Watch CBS News

Republican Senators acquit Trump for role in January 6 insurrection

Republican Senators acquit Trump for role in Jan. 6 insurrection
Republican Senators acquit Trump for role in Jan. 6 insurrection 05:46

The yeas were 57, the nays were 43.  The final vote on acquittal in the U.S. Senate came ten votes short of the 67 required to convict former President Trump of inciting the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, reports CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett.

That assault, by flag-waving, armed Trump supporters, came shortly after Mr. Trump spoke, and followed months of him spewing the so-called Big Lie: that he had been fraudulently denied re-election.

"We fight like hell," he told a crowd of supporters at the Ellipse, as Congress was certifying the Electoral College votes. "And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."

Democratic impeachment manager Joe Neguse, of Colorado: "He assembled the mob, he summoned the mob, and he incited the mob." 

Seven Republicans voted to convict. Not among them: Kentucky's Mitch McConnell. Yet, the Senate Minority Leader later excoriated Mr. Trump's election fraud lies and the violence he said flowed from them.

"There is no question, none, that President Trump is — practically and morally — responsible for provoking the events of the day," McConnell said.

History will record this impeachment process, both in the House and Senate, as the most bipartisan exercise of its kind. Acquittal as we know was almost always certain, but the trial was about much more than the verdict. It established a historical record about what happened that horrible day, when the U.S. Capitol was sacked by enraged Americans.

In newly-released security camera video, insurrectionists are seen attacking police officers at the entrance to the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.  CBS News

New video released during the proceedings revealed the mob beating and bludgeoning law enforcement – at least one officer pinned in agony between doors. More than 130 officers were injured, many seriously. One died. Two committed suicide in the immediate aftermath of the onslaught.

Impeachment manager David Cicciline, of Rhode Island, praised the police: "They showed up here to serve, and to serve the American people, and to serve their government, to serve all of us."

For the first time, we saw Vice President Mike Pence and his entourage exiting the Senate chamber, seeking safety … Senator Mitt Romney running from marauders, guided by Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman … and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, led by his armed security, retreating down a basement hallway.

Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin, of Maryland, asked, "Is this America? Can our country and our democracy ever be the same if we don't hold accountable the person responsible for inciting the violent attack against our country?"

The trial exposed Republican divisions over Mr. Trump's offenses and their gravity, and affirmed the former president's powerful sway over the GOP. The specter of a 2024 Trump bid for the presidency hung over the proceedings.

House manager Ted Lieu, of California, said, "You know, I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I'm afraid he's going to run again and lose, because he can do this again."

House managers argued Mr. Trump spent months spreading disinformation that culminated in an ugly spectacle.

"He had a pattern and practice of praising and encouraging that violence, never ever condemning it," said Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands. "The insurgents believed that they were doing the duty of their president. They were following his orders." 

The former president's legal team knew they'd likely prevail, and mounted a defense based on complaints about partisanship, process and first amendment protections for political speech.

"No thinking person could seriously believe that the president's January 6th speech on the Ellipse was in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection," said attorney Michael van der Veen.

Attorney David Schoen said, "You get more due process than this when you fight a parking ticket." 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against convicting former President Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection, but later blamed him for the violence anyway.  CBS News

Mr. Trump's lawyers accused Democrats of using language similar to their client's. "Suddenly the word fight is off-limits? Spare us the hypocrisy and false indignation," said van der Veen.

Left unsaid: none of those examples of "fight" spoken by a Democrat was followed by armed insurrection.

The president's attorneys did not attempt to counter the accusation Mr. Trump did nothing to stop the violence once it started, nor did they deny the election was fair and accurate.

Congressman Raskin countered, "This trial is not about Donald Trump. The country, and the world, know who Donald Trump is.  This trial is about who we are, who we are."

At one point in the trial Raskin quoted French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire: "Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

Another of Voltaire's observations might also apply: "Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do."

Story produced by Arden Farhi. Editor: Ed Givnish. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.