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Senate Votes to Acquit Trump in Impeachment Trial

All 50 Democrats and seven Republicans voted “guilty,” falling 10 votes short of the two-thirds necessary for conviction. Senator Mitch McConnell followed his own vote to acquit with a surprisingly harsh speech calling Donald J. Trump “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the Capitol riot.

This briefing has ended. Follow our latest coverage of Trump’s acquittal here.

7 Senate Republicans vote ‘guilty,’ the most bipartisan margin in favor of conviction in history.

Trump Acquitted of Inciting Insurrection

The Senate voted to acquit former president Donald J. Trump of the “incitement of insurrection” charge in the deadly riot at the Capitol, with 57 guilty votes, 10 shy of the number necessary to convict the former president.

“Trump supported the actions of the mob, and so he must be convicted. It’s that simple. When he took the stage on Jan. 6, he knew exactly how combustible the situation was. He knew there were many people in the crowd who were ready to jump into action, to engage in violence at any signal that he needed them to fight like hell to ‘stop the steal,” and that’s exactly what he told them to do. Then he aimed them straight here, right down Pennsylvania, at the Capitol, where he told them the steal was occurring. That is the counting of the Electoral College votes. And we all know what happened next. They attacked this building. They disrupted the peaceful transfer of power. They injured and killed people, convinced that they were acting on his instructions and with his approval and protection. And while that happened, he further incited them while failing to defend us. If that’s not ground for conviction, if that’s not a high crime and misdemeanor against the republic in the United States of America, then nothing is. President Trump must be convicted for the safety and security of our democracy and our people.” “The stakes could not be higher. Because the cold, hard truth is that what happened on Jan. 6 can happen again. I fear, like many of you do, that the violence we saw on that terrible day may be just the beginning. We’ve shown you the ongoing risks, the extremist groups, who grow more emboldened every day. Senators this cannot be the beginning. It can’t be the new normal. It has to be the end. And that decision is in your hands.” “This trial is about whether Mr. Trump willfully engaged in incitement of violence and even insurrection against the United States, and that question they have posed in their article of impeachment has to be set up against the law of this country. No matter how much truly horrifying footage we see of the conduct of the rioters and how much emotion has been injected into this trial, that does not change the fact that Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him. Despite all of the video played, at no point in their presentation did you hear the house managers play a single example of Mr. Trump urging anyone to engage in violence of any kind. At no point did you hear anything that could ever possibly be construed as Mr. Trump encouraging or sanctioning an insurrection. Senators, you did not hear those tapes because they do not exist.” “The question is on the article of impeachment. Senators: How say you? Is the respondent Donald John Trump guilty or not guilty?” “The yays are 57. The nays are 43. Two-thirds of the senators present not having voted guilty, the Senate judges that the respondent, Donald John Trump, former president of the United States, is not guilty as charged in the articles of impeachment.”

The United States Senate voted on Saturday to acquit Donald J. Trump in his second impeachment trial, as Republicans in a Senate still bruised from the most violent attack on the Capitol in two centuries banded together to reject the charge that he incited the Jan. 6 attack.

Voting 57-43, the Senate fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds necessary for conviction. Seven Republicans voted to find the former president guilty of “incitement of insurrection,” with all 50 Democrats, the most bipartisan support for conviction in any of the four presidential impeachments in U.S. history.

That outcome reflected the widespread outrage about Mr. Trump’s conduct among senators who experienced the violence of the attack firsthand, fleeing for safety as marauders overwhelmed the Capitol Police and swarmed the Capitol during the attack. It came after Democrats built a case that the former president had undertaken a monthslong effort to overturn the election, and then provoked the assault on the Capitol in a last-ditch attempt to cling to power.

“If that is not ground for conviction, if that is not a high crime and misdemeanor against the Republic and the United States of America, then nothing is,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead manager, pleaded with senators before the vote. “President Trump must be convicted, for the safety and democracy of our people.”

Minutes after the verdict was announced, Mr. Trump sent out a statement thanking his legal team and decrying, as he did for most of his presidency, the “witch hunt” he says is being waged upon him by his enemies.

