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CNN Live Event/Special

Senate Votes To Acquit Trump, 57 Guilty, 43 Not Guilty, Seven GOP Senators Vote To Convict; McConnell Says Trump's Actions Were A Disgraceful Dereliction Of Duty But Voted To Acquit; McConnell Suggests Trump Could Be Prosecuted Criminally; Democratic Impeachment Managers Speak After Trump Acquittal. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired February 13, 2021 - 16:00   ET


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Republicans have chosen to forgive.


The former president tried to overturn the results of a legitimate election and provoked an assault on our own government, and well over half the Senate Republican conference decided to condone it. The most despicable act that any president has ever committed and the majority of Republicans cannot summon the courage or the morality to condemn it.

This trial wasn't about choosing country over party, even not that. This was about choosing country over Donald Trump. And 43 Republican members chose Trump. They chose Trump. It should be a weight on their conscience today, and it shall be a weight on their conscience in the future.

As sad as that fact is, as condemnable as the decision was, it is still true that the final vote on Donald Trump's conviction was the largest and most bipartisan vote of any presidential impeachment trial in American history. I salute those Republican patriots who did the right thing. It wasn't easy. We know that.

Let their votes be a message to the American people because, my fellow Americans, if this nation is going to long endure, we as a people cannot sanction the former president's Congress because if lying about the results of an election is acceptable, if instigating a mob against the government is considered permissible, if encouraging political violence becomes the norm, it will be open season, open season, on our democracy, and everything will be up for grabs by whoever has the biggest clubs, the sharpest spears, the most powerful guns.

By not recognizing the heinous crime that Donald Trump committed against the Constitution, Republican senators have not only risked but potentially invited the same danger that was just visited upon us.

So, let me say this: Despite the results of the vote on Donald Trump's conviction in the court of impeachment, he deserves to be convicted. And I believe he will be convicted in the court of public opinion. He deserves to be permanently discredited, and I believe he has been discredited in the eyes of the American people and in the judgment of history.

Even though Republican senators prevented the Senate from disqualifying Donald Trump from any office of honor, trust or profit under these United States, there is no question Donald Trump has disqualified himself.

I hope, I pray and I believe that the American people will make sure of that. And if Donald Trump ever stands for public office again, and after everything we have seen this week, I hope, I pray and I believe that he will meet the unambiguous rejection by the American people.

Six hours after the attack on January 6th, after the carnage and mayhem was shown on every television screen in America, President Trump told his supporters to, quote, remember this day forever.

I ask the American people to heed his words. Remember that day forever. But not for the reasons the former president intended. Remember the panic in the voices over the radio dispatch, the rhythmic pounding of fists and flags at the chamber doors.

Remember the crack of a solitary gunshot. Remember the hateful and racist Confederate flags flying through the halls of our Union. Remember the screams of the bloody officer crushed between the on rushing mob in a doorway to the Capitol, his body trapped in the breach.

Remember the three Capitol Police Officers who lost their lives. Remember that those rioters actually succeeded in delaying Congress from certifying the election. Remember how close our democracy came to ruin.

My fellow Americans, remember that day, January 6th, forever, the final terrible legacy of the 45th president of the United States and undoubtedly our worst.


Let it live on in infamy, a stain on Donald John Trump that can never, never be washed away.

Mr. President, on Monday, we'll recognize Presidents' Day. Part of the commemoration in the Senate will be the annual reading of Washington's farewell address.

Aside from winning the Revolutionary War, I consider it his greatest contribution to American civil life, and it had nothing to do with the words he spoke but the example it set. Washington's farewell address established for all time that no one had the right to the Office of the Presidency, that it belonged to the people.

What an amazing legacy. What an amazing gift to the future generations, the knowledge that this country will always be greater than any one person, even our most renowned. That's why members of both parties take turns reading Washington's address once a year in full into the record, to pledge common attachment to the selflessness at the core of our democratic system. This trial was about the final acts of a president who represents the

very antithesis of our first president and sought to place one man before the entire country, himself.

Let the record show -- let the record show -- before God, history and the solemn oath we swear to the Constitution that there was only one correct verdict in this trial -- guilty. And I pray that while justice was not done in this trial, it will be carried forward by the American people when, above any of us in this chamber, determine the destiny of our great nation. I yield the floor.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We just heard from the Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. I think the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- here he is.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: January 6th was a disgrace. American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of domestic business they did not like.

Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the speaker of the House. 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'd lost an election. Former President Trump's actions preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty.

The House accused the former president of, quote, incitement. That is a specific term from the criminal law. Let me just put that aside for a moment and reiterate something I said weeks ago.

