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President Johnson acquitted in Senate impeachment trial

President Johnson acquitted in Senate impeachment trial



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At the end of a historic two-month trial, the U.S. Senate narrowly fails to convict President Andrew Johnson of the impeachment charges levied against him by the House of Representatives three months earlier. The senators voted 35 guilty and 19 not guilty on the second article of impeachment, a charge related to his violation of the Tenure of Office Act in the previous year. Ten days earlier, the Senate had likewise failed to convict Johnson on another article of impeachment, the 11th, voting an identical 35 for conviction and 19 for acquittal. Because both votes fell short–by one vote–of the two-thirds majority needed to convict Johnson, he was judged not guilty and remained in office.

READ MORE: How Many US Presidents Have Faced Impeachment?

At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Johnson, a U.S. senator from Tennessee, was the only senator from a seceding state who remained loyal to the Union. Johnson’s political career was built on his defense of the interests of poor white Southerners against the landed classes; of his decision to oppose secession, he said, “Damn the negroes; I am fighting those traitorous aristocrats, their masters.” For his loyalty, President Abraham Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee in 1862, and in 1864 Johnson was elected vice president of the United States.

Sworn in as president after Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, President Johnson enacted a lenient Reconstruction policy for the defeated South, including almost total amnesty to ex-Confederates, a program of rapid restoration of U.S.-state status for the seceded states, and the approval of new, local Southern governments, which were able to legislate “black codes” that preserved the system of slavery in all but name. The Republican-dominated Congress greatly opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction program and passed the “Radical Reconstruction” by repeatedly overriding the president’s vetoes. Under the Radical Reconstruction, local Southern governments gave way to federal military rule, and African American men in the South were granted the constitutional right to vote.

In March 1867, in order to weaken further Johnson’s authority, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over his veto. The act prohibited the president from removing federal office holders, including cabinet members, who had been confirmed by the Senate, without the consent of the Senate. It was designed to shield members of Johnson’s cabinet, like Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who was appointed during the Lincoln administration and was a leading ally of the so-called Radical Republicans in Congress. In the fall of 1867, Johnson attempted to test the constitutionality of the act by replacing Stanton with General Ulysses S. Grant. However, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule on the case, and Grant turned the office back to Stanton after the Senate passed a measure in protest of the dismissal.

On February 21, 1868, Johnson decided to rid himself of Stanton once and for all and appointed General Lorenzo Thomas, an individual far less favorable to the Congress than Grant, as secretary of war. Stanton refused to yield, barricading himself in his office, and the House of Representatives, which had already discussed impeachment after Johnson’s first dismissal of Stanton, initiated formal impeachment proceedings against the president. On February 24, the House voted 11 impeachment articles against President Johnson. Nine of the articles cited his violations of the Tenure of Office Act; one cited his opposition to the Army Appropriations Act of 1867 (designed to deprive the president of his constitutional position as commander in chief of the U.S. Army); and one accused Johnson of bringing “into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt, and reproach the Congress of the United States” through certain controversial speeches.

On March 13, according to the rules set out in Section 3 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution, the impeachment trial of President Johnson began in the Senate. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presided over the proceedings, which were described as theatrical. On May 16 and again on May 26, the Senate voted on the charges brought against President Johnson. Both times the vote was 35 for conviction and 19 for acquittal, with seven moderate Republicans joining 12 Democrats in voting against what was a weak case for impeachment. The vote fell just short of a two-thirds majority, and Johnson remained in office. Nevertheless, he chose not to seek reelection on the Democratic ticket. In November, Ulysses S. Grant, who supported the Republicans’ Radical Reconstruction policies, was elected president of the United States.

In 1875, after two failed bids, Johnson won reelection to Congress as a U.S. senator from Tennessee. He died less than four months after taking office, at the age of 66. Fifty-one years later, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Tenure of Office Act unconstitutional in its ruling in Myers v. United States.

READ MORE: What Happens in a Senate Impeachment Trial?


Donald Trump acquitted in historic impeachment trial ex-US president says his movement has 'only just begun'

Washington: Donald Trump was acquitted Saturday of inciting the horrific attack on the US Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial that spared him the first-ever conviction of a current or former U.S. president but exposed the fragility of America’s democratic traditions and left a divided nation to come to terms with the violence sparked by his defeated presidency.

Barely a month since the deadly 6 January riot that stunned the world, the Senate convened for a rare weekend session to deliver its verdict, voting while armed National Guard troops continued to stand their posts outside the iconic building.

The quick trial, the nation’s first of a former president, showed in raw and emotional detail how perilously close the invaders had come to destroying the nation's deep tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power after Trump had refused to concede the election. Rallying outside the White House, he unleashed a mob of supporters to “fight like hell” for him at the Capitol just as Congress was certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. As hundreds stormed the building, some in tactical gear engaging in bloody combat with police, lawmakers fled for their lives. Five people died.

The verdict, on a vote of 57-43, is all but certain to influence not only the former president's political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors. Seven Republicans joined all Democrats to convict, but it was far from the two-third threshold required.