“It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree,” he wrote, echoing the final arguments of his lawyers in the Senate on Saturday.

“I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.”

He also suggested that the Democrats’ attempt to end his political career had also failed, telling his supporters, “our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.”

The verdict brought an abrupt end to the fourth presidential impeachment trial in American history, and the only one in which the accused had left office before being tried. The senators were voting on a question with no precedent in American history: whether to convict a former president accused of seeking to violently thwart the peaceful transfer of power — and putting at risk the lives of hundreds of lawmakers and his own vice president.

The trial ended after just five days, partly because Republicans and Democrats alike had little appetite for a prolonged proceeding, and partly because Mr. Trump’s allies had made clear before it even began they were not prepared to hold him responsible.

So ends a 39-day stretch unlike any in the nation’s history. Dispensing with the customary investigations and hearings, the House moved directly to impeach Mr. Trump seven days after the attack, citing an urgent need to remove him from office. Ten Republicans joined Democrats to adopt the charge, more than had ever supported the impeachment of a president of their party.

In a surprise twist on Saturday, the House managers made an abrupt demand to hear from witnesses who could testify to what Mr. Trump was doing and saying during the rampage. The Senate voted to allow it, but the prospect threatened to prolong the trial by days or weeks without changing the outcome, and in a head-spinning move, the prosecutors quickly dropped it.

After a flurry of closed-door haggling with Republicans, they agreed with Mr. Trump’s lawyers to admit as evidence a written statement by a Republican congresswoman, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, who has said she was told that the former president sided with the mob as rioters were attacking the Capitol.

‘These criminals were carrying his banners.’ McConnell castigates Trump for provoking the Capitol riot minutes after voting to acquit him.

McConnell Votes to Acquit but Rebukes Trump

Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, said that former President Donald J. Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol but that he was not technically eligible to be impeached.

Former President Trump’s actions preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty. There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him. It was obvious that only President Trump could end this. He was the only one who could. Former aides publicly begged him to do so. Loyal allies frantically called the administration. The president did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn’t take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored. No, instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily. Happily. If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge. But in this case, the question is moot because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, said that former President Donald J. Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol but that he was not technically eligible to be impeached.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Minutes after voting to acquit Donald J. Trump on Saturday, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, castigated the former president for what he called a “disgraceful dereliction of duty,” pinning responsibility for last month’s Capitol assault directly on Mr. Trump.

In a speech more blistering than many of those in favor of conviction, Mr. McConnell said the former president had shouted “wild myths” about election fraud into the “the largest megaphone on planet earth” with foreseeable consequences. Congress and the American public paid the price, he added.

It was a stunning statement from a leader who has defended Senate prerogatives zealously, in which he effectively argued that Mr. Trump was guilty as charged, but the Senate could do nothing about it.

“There is no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he said. “The people that stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole.”

But even as he condemned Mr. Trump, Mr. McConnell said his reading of the Constitution was that the Senate should not try a former president. He called impeachment a “narrow tool” meant to remove an official from office, not pursue them afterward.

Democrats were furious, pointing out that their vote to impeach came while Mr. Trump remained in office and that it was Mr. McConnell who refused to call the Senate back into session to start the trial before he left office. But Mr. McConnell said that even if he had, there would not have been time to reach a verdict in the final days of Mr. Trump’s term.

The harshly worded speech appeared to be something of a compromise for Mr. McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Washington, who has come to despise the 45th president he aided and accommodated for four years and now regards Mr. Trump as a danger to his party.

Mr. McConnell had considered voting to convict the former president as a means of purging him from the party, but allies said he concluded he could not practically, as leader, side with a minority of his colleagues rather than the overwhelming number who said the trial was invalid and voted to acquit. Instead, he used every ounce of his rhetorical strength to try to damage Mr. Trump’s credibility with his own party.

When the Capitol attack was underway, Mr. McConnell said, Mr. Trump abdicated his responsibility as commander in chief, and afterward, he refused to drop his baseless election lies.

