Republicans divided on Trump impeachment acquittal, impact on future

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Senate votes to acquit Donald Trump in impeachment trial

Republicans on Saturday offered wide-ranging reactions to President Trump’s impeachment acquittal.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who was among the 43 Senate Republicans voting to acquit Trump, tweeted, “Impeachment is not supposed to be political sport where one party seeks advantage over the other at the expense of the country. The merits of the Democrats’ case were not even close.”

Trump confidante Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wrote, “For the good of the country I hope this will be the last Senate impeachment where a President is impeached without a lawyer, without witnesses, and a trial record is built on hearsay upon hearsay.”

Although he was not among the seven Senate Republicans voting to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) condemned Trump in language that rivaled House impeachment managers.

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

“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.”

McConnell accused Trump of pursuing a “scheme to overturn the election” that imperiled then-Vice President Mike Pence and police officers.

Five people died as a direct result of the riot, including four rioters and US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Two police officers and at least one rioter subsequently died by suicide.

Republican 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 and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania voted to convict Trump.

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

Burr said, “The President promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to cast doubt on the integrity of a free and fair election because he did not like the results… [and] when the crowd became violent, the President used his office to first inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault.”

But many Republicans pinned their trial assessments on whether the trial was constitutional due to Trump already having left office. Some argued that Trump’s words in his pre-riot speech didn’t cross the legal threshold to amount to incitement.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told reporters, “I think the votes would say that the Senate has no power to impeach an officer who’s no longer in office.”

Asked if Trump had a future in politics, Rubio said, “the impeachment wasn’t about” that.

In a post-acquittal statement, Trump teased, “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who also voted to acquit, noted that it would be the public that decides if Trump’s able to mount a political comeback.

“Oh, time is going to take care of that some way or another,” Grassley said. “But remember, in order to be a leader you got to have followers. So we’re gonna find out, whoever leads. But everybody’s going to be involved. We’re a big tent.”

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