The outcome after the uprising leaves unresolved the nation’s wrenching divisions over Trump's brand of politics that led to the most violent domestic attack on one of America's three branches of government.

“Senators, we are in a dialogue with history, a conversation with our past, with a hope for our future,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa. one of the House prosecutors in closing arguments.

“What we do here, what is being asked of each of us here, in this moment will be remembered."

Trump, unrepentant, welcomed his second impeachment acquittal and said his movement “has only just begun.” He slammed the trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country.”

Though he was acquitted of the sole charge of incitement of insurrection, it was easily the largest number of senators to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment count of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Voting to find Trump guilty were GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Even after voting to acquit, the Republican leader Mitch McConnell condemned the former president as “practically and morally responsible” for the insurrection. McConnell contended Trump could not be convicted because he was gone from the White House.

The trial had been momentarily thrown into confusion when senators Saturday suddenly wanted to consider potential witnesses, particularly concerning Trump's actions as the mob rioted. Prolonged proceedings could have been especially damaging for Biden's new presidency, significantly delaying his emerging legislative agenda. Coming amid the searing COVID-19 crisis, the Biden White House is trying to rush pandemic relief through Congress.

Biden has hardly weighed in on the proceedings and was spending the weekend with family at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland.

The nearly weeklong trial has delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.

House prosecutors have argued that Trump’s was the "inciter in chief" stoking a months-long campaign with an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims they called the “big lie” that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Trump’s lawyers countered that Trump’s words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

The senators, announcing their votes from their desks in the very chamber the mob had ransacked, were not only jurors but also witnesses. Only by watching the graphic videos — rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the January certification tally — did senators say they began to understand just how perilously close the country came to chaos.

Many senators kept their votes closely held until the final moments on Saturday, particularly the Republicans representing states where the former president remains popular. Most of them ultimately voted to acquit, doubting whether Trump was fully responsible or if impeachment is the appropriate response.

“Just look at what Republicans have been forced to defend,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Look at what Republicans have chosen to forgive.”

The second-ranking Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, acknowledged, “It’s an uncomfortable vote," adding, "I don’t think there was a good outcome there for anybody."

In closing arguments, lead defender Michael van der Veen emphasized an argument that Republican senators also embraced: that it was all a “phony impeachment show trial.”

“Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him,” said van der Veen. “The act of incitement never happened.”

The House impeached Trump on the sole charge of incitement of insurrection one week after the riot, but the Senate was not in full session and McConnell refused requests from Democrats to convene quickly for the trial. Within a week Biden was inaugurated, Trump was gone and Pelosi sent the article of impeachment to the Senate days later, launching the proceedings.

The turmoil on Saturday came as senators wanted to hear evidence about Trump's actions during the riot, after prosecutors said he did nothing to stop it.

Fresh stories overnight had focused on Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, who said in a statement that Trump had rebuffed a plea from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to call off the rioters.

Several Republican senators voted to consider witnesses. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina changed his vote to join them on that 55-45 vote.

But with the Senate facing a prolonged trial and the defense poised to call many more witnesses, the situation was resolved when Herrera Beutler’s statement about the call was read aloud into the record for senators to consider as evidence. As part of the deal, Democrats dropped their planned deposition of the congresswoman and Republicans abandoned their threat to call their own witnesses. They also agreed to include GOP Sen. Mike Lee's time stamp of a call from Trump around the time Pence was evacuated, minutes after Trump sent a tweet critical of his vice president.

Impeachment trials are rare, senators meeting as the court of impeachment over a president only four times in the nation's history, for Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and now twice for Trump, the only one to be twice impeached. There have been no convictions.

Unlike last year’s impeachment trial of Trump in the Ukraine affair, a complicated charge of corruption and obstruction over his attempts to have the foreign ally dig up dirt on then-campaign rival Biden, this one brought an emotional punch displayed in graphic videos of the siege that laid bare the unexpected vulnerability of the democratic system.

At the same time, this year's trial carried similar warnings from the prosecutors that Trump must be held accountable because he has shown repeatedly he has no bounds. Left unchecked, he will further test the norms of civic behavior, even now that he is out of office still commanding loyal supporters, they said.


Sen. Cruz: In the Senate Trial, President Trump Will Be Acquitted

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on The Constitution, today appeared on Fox News' &lsquoAmerica's Newsroom' with Bill Hemmer and the Hugh Hewitt show to discuss his expectations for the Senate's impeachment trial. Excerpts of the interviews are below.

When asked about the Senate's impeachment trial, Sen. Cruz said:

"I think at the end of this process, these Articles of Impeachment are going to be thrown out. And I think it's going to end, not with a dismissal, but with a verdict of not guilty. And the way it works in the Senate, when you come to vote on verdict, you vote on each article, and each senator will vote either &lsquoguilty' or &lsquonot guilty.' The reason why this ends with an acquittal is very simple the House hasn't met the constitutional threshold."