“Whatever reaction he says he meant to produce by the afternoon, we know he was watching the same live television as the rest of us,” Mr. McConnell said. “A mob was assaulting a Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him.”

He added: “He did not do his job. He did not take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored. No, instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily — happily — as the chaos unfolded.”

Mr. McConnell also rejected one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers’ most explicit defenses: that his words had been no different from those of any other politician advocating a cause.

“That is different from what we saw,” he said.

Notably, he argued that it was up to the criminal justice system to hold former presidents to account for their conduct in office. Mr. Trump, he said, “didn’t get away with anything yet.”

Biden, responsible for moving the country past crisis, emphasizes unity after the verdict.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Biden said late Saturday that while former President Donald J. Trump had been acquitted of inciting last month’s riot at the Capitol, “the substance of the charge is not in dispute.”

He pointed out that even Republicans who did not vote to convict Mr. Trump had criticized his behavior, including Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, who said after the vote on Saturday that the former president was guilty of “a disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

Mr. Biden went on to express gratitude for “those who bravely stood guard that January day” as Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, as well as Democrats and Republicans “who demonstrated the courage to protect the integrity of our democracy.” Election officials from both parties strongly disputed Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of fraud, and judges — some of them appointed by Mr. Trump — rejected warrantless legal challenges.

“This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile,” Mr. Biden said. “That it must always be defended. That violence and extremism has no place in America. And that each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”

Other leading Democrats turned their ire toward their Republican counterparts. Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly batted down the idea of a bipartisan censure resolution, saying it would let “cowardly senators” off the hook and constitute “a slap in the face of the Constitution.”

“Five years ago, Republican senators lamented what might become of their party if Donald Trump became their presidential nominee and standard-bearer,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said moments after the vote. “Just look at what has happened. Look at what Republicans have been forced to defend. Look at what Republicans have chosen to forgive.”

Mr. Biden had mostly distanced himself from the particulars of the trial, with a notable exception on Thursday, when he declared that a graphic video of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol that was shown during the trial might have changed “some minds.” As Congress was consumed by the trial this weekend, Mr. Biden was at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland on his first trip away from Washington since he took office.

Aides said that Mr. Biden’s plan next week was to return the country’s focus to fighting the coronavirus and its economic fallout. They have scheduled a televised town hall in Wisconsin on Wednesday focusing on his pandemic response, followed by a trip to Michigan on Thursday to tour a vaccine production facility.

On Sunday, the third anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., Mr. Biden issued a statement honoring the young victims and their loved ones, who “like far too many families — and, indeed, like our nation — they’ve been left to wonder whether things would ever be OK.”

He added: “We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer. Today, I am calling on Congress to enact common-sense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets. We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change.”

Here are the seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump.

 

Who are the seven senators? Only one — Lisa Murkowski — is up for re-election next year, and she has survived attacks from the right before. Two are retiring, and three won new terms in November, so they will not face voters until 2026.

Mr. Burr, 65, a senator since 2005, is not seeking re-election in 2022. Despite holding Mr. Trump immediately responsible for the Capitol riot, he had voted against moving forward with the impeachment trial, and his decision to convict came as a surprise.

“As I said on Jan. 6, the president bears responsibility for these tragic events,” Mr. Burr said in a statement on Saturday. “The evidence is compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government and that the charge rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. Therefore, I have voted to convict.”

Mr. Cassidy, 63, a senator since 2015, was just re-elected. Weeks ago, he voted against moving forward with the trial, but said he was persuaded by the House impeachment managers.

“Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person,” Mr. Cassidy said. “I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty.”

Ms. Collins, 68, a senator since 1997, was just re-elected to a fifth term. She has long been critical of Mr. Trump’s actions, extending to the Capitol riot.

“That attack was not a spontaneous outbreak of violence,” Ms. Collins said on the Senate floor after the vote. “Rather it was the culmination of a steady stream of provocations by President Trump that were aimed at overturning the results of the presidential election.”

