Takeaways From Day 5 of Trump’s Impeachment Trial

The conclusion of Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial was briefly cast into doubt on Saturday after a last-minute request for witness testimony threatened to extend a proceeding on whether the president had incited the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that had been on the verge of wrapping up. But the House impeachment managers who had raised the request quickly dropped the issue, paving the way for closing arguments and a vote that delivered Mr. Trump’s second acquittal of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Here are some takeaways from the fifth day of the trial.

ImageMr. Trump was acquitted for the second time in 13 months, but seven Republican senators crossed party lines to vote for a conviction.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

In a 57-to-43 vote, the Senate handed down an acquittal for Mr. Trump for the second time in 13 months. But it was the most bipartisan support for conviction of any of the four impeachments in American history.

Democrats needed 17 Republicans to vote with them to convict Mr. Trump of a single charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the Capitol assault. In the end, only seven broke ranks, but that was one more than expected, with Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina crossing party lines.

Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania also voted to convict Mr. Trump.

In the closing arguments, Mr. Trump’s defense team denounced the deadly violence on Jan. 6 and maintained that the former president was maligned by a biased news media and was the victim of a protracted “vendetta” by his political opponents.

Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado, one of the impeachment managers, raised the prospect of more politically motivated attacks in the future should Mr. Trump not be held accountable.

“Senators, this cannot be the beginning. It can’t be the new normal,” Mr. Neguse said on Saturday. “It has to be the end. That decision is in your hands.”

But even as the trial spared Mr. Trump a conviction, the criminal cases against his supporters for their roles in the riot are building. Already, more than 200 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the attack, and investigators are only getting started.

Additional evidence produced in the coming months could give a sharper picture of Mr. Trump’s role that day, leaving open the possibility that Saturday’s acquittal will not be the final word on his legacy.


Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Mr. Burr, a reliably conservative vote from North Carolina, unexpectedly moved to convict Mr. Trump on Saturday.

“The president promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to cast doubt on the integrity of a free and fair election because he did not like the results,” Mr. Burr said in a statement Saturday afternoon. “The evidence is compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government and that the charge rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Mr. Burr, who is retiring when his term ends after the 2022 election, had, at times, a chilly relationship with Mr. Trump. As head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Burr led a bipartisan investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

While Mr. Burr’s vote was surprising, the vote by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, was more confounding.

Mr. McConnell told colleagues early Saturday that he would vote to acquit the former president, and did so. But after the impeachment trial ended, Mr. McConnell took to the Senate floor and said, “There is no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”

Mr. McConnell has been a defender of the former president and even backed Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the election for more than a month after Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner. As Mr. McConnell stood by, Mr. Trump inflamed his supporters with his fraudulent voter fraud claims that led to the Capitol assault. Mr. McConnell’s repudiation of Mr. Trump was at times stronger than those of the senators who voted to convict.

Mr. McConnell said that although Mr. Trump was responsible for the riot, the Senate should not try a former president. Impeachment, he said, is a “narrow tool” meant to remove officials from office, not pursue them afterward. At the start of the trial, the Senate voted that holding the trial was appropriate over the objections of most Republicans, including Mr. Burr and Mr. McConnell.


Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Despite the partisan divisions that have defined the trial, Republican and Democratic senators agreed on Saturday that the proceedings should not be extended with testimony from witnesses.

On Saturday morning, the Senate was prepared to hear closing arguments from the prosecution and the defense, but plans for a swift end were threatened with an 11th-hour piece of evidence that House impeachment managers argued was crucial to their case: details about a phone call with Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, in which Mr. Trump is said to have sided with the rioters as his supporters stormed the Capitol.

On Friday evening, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, one of the 10 House Republicans who had voted to impeach Mr. Trump, released a statement detailing a conversation she had with Mr. McCarthy in which he described his conversation with the president.

The prospect of allowing witness testimony incensed Republicans.

“If you want a delay, it will be a long one with many, many witnesses,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Twitter on Saturday.

“If they want to drag this out, we’ll drag it out,” Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, a member of Senate Republican leadership, said during a break in the proceedings. “They won’t get their noms, they won’t get anything,” she said, referring to President Biden’s nominations to fill top positions in his administration.

Democrats have been eager for a speedy trial partly so they can focus on filling Mr. Biden’s cabinet and begin working on his agenda.

After behind-the-scenes negotiations, both sides agreed to enter Ms. Herrera Beutler’s statement into the record.


Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

Michael T. van der Veen, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, expressed frustration at the possibility of dragging out the proceedings with witness testimony. A trial lawyer in Philadelphia, Mr. van der Veen erupted at times over the lack of judicial norms in the Senate chamber that are typical of courtrooms across the country.

“If they want to have witnesses, I’m going to need at least over 100 depositions, not just one,” Mr. van der Veen said on Saturday, adding that raising witnesses at this point in the trial was “inappropriate and improper.” (The Senate faced a similar situation in Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial.) But the courtroom norms he is used to do not apply in impeachment proceedings, which are largely devised by the Senate.

“We should close this case out today. We have each prepared our closing arguments,” he said. At one point, he became so enraged that he had to step back “and cool the temperature in the room a little bit.”

Mr. van der Veen, part of a team of lawyers who took over the defense after Mr. Trump parted ways with his first team, lamented that he had only eight days to prepare.

“This is about the most miserable experience I’ve had down here in Washington, D.C.,” he said on Friday.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Rappeport Emily Cochrane, Nicholas Fandos, Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage, Luke Broadwater and Glenn Thrush.

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