He continued:

"The Constitution specifies for impeachment of a president that you have to demonstrate bribery, treason or other high crimes and misdemeanors. They haven't done that. In fact, this is the first time in the history of our country any president has been impeached without even so much as an allegation of criminal conduct. They have not alleged in these Articles of Impeachment the president violated any criminal law. They haven't alleged he violated any civil law. They haven't even alleged the president has a speeding ticket. And for that reason, this doesn't meet the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. And so the end of this process will be an acquittal and I think that's probably in about a couple of weeks."

On the Hugh Hewitt Show, Sen. Cruz discussed the importance of ensuring President Trump has the opportunity to present his defense:

"As it concerns witnesses, I am open to the possibility of the Senate hearing witnesses, in particular because the way House conducted itself. It was a one-sided show trial on the House side. They denied the minority the ability to call witnesses in the House. That was contrary to the precedents that were set with both the Clinton impeachment and the Nixon impeachment. House Democrats this time decided it was only going to be one-sided. They'd only bring prosecution witnesses. They wouldn't allow the White House to cross-examine them. And so it was entirely a one-sided deck of cards.

"In the Senate, if the president wants to call witnesses in his defense, I believe the Senate should let the president do that. If the [White House] wants to call Hunter Biden, if the [White House] wants to call the whistleblower, due process dictates that he have the opportunity to present his defense."

Watch Sen. Cruz's full interview on Fox News here. Listen to Sen. Cruz's full interview on the Hugh Hewitt show here.


1868 – U.S. President Andrew Johnson was acquitted during the Senate impeachment, by one vote

The first Senate vote in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson was taken on May 16, 1868. Article XI was called the “omnibus article” because it combined all of the charges against the President. As a result of 19 voting “Not Guilty” and 35 voting “Guilty,” the Senate fell 1 vote short of the two-thirds majority required for removal. After a 10-day recess, the Senate reconvened and voted on Articles II and III. In each case, the result was identical: Johnson was not guilty by a single vote. The Senate then voted to end the trial.

In the 1868 Johnson impeachment trial, the embattled president was just one vote away from being removed from office on each of the three charges put to a vote. There were 11 total articles of impeachment, but the Senate voted to adjourn the trial when it was clear that the voting would be the same for each remaining charge.


Senate votes to acquit Trump in historic impeachment trial

House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., walk out of the Senate Chamber in the Capitol at the end of the fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in Washington. The Senate has acquitted Donald Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, bringing his trial to a close and giving the former president a historic second victory in the court of impeachment. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Saturday acquitted Donald Trump of inciting the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial that exposed the fragility of America’s democratic traditions and left a divided nation to come to terms with the violence sparked by his defeated presidency.

Barely a month since the deadly Jan. 6 riot that stunned the world, the Senate convened for a rare Saturday session to deliver its verdict, voting while armed National Guard troops continued to stand their posts outside the iconic building.

The quick trial, the nation’s first of a former president, showed how perilously close the invaders had come to destroying the nation’s deep tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power after Trump had refused to concede the election. Rallying outside the White House, he unleashed a mob of supporters to “fight like hell” for him at the Capitol just as Congress was certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. As hundreds stormed the building, some in tactical gear engaging in bloody combat with police, lawmakers fled for their lives. Five people died.

The verdict, on a vote of 57-43, is all but certain to influence not only the former president’s political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors. Seven Republicans joined all Democrats to convict, but it was far from the two-third threshold required.

The verdict after the uprising leaves unresolved the nation’s wrenching divisions over Trump’s brand of politics that led to the most violent domestic attack on one of America’s three branches of government.

“Senators, we are in a dialogue with history, a conversation with our past, with a hope for our future,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa. one of the House prosecutors in closing arguments.

“What we do here, what is being asked of each of us here in this moment will be remembered. History has found us.”

Trump, unrepentant, welcomed the his second impeachment acquittal and said his movement “has only just begun.” He slammed the trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country.”

Though he was acquitted, it was easily the largest number of senators to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment charge.

Voting to find Trump guilty were GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The trial had been momentarily thrown into confusion when senators suddenly wanted to consider potential witnesses, an hours-long standoff Saturday that stalled the momentum toward a vote. Prolonged proceedings would be politically risky, particularly for Biden’s new presidency and his emerging legislative agenda. The trial came amid the searing COVID-19 crisis, and the Biden White House trying to rush pandemic relief through Congress.

Biden has hardly weighed in on the proceedings and was spending the weekend with family at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland.

Many senators kept their votes closely held until the final moments, Republicans in particularly now thrust into minority status. Democrats took narrow control of the Senate with runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5, the day before the siege.

The nearly weeklong trial has delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.

House prosecutors have argued that Trump’s was the “inciter in chief” stoking a months-long campaign, and orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Trump’s lawyers countered that Trump’s words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

Only by watching the graphic videos — rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the vote tally — did senators say they began to understand just how perilously close the country came to chaos.

Many Republicans representing states where the former president remains popular doubt whether Trump was fully responsible or if impeachment is the appropriate response.