Ms. Murkowski, 63, a senator since 2002, is up for re-election in 2022. She has appeal for both Democrats and independents and won a write-in campaign in 2010 after losing the Republican primary. She has harshly criticized Mr. Trump’s actions before and during the Capitol rampage, calling his conduct “unlawful.”

“It’s not about me and my life and my job,” Ms. Murkowski told a Politico reporter who asked about the political risk she took with her vote. “This is really about what we stand for. If I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to stand with me?”

Mr. Romney, 73, a senator since 2019, is the only Republican to have voted to convict Mr. Trump in his first impeachment trial. A former presidential candidate, he made clear after the Capitol attack that he held Mr. Trump responsible.

“President Trump attempted to corrupt the election by pressuring the secretary of state of Georgia to falsify the election results in his state,” Mr. Romney said in a statement on Saturday. “President Trump incited the insurrection against Congress by using the power of his office to summon his supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 and urging them to march on the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes. He did this despite the obvious and well-known threats of violence that day. President Trump also violated his oath of office by failing to protect the Capitol, the vice president and others in the Capitol. Each and every one of these conclusions compels me to support conviction.”

Mr. Sasse, 48, a senator since 2015, was just re-elected. He has been a frequent critic of Mr. Trump and had signaled that he was open to convicting the former president.

“On election night 2014, I promised Nebraskans I’d always vote my conscience even if it was against the partisan stream,” Mr. Sasse said in a statement. “In my first speech here in the Senate in November 2015, I promised to speak out when a president — even of my own party — exceeds his or her powers. I cannot go back on my word, and Congress cannot lower our standards on such a grave matter, simply because it is politically convenient.”

Mr. Toomey, 59, a senator since 2011, is not seeking re-election in 2022. He had denounced Mr. Trump’s conduct; in a statement on Saturday, he said had decided during the trial that the former president deserved to be found guilty.

“I listened to the arguments on both sides,” Mr. Toomey said, “and I thought the arguments in favor of conviction were much stronger.”

Democrats cited Trump’s failure to halt the rioters in their summation. His lawyers accused them of ‘impeachment lust.’

Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado, a House impeachment manager, preparing for the fifth day of former President Donald J. Trump’s trial on Saturday.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

After days of calling out former President Donald J. Trump actions, House Democrats summed up their case by accusing him of impeachable inaction — his unwillingness to stop the mob that killed, maimed and clawed at the heart of American democracy in his name.

“Think for a moment, just a moment, of the lives lost that day — of the more than 140 wounded,” said Representative Joe Neguse, Democrat of Colorado and one of the House impeachment managers. “Ask yourself if, as soon as this had started, President Trump had simply gone onto TV, just logged onto Twitter, and said stop the attack. How many lives would we have saved?”

The Democrats’ tone throughout the accelerated trial, soft-spoken and emotional, represented a striking contrast with the angry, high-volume riposte of Mr. Trump’s defense team whose fiery final argument was inspired, and perhaps instigated by, the former president.

“Senators, do not let House Democrats take this maniacal crusade any further,” said Michael T. van der Veen, who emerged as the most outspoken member of Mr. Trump’s legal team.

“You do not have to indulge the impeachment lust, the dishonesty, and the hypocrisy,” added Mr. van der Veen, whose earlier statements prompted Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont, who presided over the trial, to call for civility on both sides. “It is time to bring this unconstitutional political theater to an end.”

Even if acquittal seemed preordained throughout the long closing arguments on Saturday, exoneration did not; Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, called his not-guilty vote “a close call,” and many Republicans, while ultimately siding with Mr. Trump’s arguments, seemed impressed by the evidence and empathy of the Democratic impeachment managers.

Representative Jamie Raskin, who was grieving the recent suicide of his son Tommy, 25, at the time of attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, offered sympathy to the families of those hurt or killed as a result of the attack, a toll that includes the suicides of two police officers in the aftermath.

“We must recognize and exercise these crimes against our nation and then we must take care of our people and our children, their hearts and their minds,” he said. “As Tommy Raskin used to say, it’s hard to be human. Many of the Capitol and Metropolitan Police officers and guardsmen and women who were beaten up by the mob also have kids.”

