Nancy Pelosi crashed the House impeachment manager’s post-trial press conference Saturday to rage against Mitch McConnell and call out Republicans’ ‘cowardly’ vote to stop Donald Trump from being convicted for ‘incitement of insurrection’.
‘It had not been my intention to come to this press availability,’ Pelosi said as she spoke to reporters on the fifth and final day of the Senate proceedings. ‘But what we saw today was a cowardly group of Republicans who apparently have no options because they were afraid to defend their job – respect the institution in which they serve.’
‘But why I came over was because I listened to Mitch McConnell,’ Pelosi continued.
McConnell took the Senate floor shortly after Democrats failed to earn the two-thirds votes needed to convict the former president – and the Republican leader argued Congress no longer had jurisdiction over Trump’s actions because is no longer president.
Pelosi angrily recounted the events of January where McConnell, who was still Senate majority leader at the time, refused to accept the impeachment article against Trump before Joe Biden’s inauguration.
‘So for him to get up there and make this indictment against the president and then say, ‘but I can’t vote for it because it’s after the fact.’ The fact that he established! The fact that he established that it could not be delivered after the inauguration.’
When asked about censuring the ex-president, Pelosi asserted that didn’t go nearly far enough.
‘Oh these cowardly senators who couldn’t face up to what the president did and what was at stake for our country are now going to have a chance to give a little slap on the wrist,’ she said as she physically gave herself a slap on the wrist.
‘We censure people for using stationary for the wrong purpose,’ she said, picking up a few pieces of paper laying on the podium and waving them around.
She added: ‘We don’t censure people for inciting insurrections.’
Pelosi suggested Republicans voted to not convict Trump because they ‘can’t get another job’ and want to make sure they are reelected.
‘What is so important about any one of us, what is so important about the political survival about any one of us that is more important than our Constitution that we take an oath to protect and defend?’ she questioned, shaking at times with anger.
‘All the things he said – oh my gosh – about Donald Trump and how horrible he was, and is, and then say but the time that the House chose to bring it over – no we didn’t, you chose not to receive it,’ she lashed out.
McConnell suggested that while he felt Congress couldn’t pursue charges against Trump, that he could still be held criminally liable.
‘President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office,’ McConnell said in Senate floor remarks.
‘He didn’t get away with anything, yet,’ he continued. ‘We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation and former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.’
Pelosi, who tried to leave the room two separate times but walked back to the podium to add more, was livid.
‘Remember when he talked about, when he talked about incitement, he said he didn’t think this rose to the level,’ she said. ‘So he was hedging all over the place.’
‘I don’t know if it was for donors, or what, or whatever it was, it was a very disingenuous speech and I say that regretfully because I always want to be able to work with the leadership of the other party,’ the California Democrat added.
The Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial Saturday as the vast majority of Republicans held together against a charge that he incited the Capitol riot of January 6.
After a roll call vote of the Senate, 57 senators voted to convict, with 43 senators voting to acquit. It wasn’t enough to meet the two-thirds threshold set out in the Constitution.
A total of seven Republicans voted to convict; two of them have announced they are retiring at the end of their terms.
The group included Sen. Richard Burr, who is retiring and who previously chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee during the Russia probe, and who voted ‘guilty.’ It also included Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who had appeared to waver and who voted earlier that the proceeding was constitutional.
Also voting ‘guilty’ were Republicans Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey, who is retiring.
It was a bipartisan vote, but well short of the 67 votes that would have been needed to convict, a bar that many pro-impeachment lawmakers believed was out of reach even before the proceedings began.
Majority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer called it the most bipartisan impeachment in American history.
Each senator stood and announced their vote from their desks, in a gesture meant to show the solemnity of the occasion.
Members of the MAGA mob had occupied and rifled through many of those desks during the riot, in defiance captured on video now being used against them by federal prosecutors.
‘They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the speaker of the House,’ said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after the chamber had voted. ‘They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president. They did this because they’d been fed wild, falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth because he was angry he lost an election. Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,’ said McConnell – although he himself voted to acquit Trump of the charge, citing technical grounds.
‘The mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners. Hanging his flags. And screaming their loyalty to him,’ said McConnell.
McConnell, who declined to call back the Senate into session following the House’s January impeachment, also said Trump is not in the clear just yet. ‘President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office,’ McConnell said. ‘As an ordinary citizen unless the statute of limitations has run, still liable for everything he did while he’s in office. Didn’t get away with anything – yet. Yet,’ McConnell said. He brought up the criminal justice system and civil litigation. ‘Presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.’
When House managers spoke after the verdict, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided to walk over to the Senate and join them, unloading on McConnell for his decision.
‘I don’t know whether it was for donors or what but whatever it was it was a very disingenuous speech,’ she fumed.
She wrote off the possibility of a censure resolution, which wouldn’t need to meet the same hurdle, as a ‘slap on the wrist.’
‘We censure people using stationary for the wrong purpose. We don’t censure people for inciting insurrection that kills people in the Capitol,’ she said.
‘He is hereby acquitted of the charge in said article,’ said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont after the votes were cast.
It was an outcome that was expected but nevertheless disappointed Democrats, who made Trump both the first U. S. president to be impeached twice and the first to be acquitted twice.
Democratic House managers who brought the charge could at least claim that the former president suffered a bipartisan rebuke – with a majority voting to convict him on the single charge of ‘incitement of insurrection.’