In closing arguments, lead prosecutor Michael van der Veen fell back on the procedural argument that Republican senators have embraced in their own reasoning of the case what he said is a “phony impeachment show trial.”

“Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him,” said Michael van der Veen. “The act of incitement never happened.”

The House impeached trump on the sole charge of incitement of insurrection one week after the riot, the most bipartisan vote of a presidential impeachment.

The delay Saturday came as senators wanted to hear evidence about Trump’s actions during the riot.

Fresh stories overnight focused onRep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, who said in a statement late Friday that Trump rebuffed a plea from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to call off the rioters.

Fifty-five senators voted for to consider witnesses, including Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mitt Romney of Utah. Once they did, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina changed his vote to join them on the 55-45 vote.

But facing a prolonged trial with defense poised to call many more witnesses, the situation was resolved when Herrera Beutler’s statement on the call was read aloud into the record for senators to consider as evidence. As part of the deal, Democrats dropped their planned deposition and Republicans abandoned their threat to call their own witnesses.

Impeachment trials are rare, senators meeting as the court of impeachment over a president only four times in the nation’s history, for Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and now twice for Trump, the only one to be twice impeached.

Unlike last year’s impeachment trial of Trump in the Ukraine affair, a complicated charge of corruption and obstruction over his attempts to have the foreign ally dig up dirt on then-campaign rival Biden, this one brought an emotional punch displayed in graphic videos of the siege that laid bare the unexpected vulnerability of the democratic system.

At the same time, this year’s trial carried similar warnings from the prosecutors pleading with senators that Trump must be held accountable because he has shown repeatedly he has no bounds. Left unchecked, he will further test the norms of civic behavior, even now that he is out of office still commanding loyal supporters.

“This trial in the final analysis is not about Donald Trump,” said lead prosecutor Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. “This trial is about who we are.”


Donald Trump acquitted, denounced in historic impeachment trial

Donald Trump was acquitted Saturday of inciting the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial that spared him the first-ever conviction of a U.S. president but exposed the fragility of America’s democratic traditions and left a divided nation to come to terms with the violence sparked by his defeated presidency.

Barely a month since the deadly Jan. 6 riot that stunned the world, the Senate convened for a rare weekend session to deliver its verdict, voting while armed National Guard troops continued to stand their posts outside the iconic building.

The quick trial, the nation’s first of a former president, showed how perilously close the invaders had come to destroy the nation’s deep tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power after Trump had refused to concede the election. Rallying outside the White House, he unleashed a mob of supporters to “fight like hell” for him at the Capitol just as Congress was certified Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. As hundreds stormed the building, some in tactical gear engaging in bloody combat with police, lawmakers fled for their lives. Five people died.

The verdict, on a vote of 57-43, is all but certain to influence not only the former president’s political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors. Seven Republicans joined all Democrats to convict, but it was far from the two-third threshold required.

The outcome after the uprising leaves unresolved the nation’s wrenching divisions over Trump’s brand of politics that led to the most violent domestic attack on one of America’s three branches of government.

“Senators, we are in a dialogue with history, a conversation with our past, with a hope for our future,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa. one of the House prosecutors in closing arguments.

“What we do here, what is being asked of each of us here in this moment will be remembered.”

Trump, unrepentant, welcomed the his second impeachment acquittal and said his movement “has only just begun.” He slammed the trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country.”

Though he was acquitted of the sole charge of incitement of insurrection, it was easily the largest number of senators to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment count of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Voting to find Trump guilty were GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Even after voting to acquit, the Republican leader Mitch McConnell condemned the former president as ‘practically and morally responsible’ for the insurrection. Trump could not be convicted because he was out of office, McConnell contended.

The trial had been momentarily thrown into confusion when senators Saturday suddenly wanted to consider potential witnesses, particularly concerning Trump’s actions as the mob rioted. Prolonged proceedings could have been especially damaging for Biden’s new presidency, significantly delaying his emerging legislative agenda. Coming amid the searing COVID-19 crisis, the Biden White House is trying to rush pandemic relief through Congress.

Biden has hardly weighed in on the proceedings and was spending the weekend with family at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland.

The nearly weeklong trial has delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.

House prosecutors have argued that Trump’s was the “inciter in chief” stoking a months-long campaign, and orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims they called the “big lie” that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Trump’s lawyers countered that Trump’s words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

The senators, announcing their votes from their desks in the very chamber the mob had ransacked, were not only jurors but also witnesses. Only by watching the graphic videos — rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the January certification tally — did senators say they began to understand just how perilously close the country came to chaos.

Many senators kept their votes closely held until the final moments on Saturday, particularly the Republicans representing states where the former president remains popular. Most of them ultimately voted to acquit, doubting whether Trump was fully responsible or if impeachment is the appropriate response.

“Just look at what Republicans have been forced to defend,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Look at what Republicans have chosen to forgive.”

The second-ranking Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota acknowledged afterward, “It’s an uncomfortable vote. I don’t think there was a good outcome there for anybody.”