The Democrats seemed to have a far more sophisticated understanding of the senatorial mind-set than Mr. Trump’s team.

In his summation, Mr. van der Veen implored senators, a group that prides itself on being steeped in history and conversant with the nation’s great documents, “to read the Constitution.”

Mr. Neguse offered a barbed lecture of his own. But his was hidden in a reference to Mr. McConnell’s hero, a fellow Kentuckian, Representative John Sherman Cooper, who braved a political backlash to support civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

“We’ve always risen to the occasion when it mattered the most, not by ignoring injustice or cowering to bullies and threats, but by doing the right thing,” he said of Mr. Cooper.

After acquitting Trump, the Republican Party moves forward in his image.

Despite being defeated in the election and impeached twice by the House, Donald J. Trump remains a potent political force in the Republican Party. 
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

During the first trial of Donald J. Trump, the former president commanded near-total fealty from his party. His conservative defenders were ardent and numerous, and Republican votes to convict him — for pressuring Ukraine to help him smear Joseph R. Biden Jr. — were virtually nonexistent.

But this time, seven Republican senators voted with Democrats to convict Mr. Trump — the most bipartisan rebuke ever delivered in an impeachment process. Several others, including Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, intimated that Mr. Trump might deserve to face criminal prosecution.

Mr. McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor after the vote, denounced Mr. Trump’s “unconscionable behavior” and held him responsible for having given “inspiration to lawlessness and violence.”

Yet Mr. McConnell had joined with the great majority of Republicans just minutes earlier to find Mr. Trump not guilty.

The vote stands as a determinative moment for the party Mr. Trump molded into a cult of personality, one likely to leave a deep blemish in the historical record. Now that Republicans have passed up an opportunity to banish him through impeachment, it is not clear when — or how — they might go about transforming their party into something other than a vessel for a semiretired demagogue who was repudiated by a majority of voters.

Yet Mr. Trump remains the dominant force in right-wing politics.

Indeed, in a statement celebrating the Senate vote on Saturday, Mr. Trump declared that his political movement “has only just begun.”

The lineup of Republicans who voted for conviction was, on its own, a statement on Mr. Trump’s political grip on the party. Only Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is up for re-election next year, and she has survived grueling attacks from the right before.

The remainder of the group included two lawmakers who are retiring — Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — and three more who just won new terms in November and will not face voters again until the second half of the decade.

In Washington, a quiet majority of Republican officials appears to be embracing the kind of wishful thinking that guided them throughout Mr. Trump’s first campaign in 2016, and then through much of his presidency, insisting that he would soon be marginalized by his own outrageous conduct or that he would lack the discipline to make himself a durable political leader.

Several seemed to be looking to the criminal justice system as a means of sidelining Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump is facing multiple investigations by the local authorities in Georgia and New York into his political and business dealings.

Even in places where Mr. Trump retains a powerful following, there is a growing recognition that the party’s loss of the White House and the Senate in 2020, and the House two years before that, did not come about by accident — and that simply campaigning as the Party of Trump is not likely to be sufficiently appealing to win back control of Congress next year.

Impeachment has provided the most comprehensive account to date of what happened on Jan. 6.

Members of the pro-Trump mob swarm the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

The pure savagery of the mob that rampaged through the Capitol that day was breathtaking. One police officer lost an eye, another the tip of his finger. Still another was shocked so many times with a Taser gun that he had a heart attack.

They suffered cracked ribs and multiple concussions. At least 81 members of the Capitol force and 65 members of the Metropolitan Police Department were injured, not even counting the officer killed that day or two others who later died by suicide. Some officers described it as worse than when they served in combat in Iraq.

And through it all, President Donald J. Trump served as the inspiration if not the catalyst. Even as he addressed a rally beforehand, supporters could be heard on the video responding to him by shouting, “Take the Capitol!” Then they talked about calling the president at the White House to report on what they had done.

If nothing else, the Senate impeachment trial has served at least one purpose: It stitched together the most comprehensive and chilling account to date of last month’s deadly assault on the Capitol.

