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Senate acquits former President Trump on impeachment charge

The Senate finished closing arguments and voted Saturday on whether to convict or acquit former President Trump on the article of impeachment for 'incitement of insurrection.'

Posted: Feb 13, 2021 12:41 PM
Updated: Feb 13, 2021 3:37 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on former President Donald Trump's second Senate impeachment trial (all times local):

4:05 p.m.

Former President Donald Trump is welcoming his second impeachment acquittal and says his movement “has only just begun.”

Trump in a lengthy statement is thanking his attorneys and his defenders in the House and Senate, who he said “stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country.”

He is slamming the trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country.” And he is telling his supporters that, “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun” and that he will have more to share with them in the months ahead.

While Trump was acquitted by the Senate, seven Republicans voted to convict him, making it the most bipartisan vote in the history of presidential impeachments.

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3:58

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.

Trump is the first president to be impeached twice, and he is also now twice acquitted as the majority of Republicans defended his actions. The Senate voted 57-43 that Trump is “not guilty” of incitement. Two thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, was needed for conviction.

House Democrats argued that Trump caused the violent attack by repeating for months the false claims that the election was stolen from him, and then calling on his supporters to “fight like hell” just before they laid siege to the Capitol. Democrats argued that Trump had “obvious intent” as he egged on supporters they said were primed for violence.

Trump’s lawyers argued that the trial was brought on by Democrats’ “hatred” of Trump and that it was unconstitutional because he had left office. They said the rioters acted on their own accord, despite Trump’s words. And they argued that Trump was protected by freedom of speech and to convict him for something he said would set a dangerous precedent.

The House impeached Trump before he left office for “incitement of insurrection” after the violent mob broke into the Capitol, destroyed property and hunted for lawmakers as they counted the presidential electoral votes. Five people died.

If Trump had been convicted, the Senate would have taken a second vote on whether to ban him from running for office again. Only two other presidents, Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson in 1868, have been impeached. Both were also acquitted.

—-

3:55

Seven Republicans have voted to convict former President Donald Trump at his Senate impeachment trial.

Though the chamber voted to acquit him Saturday, it was easily the largest number of lawmakers to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty at impeachment proceedings.

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, Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Romney’s “guilty” vote at Trump’s initial impeachment trial last February had made him the first senator to ever vote to convict a president of the same party.

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HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

3:50 p.m.

Enough senators have cast “not guilty” votes to acquit Donald Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The vote will give the former president an historic second acquittal in an impeachment trial.

House Democrats, who voted a month ago to charge Trump with “incitement of insurrection,” needed two thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, to convict him.

The Democrats argued in the short trial that Trump caused the violent attack by repeating for months the false claims that the election was stolen from him, and then telling his supporters gathered near the White House that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. Five people died when they then laid siege to the Capitol.

Trump’s lawyers argued that the rioters acted on their own accord and that he was protected by freedom of speech, an argument that resonated with most Republicans. They said the case was brought on by Democrats’ “hatred” of Trump.

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3:40 p.m.

The White House was not involved in the discussion on Capitol Hill about calling witnesses for former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. That’s according to a senior administration official not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations and speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official says White House officials were watching the drama over witnesses play out in the Senate, but were not involved in brokering the agreement that ultimately allowed the trial to proceed to closing arguments and a vote Saturday.

President Joe Biden spent the weekend with family at Camp David, the traditional presidential retreat in Maryland, and had plans to meet with his national security advisers on Saturday.

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3:15 p.m.

A lawyer for Donald Trump says everyone acknowledges the horror of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last month but that the former president wasn’t responsible for it.

Michael van der Veen gave his closing arguments on the Senate floor on Saturday in the impeachment trial of Trump.

He says there is no evidence that Trump incited an “armed insurrection” to “overthrow the U.S. government” and to think that Trump would have wanted that is “absurd.” He says the event on Jan. 6 was supposed to be peaceful but that a small group “hijacked” it for their own purposes.

He also repeated the arguments from Friday that other politicians have engaged in incendiary rhetoric, though impeachment managers noted that none of those speeches precipitated an attack on the U.S. government.

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3:10 p.m.

As a vote in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial nears a close, lead Democratic impeachment manager Jamie Raskin told the Senate that “this is almost certainly how you will be remembered by history.”

Raskin said that “none of us can escape the demands of history and destiny right now” as the House managers argue that Trump incited the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and the Senate decides whether to convict him.

He said the trial is not about Trump, but “about who we are.”

Trump’s lawyers, and many Senate Republicans, have argued that the trial is unconstitutional. They also say Trump did not intentionally incite the riot when he told a mob of his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat and march to the Capitol as Congress was counting the electoral votes.

The House managers laid out video evidence of the violent assault, in which five people died. Raskin said they proved that Trump betrayed his country and “betrayed his oath of office.”

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3 p.m.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has told senators in an email obtained by The Associated Press that his decision to vote to acquit former President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial was a “close call.”

McConnell says he believes presidents can be prosecuted for criminal misconduct after they leave office. He says that eases the “otherwise troubling” argument House prosecutors have made that not convicting Trump would create a “January exception” for trying impeached presidents who’ve already left office.

McConnell says he thinks impeachment is chiefly to remove an official “and we therefore lack jurisdiction.”

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1 p.m.

Senators have resumed Donald Trump’s impeachment trial without calling witnesses after agreeing to accept new information from a Republican congresswoman about his actions on the day of the deadly Capitol siege.