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. The issue is not only the president's intemperate language on January 6th.


It is not just his endorsement of remarks in which an associate urged, quote, trial by combat. It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe, the increasingly wild myth, myth about a reverse landslide election that was somehow being stolen, some secret coup by our now president.

Now, I defended the president's rights to bring any complaints to our legal system. The legal system spoke. The Electoral College spoke. As I stood up and said clearly at that time, the election was settled.

It was over. But that just really opened a new chapter of even wilder, wilder and more unfounded claims.

The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things.

And sadly, many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors. We saw that -- that unhinged listeners might take differently. But that was different. That's different from what we saw.

This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories orchestrated by outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out. The unconscionable behavior did not end with the violence actually began. Whatever our ex-president claims he thought might happen that day, whatever reaction he says he meant to produce by that afternoon, we know he was watching the same live television as the rest of us.

A mob was assaulting the capitol in his name. 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 -- as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election.

Now, even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in serious danger, even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters, the president sent a further tweet attacking his own vice president.

Now, predictably and foreseeably under the circumstances, members of the mob seemed to interpret this as a further inspiration to lawlessness and violence, not surprisingly.

Later, even when the president did halfheartedly begin calling for peace, he didn't call right away for the riot to end. He did not tell the mob to depart until even later. And even then, with police officers bleeding and broken glass covering capitol floors, he kept repeating election lies and praising the criminals.

In recent weeks, our ex-president's associates have tried to use the 74 million Americans who voted to re-elect him as a kind of human shield against criticism, using the 74 million who voted for him as a human shield against criticism. Anyone who decries his awful behavior is accused of insulting millions

of voters. That's an absurd deflection. Seventy-four million Americans did not invade the Capitol, hundreds of rioters did.

Seventy-four million Americans did not engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it. One person did. Just one.

I made my view of this episode very plain. But our system of government gave the Senate a specific task. The Constitution gives us a particular role. This body is not invited to act as the nation's overarching moral tribunal.

We're not free to work backward from whether the accused party might personally deserve some kind of punishment.

Justice Joseph Story, our nation's first great constitutional scholar, as he explained nearly 200 years ago, the process of impeachment and conviction is a narrow tool, a narrow tool, for a narrow purpose.

Story explained this limited tool exists to, quote, secure the state against gross official misdemeanors, end quote. That is to protect the country from government officers. If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge.

By the strict criminal standard, the president's speech probably was not incitement. However -- however -- in the context of impeachment, the Senate might have decided this was acceptable shorthand for the reckless actions that preceded the riot. But in this case, the question is moot because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction.

Now, this is a close question, no doubt. Donald Trump was the president when the House voted, though not when the House chose to deliver the papers. Brilliant scholars argued both sides of this jurisdictional question.

The text is legitimately ambiguous. I respect my colleagues who have reached either conclusion. But after intense reflection, I believe the best constitutional reading shows that Article II Section 4 exhausts the set of persons who can legitimately be impeached, tried or convicted. It's the president, it's the vice president and civil officers.

We have no power to convict and disqualify a former office holder who is now a private citizen.

Here is Article II Section 4. Quote: The president, the vice president and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, end quote.

Now, everyone basically agrees that the second half of that sentence exhausts the legitimate grounds for conviction. The debate around the Constitution's framing makes that abundantly clear. Congress cannot convict for reasons besides those. It therefore follows that the list of persons in that same sentence is

also exhausted. There's no reason why one would list -- one list would be exhaustive but the other would not.

Article II Section 4 must limit both why impeachment and conviction can occur and to whom -- and to whom. If this provision does not limit impeachment and conviction powers, then it has no limits at all. The House has sole power of impeachment and the Senate sole power to try all impeachments, would create an unlimited circular logic empowering Congress to ban any private citizen from federal office.

Now, that's an incredible claim, but if the argument of the House managers seem to be making. One manager said the House and Senate have, quote, absolute unqualified jurisdictional power, end quote.

Well, that was very honest because there's no limit in principle in the constitutional text that would empower the Senate to convict former officers that would not also let them convict and disqualify any private citizen -- an absurd end result to which no one subscribes.

Article II Section 4 must have force. It tells us the president, the vice president and civil officers may be impeached and convicted.

Donald Trump's no longer the president. Likewise, the provision states that officers subject to impeachment and conviction shall be removed from office if convicted -- shall be removed from office if convicted.

As Justice Story explained, the Senate, upon conviction, is bound in all cases to enter a judgment of removal from office. Removal is mandatory upon conviction.

Clearly, he explained, that mandatory sentence cannot be applied to someone who's left office. The entire process revolves around removal. If removal becomes impossible, conviction becomes insensible (ph).