Yet for all the heart-pounding narrative of that day and the weeks leading up to it presented on the Senate floor, what was also striking after it was all over was how many questions remained unanswered on issues like the financing and leadership of the mob, the extent of the coordination with extremist groups, the breakdown in security and the failure in various quarters of the government to heed intelligence warnings of pending violence.

And then, most especially, what the president was doing in the hours that the Capitol was being ransacked.

The Trump camp has never provided a definitive and official account of the former president’s knowledge or actions during the attack. But advisers speaking on the condition of anonymity have told reporters that he was initially pleased, not disturbed, that his supporters had disrupted the election count and that he never reached out to Vice President Mike Pence to check on his safety even after Mr. Pence was evacuated from the Senate chamber.

What really struck some senators, particularly the handful of Republicans open to conviction, is what Mr. Trump did next — or what he did not do. Despite pleas from Mr. McCarthy, other allies, key aides and his daughter Ivanka Trump, the president was still more focused on pressing his effort to block the election than coming to the aid of his vice president and Congress.

Matthew Rosenberg, Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt contributed reporting.

A federal inquiry into the Capitol riot may keep damning details in the headlines for months.

While the impeachment trial may be over, it’s hardly the last word on Trump’s culpability in the assault on the Capitol. 
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Senate’s acquittal of former President Donald J. Trump at his second impeachment trial will hardly be the last or decisive word on his level of culpability in the assault on the Capitol last month.

While the Justice Department officials examining the rash of crimes committed during the riot have signaled that they do not plan to make Mr. Trump a focus of the investigation, the volumes of evidence they are compiling may eventually give a clearer — and possibly more damning — picture of his role in the attack.

Case files in the investigation have offered signs that many of the rioters believed, that they were answering Mr. Trump’s call on Jan. 6. The inquiry has also offered evidence that some pro-Trump extremist groups, concerned about fraud in the election, may have conspired together to plan the insurrection.

“If this was a conspiracy, Trump was the leader,” said Jonathan Zucker, the lawyer for Dominic Pezzola, a member of the far-right Proud Boys group who has been charged with obstructing police officers guarding the Capitol.

As the sprawling investigation goes on — quite likely for months or even years — and newly unearthed evidence brings continual reminders of the riot, Mr. Trump may suffer further harm to his battered reputation, complicating any post-presidential ventures. Already, about a dozen suspects have explicitly blamed him for their part in the rampage — a number that will most likely rise as more arrests are made and legal strategies develop.

Some defendants, court papers show, said they went to Washington because Mr. Trump encouraged them to do so, while others said they stormed the Capitol largely because of Mr. Trump’s appeal to “fight like hell” to overturn the election. One man — charged with assaulting the police — accused the former president of being his accomplice: In recent court papers, he described Mr. Trump as “a de facto unindicted co-conspirator” in his case.

Legal scholars have questioned the viability of faulting Mr. Trump in cases connected to the Capitol attack, noting that defendants would have to prove not only that they believed he authorized their actions, but also that such a belief was reasonable.

The efforts to blame Mr. Trump are, of course, a calculated legal defense and may not work to exonerate them of crimes committed at the Capitol, even if they were inspired by Mr. Trump’s words.

Alan Feuer and 

What we know about Trump’s calls to Republicans as rioters marauded through the Capitol.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking at a news conference earlier this month.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The back-and-forth in the Senate on Saturday over calling witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump put a spotlight on the former president’s calls to Republican allies as the rampage unfolded, leaving his vice president, Mike Pence, scrambling for safety.

Republicans and Democrats have sparred over the details. Here’s what we know so far:

Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Republican of Washington, confirmed late Friday evening that Mr. McCarthy told her that Mr. Trump said in a phone call during the rampage that the rioters were “more upset” about the election than Mr. McCarthy was.

Why it matters: If her account, which the prosecutors and defense team agreed on Saturday to admit as evidence, is accurate, the call would disprove the core of Mr. Trump’s defense — that he pleaded for “peaceful” protest. It would also suggest that Mr. Trump’s failure to stop the violence was a calculated choice, and a result of his belief that the rioters were aiding in his effort to overturn the election.