Reaching the required two-thirds supermajority established in the Constitution was already a high hurdle in a chamber that had shown consistent deference to Trump while he was in office.
It continued after Trump left office, even as managers sought to confront them with the existential threat the riot posed to the Capitol and the democracy – as well as their own personal safety.
Minutes after the Senate voted, Trump issued a statement attacking Democrats from his office at Mar-a-Lago. ‘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 said.
‘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,’ said Trump.
Each of the seven Republicans to vote to convicted provided their own reasons. Murkowski is the only one to face voters in 2022. Cassidy, of Louisiana, was the most succinct: ‘Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty,’ he said.
‘They could have killed us all’
‘Things could have been much worse,’ Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island said earlier in the trial. ‘As one senator said, they could have killed all of us.’
But appeals to the senators’ own lives weren’t sufficient in a chamber that went along with Trump through four tumultuous years, only breaking with him to override a veto of a popular defense bill after he had already lost the November election.
New information that unfolded even as the trial went forward also did not move the needle. The presentation featured 11th hour claims about what Trump told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy even as the riot was underway. Trump’s lawyers stipulated to the information, and it was allowed into the record.
Democrats also played jarring footage of Vice President Mike Pence being rushed out of the room where he was being secured as the mob was taking the building. The noted repeatedly that Trump never called Pence to check on his safety, and noted that Trump sent out a tweet pressuring Pence and saying he lacked ‘courage’ even after the riot was underway. (Video footage they played repeatedly showed members of the MAGA mob shouting to ‘hang’ Pence.)
For Democrats, it was an improvement over the first impeachment, when a single Republican, Mitt Romney of Utah, voted for an impeachment charge over Trump’s effort to pressure the government of Ukraine for dirt on his political opponent, Joe Biden.
That trial, held when the Senate was under GOP control, famously called no witnesses about the Ukraine affair, even with former national security advisor John Bolton finally ready to talk.
It call in a week-long trial that culminated with an angry attack by President Trump’s lawyer Michael van der Veen, who called impeachment a ‘complete charade from beginning to end.’ Channeling Trump, he said the entire spectacle ‘was nothing but the pursuit of a longstanding political vendetta against Mr. Trump by the opposition party.’
But Democrats on Saturday appeared to walk away from an opportunity to extend the trial further. After prevailing on a vote to allow witnesses, they reached a deal with Republicans and Trump’s team to allow for a stipulation regarding new evidence about Trump’s McCarthy call.
They gave up the chance to try to pry away new damaging information on Trump’s conduct, in a forum where they weren’t likely to prevail anyway, and with the 100-day agenda of President Joe Biden potentially at risk.
The quick conclusion to a trial that only began Tuesday came despite last minute drama Saturday that raised the potential it could go in an entirely different direction – turning into an extended fact-finding endeavor that could stretch an additional two weeks.
Following the jolt of tension, Democrats got the evidence, which provides a window into Trump’s conduct while the Capitol riot was underway – although it was not expected to change the vote breakdown in a meaningful way or take the trial in a new direction.
Drama as Raskin calls for the chance to hear from witnesses
House Manager Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland stunned senators Saturday morning when he spoke on the need for hearing from Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington state, on what she says McCarthy told her about the call even as the MAGA mob was rampaging through the Capitol.
It was the second major development of the day, after Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell revealed he would vote to acquit the former president, while sharing his procedural reasons.
Herrera Beutler says Trump told McCarthy: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’
Democratic managers could use the statement to argue that Trump inflamed the riot rather than trying to stop it.
But Raskin’s request threatened to blow up the trial schedule, potentially dragging it out for weeks, especially after Trump’s legal team threatened to call more than 300 witnesses.
That evidently was an outcome neither side was willing to stomach, for different reasons.
After a break, both Trump’s lawyer and Raskin agreed to a ‘stipulation’ of the evidence, which Raskin then read into the trial record.
Trump lawyer Bruce Castor said Trump through his lawyers was prepared to stipulate that Rep. Herrera Beutler, were she to testify under oath, it would be consistent with her Feb. 12th statement, which Raskin then read.
The agreement then allowed the trial to move on past the witness phase – meaning none will be called.
It was a swift conclusion to the matter only hours after House managers moved to call Rep. Herrera Beutler for testimony about her stunning claims about what Trump said his supporters were ransacking the Capitol.
With the evidence in the record and in hand – and with neither side demanding more witnesses – Raskin immediately pounced on the new information, saying Trump took actions that ‘further incited the insurgents to be more inflamed and to take even more extreme selective and focused action against Vice President Mike Pence.’
Raskin read Trump’s quote from Herrera Beutler’s notes to McCarthy aloud again. ‘Think about that for a second. This uncontradicted statement that has just been stipulated as part of the evidentiary record. The president said, ‘Well, I guess these people’ – meaning the mobsters, the insurrectionists – ‘are more upset about the election than you.’ That conduct is obviously part of the constitutional offense that he was impeached for, namely incitement to insurrection, that is continuing incitement to the insurrection,’ he said.
He said it provided ‘further decisive evidence of his intent to incite the insurrection in the first place.’
Another manager, Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, repeated the quote in his own arguments afterward. He said Trump ‘was essentially saying: You got what you deserve.’
‘His sole focus was stealing the election for himself,’ said Cicilline.
Cicilline said two things during closing remarks that got the attention of Trump’s attorney and Sen. Mike Lee, who had previously objected to how the Rhode Island Democrat contextualized the phone call between Trump and Tuberville, which came through on Lee’s phone.