In closing arguments, lead defense attorney Michael van der Veen fell back on the procedural argument that Republican senators have embraced in their own reasoning of the case what he said is a “phony impeachment show trial.”

“Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him,” said Michael van der Veen. “The act of incitement never happened.”

The House impeached Trump on the sole charge of incitement of insurrection one week after the riot, the most bipartisan vote of a presidential impeachment.

The delay Saturday came as senators wanted to hear evidence about Trump’s actions during the riot, after prosecutors said he did nothing to stop it.

Fresh stories overnight focused on Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, who said in a statement late Friday that Trump rebuffed a plea from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to call off the rioters.

Several Republican senators voted to consider witnesses. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina changed his vote to join them on that 55-45 vote.

But facing a prolonged trial with defense poised to call many more witnesses, the situation was resolved when Herrera Beutler’s statement about the call was read aloud into the record for senators to consider as evidence. As part of the deal, Democrats dropped their planned deposition and Republicans abandoned their threat to call their own witnesses.

Impeachment trials are rare, senators meeting as the court of impeachment over a president only four times in the nation’s history, for Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and now twice for Trump, the only one to be twice impeached.

Unlike last year’s impeachment trial of Trump in the Ukraine affair, a complicated charge of corruption and obstruction over his attempts to have the foreign ally dig up dirt on then-campaign rival Biden, this one brought an emotional punch displayed in graphic videos of the siege that laid bare the unexpected vulnerability of the democratic system.

At the same time, this year’s trial carried similar warnings from the prosecutors pleading with senators that Trump must be held accountable because he has shown repeatedly he has no bounds. Left unchecked, he will further test the norms of civic behavior, even now that he is out of office still commanding loyal supporters.

“This trial in the final analysis is not about Donald Trump,” said lead prosecutor Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. “This trial is about who we are.”


Donald Trump acquitted in Senate impeachment trial

The Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday ruled President Trump not guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, rejecting Democrats’ five-month impeachment crusade as weak and saying the president’s fate is better decided at the ballot box.

Though the outcome was never much in doubt, Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, did make history by becoming the first senator ever to vote to convict a president in his own party.

He joined Democrats in condemning Mr. Trump for abuse of power, but they were in the minority, and Mr. Trump was acquitted on a 52-48 vote. Mr. Romney did side with Mr. Trump and fellow Republicans for the obstruction vote, which was defeated by 53-47. Both were well shy of the two-thirds needed to convict and oust the president.

“The U.S. Senate was made for moments like this,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who worked closely with the White House to orchestrate the president’s acquittal.

Mr. Trump went to Twitter to say he would make a public statement at noon Thursday to “discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the vote was full vindication and exoneration of the president.

“As we have said all along, he is not guilty. The Senate voted to reject the baseless articles of impeachment, and only the president’s political opponents — all Democrats, and one failed Republican presidential candidate — voted for the manufactured impeachment articles,” she said, referencing Mr. Romney’s unsuccessful 2012 bid for president.

Mr. Trump was only the third president to be impeached. No president has been convicted and removed, though President Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.

Throughout Mr. Trump’s trial, some Democrats said his behavior was worse than Nixon’s.

They said Wednesday that the acquittal was meaningless because the Senate voted last week to reject proposals to call new witnesses or subpoena documents. Democrats said witnesses would have proved their case.

Republicans countered that House Democrats, who led the impeachment push, had a chance to pursue witnesses but rushed their process to meet a political deadline. Republican senators said they wouldn’t rescue the House from its own failings.

The vote, while clearing the president, did little to ease the deep divisions in Congress that have persisted since before Mr. Trump took office.

House Democrats said they will continue to investigate Mr. Trump. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said some committee is likely to subpoena former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, who has written a book that reportedly backs much of the impeachment case against Mr. Trump.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, say they too will investigate — though their focus is on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter, whose position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company is at the crux of the impeachment saga.

After Mr. Biden expressed an interest in running for the Democratic nomination to battle Mr. Trump in the election this November, the president asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. He also wanted President Volodymyr Zelensky to turn over any documents that would back up a theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 elections. At the same time, the White House put a hold on almost $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

House Democrats said that was an abuse of power, and they voted Dec. 18 to impeach him. They added a second article accusing Mr. Trump of obstruction of Congress after he blocked documents and witnesses they had subpoenaed in their investigation. No Republicans joined the Democrats in impeaching the president.

Senate Democrats said the case was obvious and rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors — the standard the Constitution sets for impeachment. But the impeachment push was also freighted with years of frustration with Mr. Trump’s behavior, starting with the 2016 presidential campaign.

“You cannot be on the side of this president and be on the side of truth. And if we are to survive as a nation, we must choose the truth,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

“If the truth doesn’t matter, if the news you don’t like is ‘fake,’ if cheating in an election is acceptable, if everyone is as wicked as the wickedest among us, then hope for the future is lost,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who reversed herself to back impeachment last year, pointed to Mr. Romney’s defection and said Wednesday’s vote was still a victory of sorts.