Mr. Tuberville, a staunch Trump supporter elected to represent Alabama in 2020, told reporters last week that Mr. Trump called him at the height of the riot, and that he informed the president that the Secret Service had just “taken the vice president out” of the Capitol to save him from the mob.

When asked how Mr. Trump reacted to the news, the former Auburn football coach told reporters on Friday, “I don’t remember.”

Why it matters: Mr. Trump’s defense team has claimed the president did not know Mr. Pence was in danger, without specifying a timeline of when he found out. On Friday, one of Mr. Trump lawyers, Michael T. van der Veen, called the account of Mr. Tuberville — one of Mr. Trump’s most dogged defenders — “hearsay,” likening it to a rumor overheard “the night before at a bar somewhere.”

Mr. Trump mistakenly called Mr. Lee, a Trump ally from Utah, when he was trying to track down Mr. Tuberville. On Saturday, Mr. Lee gave lawyers on both sides a copy of a log of his cellphone calls — and forcefully repeated his claim that Mr. Trump was calling Mr. Tuberville and not him.

Why it matters: Two minutes before the call, at 2:24 p.m., Mr. Trump attacked Mr. Pence on Twitter for “not having “the courage to do what should have been done.”

At 2:39 p.m. — about 10 minutes after Mr. Tuberville told him of the dire plight of Mr. Pence and lawmakers — Mr. Trump finally asked his followers to behave in a “peaceful” way.

He did not explicitly ask them to leave the building until he posted a video doing so at 4:17 p.m.

Georgia prosecutors will scrutinize Trump allies like Graham and Giuliani.

“Anything that is relevant to attempts to interfere with the Georgia election will be subject to review,” said Fani T. Willis, the top prosecutor in Fulton County, Ga.
Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Fani T. Willis, the top prosecutor in Fulton County, Ga., is targeting former President Donald J. Trump and a range of his allies in her newly announced investigation into election interference.

Ms. Willis and her office have indicated that the investigation, which she revealed this week, will include Senator Lindsey Graham’s November phone call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, about mail-in ballots; the abrupt removal last month of Byung J. Pak, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, who earned Mr. Trump’s enmity for not advancing his debunked assertions about election fraud; and the false claims that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, made before state legislative committees.

“An investigation is like an onion,” Ms. Willis told The New York Times in an interview. “You never know. You pull something back, and then you find something else.”

She added, “Anything that is relevant to attempts to interfere with the Georgia election will be subject to review.”

Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Mr. Graham, said that he had not had any contact with Ms. Willis’s office. The Washington Post first reported that the probe would include Mr. Graham’s phone call.

Mr. Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment.

Jason Miller, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, has called the Georgia investigation “the Democrats’ latest attempt to score political points.”

The activity of Mr. Trump is central to the Georgia inquiry, particularly his call last month to Mr. Raffensperger, during which Mr. Trump asked him to “find” votes to erase the former president’s loss in the state.

Ms. Willis, whose jurisdiction encompasses much of Atlanta, laid out an array of possible criminal charges in recent letters to state officials and agencies asking them to preserve documents, providing a partial map of the potential exposure of Mr. Trump and his allies.

Mr. Trump’s calls to state officials urging them to subvert the election, for instance, could run afoul of a Georgia statute dealing with criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, one of the charges outlined in the letters. If that charge is prosecuted as a felony, it is punishable by at least a year in prison.

Ms. Willis, 49, is a veteran prosecutor who has carved out a centrist record. She said in the interview that her decision to proceed with the investigation “is really not a choice — to me, it’s an obligation.”

“Each D.A. in the country has a certain jurisdiction that they’re responsible for,” she added. “If an alleged crime happens within their jurisdiction, I think they have a duty to investigate it.”

Van der Veen, a Trump lawyer, erupts at Democrats, drawing a call for ‘civil discourse.’

