allies as the rampage unfolded, leaving his vice president, Mike Pence, scrambling for safety.

Republicans and Democrats have sparred over how those conversations went. Here’s what we know so far:

Mr. Trump sided with protesters in a call to Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, according to a Republican congresswoman.

Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Republican of Washington, confirmed late Friday evening that Mr. McCarthy told her that Mr. Trump said in a phone call during the rampage that the rioters were “more upset” about the election than Mr. McCarthy was.

Why it matters: If her account, which the prosecutors and defense team agreed on Saturday to admit as evidence, is accurate, the call would disprove the core of Mr. Trump’s defense — that he pleaded for “peaceful” protest. It would also suggest that Mr. Trump’s failure to stop the violence was a calculated choice, and a result of his belief that the rioters were aiding in his effort to overturn the election.

Senator Tommy Tuberville says he told Mr. Trump that Mr. Pence was in danger.

Mr. Tuberville, a staunch Trump supporter elected to represent Alabama in 2020, told reporters last week that Mr. Trump called him at the height of the riot, and that he informed the president that the Secret Service had just “taken the vice president out” of the Capitol to save him from the mob.

When asked how Mr. Trump reacted to the news, the former Auburn football coach told reporters on Friday, “I don’t remember.”

Why it matters: Mr. Trump’s defense team has claimed the president did not know Mr. Pence was in danger, without specifying a timeline of when he found out. On Friday, one of Mr. Trump lawyers, Michael T. van der Veen, called the account of Mr. Tuberville — one of Mr. Trump’s most dogged defenders — “hearsay,” likening it to a rumor overheard “the night before at a bar somewhere.”

Senator Mike Lee turned over evidence establishing the exact time of Mr. Trump’s call to Mr. Tuberville at 2:26 p.m.

Mr. Trump mistakenly called Mr. Lee, a Trump ally from Utah, when he was trying to track down Mr. Tuberville. On Saturday, Mr. Lee gave lawyers on both sides a copy of a log of his cellphone calls — and forcefully repeated his claim that Mr. Trump was calling Mr. Tuberville and not him.

Why it matters: Two minutes before the call, at 2:24 p.m., Mr. Trump attacked Mr. Pence on Twitter for “not having “the courage to do what should have been done.”

At 2:39 p.m. — about 10 minutes after Mr. Tuberville told him of the dire plight of Mr. Pence and lawmakers — Mr. Trump finally asked his followers to behave in a “peaceful” way.

He did not explicitly ask them to leave the building until he posted a video doing so at 4:17 p.m.

“Anything that is relevant to attempts to interfere with the Georgia election will be subject to review,” said Fani T. Willis, the top prosecutor in Fulton County, Ga.
Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Fani T. Willis, the top prosecutor in Fulton County, Ga., is targeting former President Donald J. Trump and a range of his allies in her newly announced investigation into election interference.

Ms. Willis and her office have indicated that the investigation, which she revealed this week, will include Senator Lindsey Graham’s November phone call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, about mail-in ballots; the abrupt removal last month of Byung J. Pak, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, who earned Mr. Trump’s enmity for not advancing his debunked assertions about election fraud; and the false claims that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, made before state legislative committees.

“An investigation is like an onion,” Ms. Willis told The New York Times in an interview. “You never know. You pull something back, and then you find something else.”

She added, “Anything that is relevant to attempts to interfere with the Georgia election will be subject to review.”

Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Mr. Graham, said that he had not had any contact with Ms. Willis’s office. Mr. Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment.

Jason Miller, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, has called the Georgia investigation “the Democrats’ latest attempt to score political points.”

The activity of Mr. Trump is central to the Georgia inquiry, particularly his call last month to Mr. Raffensperger, during which Mr. Trump asked him to “find” votes to erase the former president’s loss in the state.

Ms. Willis, whose jurisdiction encompasses much of Atlanta, laid out an array of possible criminal charges in recent letters to state officials and agencies asking them to preserve documents, providing a partial map of the potential exposure of Mr. Trump and his allies.

Mr. Trump’s calls to state officials urging them to subvert the election, for instance, could run afoul of a Georgia statute dealing with criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, one of the charges outlined in the letters. If that charge is prosecuted as a felony, it is punishable by at least a year in prison.

Ms. Willis, 49, is a veteran prosecutor who has carved out a centrist record. She said in the interview that her decision to proceed with the investigation “is really not a choice — to me, it’s an obligation.”

“Each D.A. in the country has a certain jurisdiction that they’re responsible for,” she added. “If an alleged crime happens within their jurisdiction, I think they have a duty to investigate it.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, is expected to tell former President Donald J. Trump that Republicans can’t win the House and Senate in 2022 without him.
Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on Friday that he planned to meet with former President Donald J. Trump in the coming weeks to “talk about the future of the Republican Party” as it remains fractured in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

With Mr. Trump, his allies and loyal voters targeting Republican lawmakers who criticized the former president’s role in the attack, including some who voted to impeach him, Mr. Graham’s plans are the latest indication that top Republicans have not left the former president’s corner and are seeking his support as they try to regain power in Washington.

“I do believe the test for the Republican Party is: Can we pick up the House, and/or Senate in 2022?” Mr. Graham said. “For that to happen, Trump’s got to work with everybody.”

Late last month, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, met with Mr. Trump at his Florida estate for what aides described as a “good and cordial” meeting, and the majority of Senate Republicans are expected to acquit Mr. Trump as early as Saturday in the impeachment trial.

Like Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Graham had initially rebuked the president for his comments on Jan. 6 and his slow reaction to the mob storming the Capitol. But his comments on Friday, outlining his planned message to the president, indicated that he was fully intent on continuing to mend fences between congressional Republicans and the president.

He declared that the race for Republicans to try to win back both the House and the Senate “begins the Trump comeback in terms of he was a consequential president with good policies.”

“I’m going to try and convince him that we can’t get there without you, but you can’t keep the Trump movement going without the G.O.P. united,” Mr. Graham said as he left the Capitol Friday night. “If we come back in 2022, then it’s an affirmation of your policies. But if we lose again in 2022, then it’s going to be — the narrative is going to continue that not only you lost The White House, but the Republican Party is in a bad spot.”

But he added, “If it’s about revenge and going after people you don’t like, we’re going to have a problem.”

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