In one line, it certainly does seem counterintuitive that office- holder can elude Senate conviction by resignation or expiration of term, an argument we heard made by the managers.

But this underscores that impeachment was never meant to be the final forum for American justice, never meant to be the final forum for American justice. Impeachment, conviction and removal are a specific intra-governmental safety valve. It is not the criminal justice system or individual accountability is the paramount goal.

Indeed Justice Story specifically reminded that while former officials were not eligible for impeachment or conviction, they were -- and this is extremely important -- still liable to be tried and punished in the ordinary tribunals of justice.

Put another way, in the language of today, President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations is run, still liable for everything he did while he's in office. He didn't get away with anything yet -- yet. 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.

I believe the Senate was not -- was right not to grant power the Constitution doesn't give us. And the Senate was right not to entertain some light speed sham process to try to outrun the loss of jurisdiction.

It took both sides more than a week just to produce their pre-trial briefs. Speaker Pelosi's on-scheduling decisions conceded what President Biden publicly confirmed, a Senate verdict before inauguration day was never possible.

Now, Mr. President, this has been a dispiriting time, but the Senate has done our duty. The Framers' firewall held up again.

On January 6th, we returned to our posts and certified the election. We were uncowed. We were not intimidated. We finished the job.

And since then, we resisted the clamor to defy our own constitutional guardrails in hot pursuit of a particular outcome. We refused to continue a cycle of recklessness by straining our own constitutional boundaries in response.

The Senate's decision today does not condone anything that happened on or before that terrible day. It simply shows that senators did what the former president failed to do. We put our constitutional duty first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The senator from Maryland.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Thank you, Mr. President.

I take this time to explain why I voted to convict the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, of the articles of impeachment presented by the House --

BLITZER: All right. So, we're going to continue to monitor what's happening on the Senate floor.

We just heard very, very contradictory statement from the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. On the one hand he said the former President Donald Trump behaved disgracefully. He committed a dereliction of duty. He was morally responsible, practically responsible for the January 6th riot that developed on Capitol Hill, the insurrection.

But at the same time, he voted not guilty. He voted not guilty despite the fact what he was saying sounded much like what the House impeachment managers were saying, a very, very contradictory statement from the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, spoke for about 20 minutes.

At the end, he did say Trump still potentially could face punishment. He said there is a criminal justice system in the country and Trump now is a private citizen. Potentially, he could face some sort of criminal justice. A former president, he said, is a private citizen.

It's interesting that seven Republican senators, seven Republican senators -- we can put their pictures up on the screen. There you see them right now, Senator Richard Burr, Senator Bill Cassidy, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Mitt Romney, Senator Ben Sasse, Senator Pat Toomey, they voted guilty.


BLITZER: They said that Trump was guilty of insurrection, guilty of incitement of insurrection.

And as a result they totally disagreed with the conclusion of Mitch McConnell, who basically cited what he called the Constitution, that he was not really eligible for a guilty conviction, even though he did horrible, horrible things.

Dana, we watch all of this unfold. And there's going to be a lot of fallout from all of this.

But it's significant that seven Republican Senators did vote with all 50 Democrats in favor of a guilty verdict.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very significant. And it is the most bipartisan vote in any impeachment history.

And we heard that from the majority leader, Chuck Schumer, on the floor. And the fact that there were seven Republicans was a bit of a surprise.

We're going to talk about that here with David Chalian and Abby Phillip.

But as we discuss that, the fact that there were seven, and the fact that the now-minority leader, Mitch McConnell, came out and gave that incredibly, you know, powerful speech about how incensed he was, almost sounding as if he was giving a speech after voting to convict --


BASH: And he wasn't. He was giving a speech after he voted to acquit.

Imagine a couple of things. Imagine if he would have given that speech after voting to convict.

As the Republican leader, that would have given many more Republicans political cover to vote the same way.

And it's not that big of a stretch to think that the 57 could have been 67 and Donald Trump would have been convicted.

Instead, what McConnell did was hang it on a process argument, saying that -- and he argues that it's a constitutional argument that a former president can't be convicted of impeachment.

Leaving out the fact that he was still in charge of the Senate schedule when the House voted to impeach then sitting President Trump.

And he made very clear he was not going to bring the Senate back from recess and therefore they had no choice but to have a trial for a former president.

PHILLIP: I think we should also be clear with folks at home that despite what McConnell was saying about the constitutional argument, there's not real will you a hot legal debate about whether this is constitutional or not.

The reality is that the vast majority of legal scholars believe it is in fact constitutional. The majority of Republican Senators, for political reasons, largely disagree.