Michael van der Veen, one of former President Donald Trump’s defense lawyers, has taken an aggressive tack during the impeachment trial.
Credit…Brandon Bell for The New York Times

On Saturday morning, the Senate echoed with what had become, by Day 5 of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial, a familiar sound: the raised voice of Mr. Trump’s most combative and animated defense lawyer, Michael T. van der Veen.

Mr. van der Veen erupted after House impeachment managers made a last-minute request to call a Republican congresswoman, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, as a witness — via video call — after she claimed knowledge of statements by Mr. Trump in which he sided with the mob that attacked the Capitol.

The exchange became so heated that the trial’s presiding officer, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, admonished Mr. van der Veen and others to observe the chamber’s rules of decorum. The scolding came shortly after Mr. Leahy had issued a similar warning when Democrats laughed at the defense lawyer.

The testy back-and-forth on Saturday came when Mr. van der Veen argued — in a tone that at times neared shouting — that Democrats had broken a pledge to wrap up the trial, followed by a threat to call top figures in the party to testify in person.

“There are a lot of depositions that need to happen,” he said. “Nancy Pelosi’s deposition needs to be taken. Vice President Harris’s deposition absolutely needs to be taken. And not by Zoom. None of these depositions should be done by Zoom.”

“These depositions should be done in person, in my office, in Philadelphia,” added Mr. van der Veen, a personal injury lawyer, who pronounced the name of his hometown with a distinct Philadelphia accent.

At that point, several senators began snickering audibly.

“I would remind everybody that we will have order in the chamber during these proceedings,” Mr. Leahy said.

“I haven’t laughed at any of you, and there’s nothing laughable here,” Mr. van der Veen interjected angrily.

A few moments later, he accused Democrats of cutting a “back-room deal” and went on to question their integrity.

“They have completely violated and ignored and stepped on the Constitution of the United States,” he said. “They have trampled on it like people who have no respect for it.”

At that point, Mr. Leahy leaned into the microphone at the presiding officer’s desk, with its commanding view of the Senate floor, and said, “All parties in this chamber must refrain from using language that is not conducive to civil discourse.”

It was not the first time Mr. Leahy had to intervene to rein in Mr. van der Veen. On Friday, he called for order after a testy exchange between the lawyer and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont nearly devolved into a shouting match.

On Saturday, after the Senate voted to allow witnesses, Mr. van der Veen got worked up again. That time, however, he reached for calm.

“Let me take my own advice,” he said, “and cool the temperature in the room a little bit.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, on Friday, the fourth day of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial.
Credit…Brandon Bell for The New York Times

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, informed colleagues Saturday morning that it was a “close call,” but he would vote to acquit former President Donald J. Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to three people familiar with the matter.

His decision, revealed in an email to colleagues hours before a vote on the verdict, put to rest weeks of uncertainty and public silence about how Mr. McConnell would judge the former president, and confirmed that it was all but certain that the Senate would acquit Mr. Trump. Mr. McConnell said the Senate had no power under the Constitution to remove an ex-president, a position that many constitutional scholars have rejected, according to the people, who shared the contents of Mr. McConnell’s message on condition of anonymity to disclose a private communication.

“While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” the leader wrote. “The Constitution makes perfectly clear that presidential criminal misconduct while in office can be prosecuted after the president has left office, which in my view alleviates the otherwise troubling ‘January exception’ argument raised by the House.”

The leader had let it be known that he believed Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses and told advisers and colleagues he was open to conviction as the best way of purging Mr. Trump from the Republican Party. He even said publicly that Mr. Trump had “provoked the attack.”

But on Saturday, he cited the same constitutional concerns about trying a former president that other Republicans have to justify their votes. His decision could help tamp down possible defections by others in the party contemplating a “guilty” vote.

Seventeen Republican senators would need to join the Democrats to reach the two-thirds majority needed to convict Mr. Trump of the single charge he faces. If they did, they could then vote to disqualify him from holding office in the future.

Many Republicans were already on record supporting the view that the impeachment trial was unconstitutional. Before the Senate voted Saturday morning on a last-minute call for witnesses, the Senate had been on track to conclude the fastest presidential impeachment trial ever.

Source: New York Times

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