“He is the first president in history to face a bipartisan vote to convict him in the Senate,” she said. “A full 75% of Americans and many members of the GOP Senate believe the president’s behavior is wrong. But the Senate chose instead to ignore the facts, the will of the American people and their duty to the Constitution.”

Some prominent Republican senators said Mr. Trump’s demand for investigations of political rivals was “inappropriate,” though none of them other than Mr. Romney thought his actions merited impeachment.

Mr. Romney called it “an appalling abuse of public trust.”

“What he did was not perfect. No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values,” he said.

Donald Trump Jr. said Senate Republicans should expel Mr. Romney from their ranks for his apostasy.

Mr. McConnell downplayed the idea, though he acknowledged he was “disappointed” with Mr. Romney’s defection.

Mr. Romney became the first senator ever to vote to convict a president in his own party. All 12 Democrats in the chamber voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson in 1868, and all Democrats voted to acquit President Clinton in 1999.

Democrats were unified again Wednesday.

Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Doug Jones of Alabama, all of whom had been eyed as potential acquittal votes, backed conviction on both articles of impeachment.

Analysts said Mr. Jones likely sealed his doom in Alabama, a deep-red state where he is running for reelection this year.

Mr. Jones fired off a fundraising email Wednesday touting his vote.

“I didn’t consult my party or polling. I took my constitutional oaths seriously,” he told supporters. “That isn’t going to make Mitch McConnell or the extremists he supports in Washington happy, but it was the right thing to do.”

The politics of impeachment appear to be tilting against Democrats.

Mr. Trump’s job approval rating has soared 9 percentage points in Gallup’s polling since late September, when Mrs. Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry.

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden’s political fortunes have sunk as his son’s dealings in Ukraine have drawn scrutiny.

Mr. McConnell said impeachment also has dented Democrats in the most contested Senate races this year.

“This was a political loser for them. They initiated it. They thought this was a great idea, and at least for the short term it has been a colossal political mistake,” the Kentucky Republican said.


May 26, 2015

Rendering of the impeachment trial for Andrew Johnson in 1868 that was published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. (Wikimedia Commons)

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Johnson had been impeached ostensibly for removing Lincoln-appointed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from office without Congressional approval, as required by a bill Congress had passed to prevent just such an action. The real fight, however, was about the course of Reconstruction in the South: the white supremacist Johnson wanted to allow the Southern states back into the Union with scarcely a slap on the wrist, while the Radical Republicans who controlled Congress sought to ensure black political rights.

&ldquoAt no time was the editorial position of The Nation well defined&rdquo on the question of Johnson&rsquos impeachment, William M. Armstrong, the biographer of founding editor E.L. Godkin, once wrote. The magazine wavered over whether to support the proceedings at all, first opposing and then enthusiastically endorsing them, before ultimately shrugging its shoulders and saying everyone should hang. This editorial (&ldquoThe Result of the Trial,&rdquo E.L. Godkin, May 21, 1868) predicting the president&rsquos imminent acquittal says that Johnson deserved conviction, but the Radicals who had orchestrated the proceedings were demagogues and no less worthy of removal from office than the man who stood accused of abusing the powers of the presidency. In 1868, The Nation was moving rapidly away from its abolitionist origins, becoming more dismissive of Reconstruction as it began to be convinced by largely specious reports of corrupt and inept governments rising to power, on the strength of the black vote, in the South.

The issue of the impeachment trial was no doubt important as regards the actual political situation but the greatest of all questions for the American people is, whether amongst all the troubles and changes of this and coming ages the popular respect for the forms of law, for judicial purity and independence, can be maintained. As long as it can, all will go well, whatever storms blow whenever the belief becomes general that a court of justice, and especially a &ldquoHigh Court,&rdquo can be fairly used, whenever the majority please, as the instrument of their will, it will make little difference what its judgment will be or who fills the Presidential chair.

To mark The Nation&rsquos 150th anniversary, every morning this year The Almanac will highlight something that happened that day in history and how The Nation covered it. Get The Almanac every day (or every week) by signing up to the e-mail newsletter.

Richard Kreitner Twitter Richard Kreitner is a contributing writer and the author of Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America's Imperfect Union. His writings are at www.richardkreitner.com.

The Almanac Today in history&mdashand how The Nation covered it.


Trump acquitted, denounced in historic impeachment trial

In this image from video, Republican senators and staff talk on the floor after a vote on the motion to allow witnesses in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump (Senate Television via AP)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump was acquitted Saturday (Feb. 13) of inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial that spared him the first-ever conviction of a current or former U.S. president.

Barely a month since the deadly Jan. 6 riot, the Senate convened for a rare weekend session to deliver its verdict, voting while armed National Guard troops continued to stand their posts outside the building.

The verdict, on a vote of 57-43, is all but certain to influence not only the former president’s political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors. Seven Republicans joined all Democrats to convict, but it was far from the two-thirds threshold required.

“Senators, we are in a dialogue with history, a conversation with our past, with a hope for our future,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the House prosecutors in closing arguments.