After a delay of several hours, the trial is back on track with closing arguments and Saturday’s session heading toward a vote on the verdict.

Under the deal, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s statement on a phone call between Trump and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy as rioters stormed the Capitol was entered into the trial record as evidence. No further witnesses were called.

Senators brought the proceedings to a standstill when a majority voted Saturday morning to consider potential witnesses.

The information from Herrera Beutler sparked fresh interest on Trump’s actions that day.

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12:45 p.m.

Senate leaders are working on an agreement that could end a standoff over calling witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and allow it to proceed with closing arguments and a vote on whether he incited the deadly Capitol siege.

Under the agreement being discussed, the information that a Republican congresswoman has made public about Trump’s actions on the day of the riot would be entered into the record of the trial in exchange for Democrats dropping plans to deposition testimony from the congresswoman, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington No witnesses would be called to testify.

That would allow the trial to resume Saturday with closing arguments and a vote on the verdict.

A Democrat granted anonymity to discuss the private talks confirmed the pending agreement.

The Senate came to a standstill shortly after convening for the rare Saturday session when a majority voted to consider calling witnesses.

Herrera Beutler’s account of Trump’s call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy as rioters were breaking into the Capitol on Jan. 6 sparked fresh interest in Trump’s actions that day.

— Lisa Mascaro.

___

12:30 p.m.

Republican senators are warning that any vote to allow witnesses at the impeachment trial of Donald Trump will significantly prolong the case, and that they have their own lists of people they would want to hear from.

Sen. Ted Cruz told reporters that if there are witnesses called by Democrats, the process “won’t be one-sided” and the former president will be able to have his own witnesses, too.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was among five Republicans who joined Democrats in voting to consider witnesses, said that although he’d like to see the case go to trial, he’ll insist on multiple witnesses if Democrats get to have theirs. He says he would want to hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

A Trump adviser was seen holding a sheet of paper showing that Trump’s lawyers are prepared to call more than 300 witnesses.

The vote Saturday to consider witnesses upended the trial, which had been racing toward closing arguments and a vote on whether to acquit or convict Trump.

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11:15 a.m.

Former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial came to an abrupt standstill after a majority of senators voted to consider calling witnesses about the deadly storming of the Capitol.

Even senators seemed confused by the sudden turn of events Saturday. The quick trial had been racing toward closing arguments and a vote on whether to acquit or convict Trump.

Under Senate rules for the trial, it appears debate and votes on potential witnesses could be allowed, potentially delaying the final vote.

House prosecutors want to hear from a Republican congresswoman who has said she was aware of a conversation Trump had with the House GOP leader as rioters were ransacking the Capitol over the election results.

Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington has widely discussed her reported conversation with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who had called on Trump to stop the attack by his supporters.

Five Republican senators joined all Democrats in voting 55-45 on a motion to consider witnesses and testimony.

Trump’s defense attorneys blasted the late action. Attorney Michael van der Veen said it’s time to “close this case out.”

Senators are in a brief recess as leaders confer on next steps.

___

10:50 a.m.

The proceedings in former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial have come to an abrupt halt, with senators seemingly confused about the next steps.

Senators were huddling on the floor of the chamber as leaders spoke to the clerks at the dais.

Impeachment trials are rare, especially for a president, and the rules are negotiated for each one at the outset.

For Trump’s trial, the agreement said if senators agree to hear witnesses, votes to hear additional testimony would be allowed.

It’s unclear if there will be support in the evenly split Senate for calling witnesses.

___

10:35 a.m.

Senators have voted to consider witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

Closing arguments were expected Saturday with no witnesses called. But lead Democratic prosecutor Jamie Raskin of Maryland asked for a deposition of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler over fresh information.

She has widely shared a conversation she had with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy over Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 as the mob was rioting over the presidential election results.

Raskin said it was necessary to determine Trump’s role in inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot. There were 55 senators who voted to debate the motion to subpoena, including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who changed his vote in the middle of the count.

Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen balked at the request, saying he’d then call 100 witnesses and said it was not necessary.

___

10:30 a.m.

Trump impeachment lawyer Michael van der Veen is telling senators that if Democrats wish to call a witness, he will ask for at least 100 witnesses and will insist they give depositions in person in his office in Philadelphia.

His animated statement was met with laughter from the chamber, which visibly angered van der Veen.

“There’s nothing laughable here,” he said. The trial is being held in person, but lawmakers are wearing masks and the coronavirus pandemic has halted most normal activity, including close contact in offices for depositions. In many civil and criminal cases, such work is handled via conference call.

Closing arguments are expected Saturday in the impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump. But lead Democratic prosecutor Jamie Raskin of Maryland has asked for a deposition of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler over fresh information.

She has widely shared a conversation she had with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy over Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 as the mob was rioting over the presidential election results.

___

10:20 a.m.

House impeachment prosecutors say they will be preparing a deposition of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler over fresh information in Donald Trump’s trial over the deadly attack at the Capitol.

Lead Democratic prosecutor Jamie Raskin of Maryland said Saturday he would seek to hear from the Republican congresswoman, who has widely shared a conversation she had with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy over Trump’s actions Jan. 6 as the mob was rioting over the presidential election results.

It’s unclear if she or any other witnesses will be called.

Raskin said he would pursue a virtual interview with the Washington lawmaker.

Senators are meeting in a rare Saturday session in what is expected to be the final day in Trump’s historic trial.

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