WASHINGTON (CBS/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. The vote was 57-43, short of the two-thirds needed for conviction. Seven Republicans broke for their party to find Trump guilty.
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey was one of seven Republicans to vote to convict Trump.READ MORE: Thieves Steal ATM From West Philadelphia Laundromat
Toomey was joined by Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mitt Romney of Utah.
Toomey said that despite the Senate’s vote to acquit, a bipartisan majority of senators believed that Trump incited the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol.
“That is an extremely powerful rebuke, and that doesn’t go away, and the American people are aware of what he did,” said Toomey, speaking by phone with Pennsylvania-based reporters a few minutes after the vote.
Toomey said it’s important that Republicans come to distinguish between what Toomey called the policy successes of the Trump administration, and Trump’s “completely unacceptable” behavior after he lost.
“I hope that we get to the point where we can come together as a party and recognize those things,” Toomey said.
That seemed unlikely, at least in the short term. The Pennsylvania Republican Party chairman, Lawrence Tabas, said in a statement Saturday that Trump’s impeachment trial “was an unconstitutional theft of time and energy that did absolutely nothing to unify or help the American people.”
Tabas added: “I share the disappointment of many of our grassroots leaders and volunteers over Senator Toomey’s vote today.”
Toomey dismissed defense arguments that Trump’s words were protected by the First Amendment, saying: “No president or anyone else has the First Amendment right to incite a violent attack on our government.”
Toomey’s guilty vote is no surprise. Three days after the insurrection at the Capitol, Toomey said on national TV he believed Trump “committed impeachable offenses.” One day later, on Jan. 9, Toomey joined Murkowski in calling for Trump to resign, and he was one of six Republicans who joined Democrats to proceed with Trump’s second impeachment trial. Burr did not vote to proceed but did find Trump guilty.
Toomey’s full statement reads:
“President Donald Trump’s defense team made several accurate observations at the impeachment trial. Many elected Democrats did want to impeach President Trump from the moment he won the 2016 election. The mainstream media was unrelentingly biased and hostile to the president. Both often overlooked violent riots when perpetrated in favor of causes they found sympathetic last summer.
“However, these facts do not make President Trump’s conduct in response to losing the 2020 election acceptable. He began with dishonest, systematic attempts to convince supporters that he had won. His lawful, but unsuccessful, legal challenges failed due to lack of evidence. Then, he applied intense pressure on state and local officials to reverse the election outcomes in their states.
“When these efforts failed, President Trump summoned thousands to Washington, D.C. and inflamed their passions by repeating disproven allegations about widespread fraud. He urged the mob to march on the Capitol for the explicit purpose of preventing Congress and the Vice President from formally certifying the results of the presidential election. All of this to hold on to power despite having legitimately lost.
“As a result of President Trump’s actions, for the first time in American history, the transfer of presidential power was not peaceful. A lawless attempt to retain power by a president was one of the founders’ greatest fears motivating the inclusion of the impeachment authorities in the U.S. Constitution.
“I was one of the 74 million Americans who voted for President Trump, in part because of the many accomplishments of his administration. Unfortunately, his behavior after the election betrayed the confidence millions of us placed in him.
“His betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction.”
Toomey is not running for reelection after his term ends in 2022.
Toomey said that he would have voted to convict even if he planned to run for reelection.
“I did what I thought was right, and I would certainly like to think that regardless of my political circumstances or whether I was running for office again or not, I would do the same thing.”
At this time, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, is the only candidate to officially toss their name into the race for Toomey’s seat.
There are a number of Republican names circulating, including former Trump administration figures. Another possibility is Jeff Bartos, a suburban Philadelphia real estate investor who started running for U.S. Senate before switching horses to become Fetterman’s opponent for lieutenant governor in 2018.
Pennsylvania’s other senator, Democrat Bob Casey, joined all other Senate Democrats in voting to convict.
Casey said in a statement, in part, “There is no way that a reasonable person could dispute that the former President knew exactly what he was doing by perpetuating the “Big Lie,” summoning his crowd of insurrectionists on Jan. 6 and telling them: “[I]f you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” The former President led his supporters to a breaking point and as he had predicted in the past—it was “very bad, very bad.” He did not merely endanger another branch of government and the presidential line of succession. His actions led to at least five deaths, injuries to nearly 140 members of law enforcement and untold collateral damage resulting from the carnage of that day. He endangered the lives of countless Congressional staffers and employees, members of the press and members of Congress. He put a target on the back of his own Vice President and his Vice President’s family. And he has shown no remorse for any of it.
“The former President attacked the foundational principles of our democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. He violated his oath of office and he committed a high crime against our Constitution. I voted to convict the former President in the most bipartisan presidential impeachment proceedings in our Nation’s history.”
Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat, said in a statement, “Over the course of the last week, the House impeachment managers presented a concise, compelling, and powerful case about how former President Trump summoned and incited a violent mob, directed them at our Capitol, and encouraged them to wreak havoc on our democratic process, putting all who serve in and work at the Capitol building – including his own Vice President — in grave danger. If inciting a deadly mob to overturn a free and fair election is not grounds for the impeachment of an American president, I don’t know what is, which is why this was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in American history.READ MORE: A Behind-The-Scenes Look At Longwood Gardens' $250 Million Expansion Project That Gets Underway Today
“We must be clear-eyed about the challenges we face moving forward. The divisions stirred up by Donald Trump still exist across this country, and if we do not come together to reject misinformation, to stand against violence and extremism, and to move forward with an honest agreement on the facts, there is a real risk the politically motivated violence we saw on January 6 at our Capitol will happen again. I call on my colleagues — Republican and Democrat — to join me in ensuring that is not our future. We must show the American people that democracy can work and can deliver real results to address our most pressing challenges — from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession to the pandemic of distrust and division.”
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 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 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 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.
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 particular, 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 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.
Fifty-five senators voted for to consider witnesses, including Collins, Murkowski, Sasse and Romney. Once they did, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina changed his vote to join them on the 55-45 vote. Toomey did not vote to consider witnesses.
But facing a prolonged trial with the 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.”MORE NEWS: Philadelphia School District, Teacher's Union To Hold News Conference About Return To In-Person Learning, Sources Say
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)