“What we do here, what is being asked of each of us here, in this moment, will be remembered.”

Trump welcomed his second impeachment acquittal and said his movement “has only just begun.” He called the trial “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”

Though he was acquitted of the sole charge of incitement of insurrection, it was the largest number of senators ever to vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment count of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Voting to find Trump guilty were GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Even after voting to acquit, the Republican leader Mitch McConnell condemned the former president as “practically and morally responsible” for the insurrection. McConnell contended Trump could not be convicted because he was gone from the White House.

In a statement issued several hours after the verdict, President Joe Biden highlighted the bipartisan nature of the vote to convict as well as McConnell’s strong criticism of Trump. In keeping with his stated desire to see the country overcome its divisions, Biden said everyone, especially the nation’s leaders, has a duty “to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”

“That is how we end this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation. That is the task ahead. And it’s a task we must undertake together,” said Biden, who had hardly weighed in on the proceedings during the week.

The trial had been momentarily thrown into confusion when senators Saturday suddenly wanted to consider potential witnesses, particularly concerning Trump’s actions as the mob rioted. Prolonged proceedings could have been especially damaging for Biden’s new presidency, significantly delaying his emerging legislative agenda. Coming amid the searing COVID-19 crisis, the Biden White House is trying to rush pandemic relief through Congress.

The nearly weeklong trial delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.

House prosecutors have argued that Trump was the “inciter in chief” stoking a months-long campaign with an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and claims they called the “big lie” that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Trump’s lawyers countered that Trump’s words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

Many senators kept their votes closely held until the final moments on Saturday, particularly the Republicans representing states where the former president remains popular. Most of them ultimately voted to acquit, doubting whether Trump was fully responsible or if impeachment is the appropriate response.

“Just look at what Republicans have been forced to defend,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Look at what Republicans have chosen to forgive.”

The second-ranking Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, acknowledged, “It’s an uncomfortable vote,” adding, “I don’t think there was a good outcome there for anybody.”

In closing arguments, lead defender Michael van der Veen emphasized an argument that Republican senators also embraced: that it was all a “phony impeachment show trial.”

“Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him,” van der Veen said. “The act of incitement never happened.”

The House impeached Trump on the sole charge of incitement of insurrection one week after the riot, but the Senate was not in full session and McConnell refused requests from Democrats to convene quickly for the trial. Within a week Biden was inaugurated, Trump was gone and Pelosi sent the article of impeachment to the Senate days later, launching the proceedings.

The turmoil on Saturday came as senators wanted to hear evidence about Trump’s actions during the riot, after prosecutors said he did nothing to stop it.

Fresh stories overnight had focused on Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, who said in a statement that Trump had rebuffed a plea from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to call off the rioters.

Several Republican senators voted to consider witnesses. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina changed his vote to join them on that 55-45 vote.

But with the Senate facing a prolonged trial and the defense poised to call many more witnesses, the situation was resolved when Herrera Beutler’s statement about the call was read aloud into the record for senators to consider as evidence. As part of the deal, Democrats dropped their planned deposition of the congresswoman and Republicans abandoned their threat to call their own witnesses. They also agreed to include GOP Sen. Mike Lee’s time stamp of a call from Trump around the time Pence was evacuated, minutes after Trump sent a tweet critical of his vice president.

Impeachment trials are rare, senators meeting as the court of impeachment over a president only four times in the nation’s history, for Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and now twice for Trump, the only one to be twice impeached. There have been no convictions.


Trump acquitted, denounced in historic impeachment trial

Democratic House impeachment managers from left, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo.,walk out of the Senate Chamber in the Capitol at the end of the fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in Washington. The Senate has acquitted Donald Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, bringing his trial to a close and giving the former president a historic second victory in the court of impeachment. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON &mdash Donald Trump was acquitted Saturday of inciting the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial that spared him the first-ever conviction of a current or former U.S. president but exposed the fragility of America&rsquos democratic traditions and left a divided nation to come to terms with the violence sparked by his defeated presidency.

Barely a month since the deadly Jan. 6 riot that stunned the world, the Senate convened for a rare weekend session to deliver its verdict, voting while armed National Guard troops continued to stand their posts outside the iconic building.

The quick trial, the nation&rsquos first of a former president, showed in raw and emotional detail how perilously close the invaders had come to destroying the nation&rsquos deep tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power after Trump had refused to concede the election. Rallying outside the White House, he unleashed a mob of supporters to &ldquofight like hell&rdquo for him at the Capitol just as Congress was certifying Democrat Joe Biden&rsquos victory. As hundreds stormed the building, some in tactical gear engaging in bloody combat with police, lawmakers fled for their lives. Five people died.

The verdict, on a vote of 57-43, is all but certain to influence not only the former president&rsquos political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors. Seven Republicans joined all Democrats to convict, but it was far from the two-third threshold required.

The outcome after the uprising leaves unresolved the nation&rsquos wrenching divisions over Trump&rsquos brand of politics that led to the most violent domestic attack on one of America&rsquos three branches of government.

&ldquoSenators, we are in a dialogue with history, a conversation with our past, with a hope for our future,&rdquo said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa. one of the House prosecutors in closing arguments.

&ldquoWhat we do here, what is being asked of each of us here, in this moment, will be remembered.&rdquo

Trump, unrepentant, welcomed his second impeachment acquittal and said his movement &ldquohas only just begun.&rdquo He slammed the trial as &ldquoyet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country.&rdquo

Though he was acquitted of the sole charge of incitement of insurrection, it was easily the largest number of senators to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment count of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Voting to find Trump guilty were GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Even after voting to acquit, the Republican leader Mitch McConnell condemned the former president as &ldquopractically and morally responsible&rdquo for the insurrection. McConnell contended Trump could not be convicted because he was gone from the White House.

In a statement issued several hours after the verdict, Biden highlighted the bipartisan nature of the vote to convict as well as McConnell&rsquos strong criticism of Trump. In keeping with his stated desire to see the country overcome its divisions, Biden said everyone, especially the nation&rsquos leaders, have a duty &ldquoto defend the truth and to defeat the lies.&rdquo

&ldquoThat is how we end this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation. That is the task ahead. And it&rsquos a task we must undertake together,&rdquo said Biden, who had hardly weighed in on the proceedings during the week.

The trial had been momentarily thrown into confusion when senators Saturday suddenly wanted to consider potential witnesses, particularly concerning Trump&rsquos actions as the mob rioted. Prolonged proceedings could have been especially damaging for Biden&rsquos new presidency, significantly delaying his emerging legislative agenda. Coming amid the searing COVID-19 crisis, the Biden White House is trying to rush pandemic relief through Congress.

The nearly weeklong trial has delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.

House prosecutors have argued that Trump&rsquos was the &ldquoinciter in chief&rdquo stoking a months-long campaign with an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims they called the &ldquobig lie&rdquo that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Trump&rsquos lawyers countered that Trump&rsquos words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a &ldquowitch hunt&rdquo designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

The senators, announcing their votes from their desks in the very chamber the mob had ransacked, were not only jurors but also witnesses. Only by watching the graphic videos &mdash rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the January certification tally &mdash did senators say they began to understand just how perilously close the country came to chaos.

Many senators kept their votes closely held until the final moments on Saturday, particularly the Republicans representing states where the former president remains popular. Most of them ultimately voted to acquit, doubting whether Trump was fully responsible or if impeachment is the appropriate response.

&ldquoJust look at what Republicans have been forced to defend,&rdquo said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. &ldquoLook at what Republicans have chosen to forgive.&rdquo

The second-ranking Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, acknowledged, &ldquoIt&rsquos an uncomfortable vote,&rdquo adding, &ldquoI don&rsquot think there was a good outcome there for anybody.&rdquo

In closing arguments, lead defender Michael van der Veen emphasized an argument that Republican senators also embraced: that it was all a &ldquophony impeachment show trial.&rdquo

&ldquoMr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him,&rdquo said van der Veen. &ldquoThe act of incitement never happened.&rdquo

The House impeached Trump on the sole charge of incitement of insurrection one week after the riot, but the Senate was not in full session and McConnell refused requests from Democrats to convene quickly for the trial. Within a week Biden was inaugurated, Trump was gone and Pelosi sent the article of impeachment to the Senate days later, launching the proceedings.

The turmoil on Saturday came as senators wanted to hear evidence about Trump&rsquos actions during the riot, after prosecutors said he did nothing to stop it.

Fresh stories overnight had focused on Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, who said in a statement that Trump had rebuffed a plea from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to call off the rioters.

Several Republican senators voted to consider witnesses. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina changed his vote to join them on that 55-45 vote.

But with the Senate facing a prolonged trial and the defense poised to call many more witnesses, the situation was resolved when Herrera Beutler&rsquos statement about the call was read aloud into the record for senators to consider as evidence. As part of the deal, Democrats dropped their planned deposition of the congresswoman and Republicans abandoned their threat to call their own witnesses. They also agreed to include GOP Sen. Mike Lee&rsquos time stamp of a call from Trump around the time Pence was evacuated, minutes after Trump sent a tweet critical of his vice president.

Impeachment trials are rare, senators meeting as the court of impeachment over a president only four times in the nation&rsquos history, for Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and now twice for Trump, the only one to be twice impeached. There have been no convictions.

Unlike last year&rsquos impeachment trial of Trump in the Ukraine affair, a complicated charge of corruption and obstruction over his attempts to have the foreign ally dig up dirt on then-campaign rival Biden, this one brought an emotional punch displayed in graphic videos of the siege that laid bare the unexpected vulnerability of the democratic system.

At the same time, this year&rsquos trial carried similar warnings from the prosecutors that Trump must be held accountable because he has shown repeatedly he has no bounds. Left unchecked, he will further test the norms of civic behavior, even now that he is out of office still commanding loyal supporters, they said.