I also think -- let me start with this. The other Senator, Richard Burr, who voted against the constitutionality game to a completely different conclusion from Mitch McConnell.

He came to the conclusion that the Senate had already settled that decision. They already voted on it, and it's settled now, that it is constitutional.

And that because of that, looking at Trump's conduct, taking the case that Mitch McConnell just made so powerfully, he concluded that Trump violated his oath of office, that he imperiled a co-equal branch of government, that it rose to a high crime and a misdemeanor.

And so it's clear that McConnell actually agrees with that, that it's a high crime and a misdemeanor. But he's hinging this so he can have it both ways on the constitutional argument that doesn't have that much leg.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And that the Senate voted on. This was up for a vote in the United States Senate earlier this week.

As House Manager Raskin had said to the Senate once that's done, that issue was done. This institution that Mitch McConnell is a leader in had come to a conclusion, not one he was on the winning side of, I understand.

But the Senate, as a body, put the constitutional question to the side and said it is constitutional, so now it moved forward.

As you're noting, Richard Burr said, OK, clean slate. Let me adjudicate the evidence.

Mitch McConnell didn't do that, even though the body voted that way. He didn't say clean slate.

Because you can't say, as Mitch McConnell just did, that Donald Trump is practically and morally responsible, and not come to the conclusion to convict if the Senate says it's constitutional.

But he's going back saying, no, I don't like that I lost that vote. I still believe it's not constitutional. So, that is -- it's just a clear, as you said, for political purposes,

loophole to where he clearly believes that there should be accountability here for Donald Trump.

And they are opting, through a loophole of their own making, that is not widely agreed upon, to find a way to not hold Donald Trump accountable.

PHILLIP: Can we just talk about Mitch McConnell for a second and the idea that he said all of these things about what Trump did? He called it foreseeable that the events of January 6th were a natural outgrowth of Trump's lies.

And yet, the reality is, if you were alive for the last two months, Mitch McConnell said almost nothing about these lies.


For a month after the election, after it was clear that Joe Biden won the election, Mitch McConnell refused to acknowledge that Joe Biden was the president-elect.

He said nothing after that about the web of lies that was being spun not just by Trump but by members -- by his colleagues. You know, his conference in the Senate.

And so the idea that now, as we sit here, oh, all of a sudden, oh my god, it was foreseeable -- that was his word, "foreseeable" -- that all of this would have happened. It should have been foreseeable to him.

And the question now is: Why didn't he do more? Why didn't he say more? Why didn't he condemn this as early as possible?

BASH: Right. And you're saying between election day or at least the day that CNN and other outlets declared Joe Biden the president-elect, and the day in December, December 14th, when the Electoral College certified that Joe Biden was going to be the president. You're exactly right.

I mean, look, one of the hallmarks of the Trump era has been people looking for Republican leaders to stand up to him and to stand up to his lies.

Mitch McConnell just did that in a very blistering way.

But just imagine what would have happened if he would have done that November 5th, November 10th, or even more aggressively, you know, before December 14th, and even afterwards?

I mean, it's possible that the insurrection maybe wouldn't even have taken place. We won't know. We'll never know the answer to that question.

And it is because the only thing that we heard for at least that month was silence from those who clearly we now know, like McConnell, disagreed with the president. And as he called it, the loudest and largest megaphone spewing lies.

CHALIAN: Yes, creating -- helping to create the political environment that allowed Donald Trump to still march forward with the bug lie.

Mitch McConnell helped create that environment for a month. You don't -- I don't know why he thinks he deserves extra credit after the Electoral College met to say, oh, now I can tell you Joe Biden really won the election.

We were so far down the road of Donald Trump creating the big lie already at that point -- I know McConnell says he got even more wild after that point of the Electoral College.

BASH: And he's also tries to argue and he's also arguing that they had all of these legal suits, these lawsuits, the Trump legal team that got pushed back, about 60 of them. So, it was the combination of that and the Electoral College.

CHALIAN: Legal challenges could have played out and Mitch McConnell could have acknowledged the reality of the election all at the same time. Those two things could have happened simultaneously.

So, he is looking -- he is looking in this speech, this just astonishing speech, to be on the right side of history with the wrong vote as all the facts were out there.

And that -- he's looking to solidify a place in history that I did scold Donald Trump. Take a look at my remarks.

BASH: Yes.

CHALIAN: But there was this constitutional cop out I used to not get on the wrong side of this.

BASH: So, there were seven Republicans, including, as you said, Richard Burr, which was a big surprise. He's a Republican Senator from North Carolina, retiring. We didn't know he was going to vote the way he did. But he voted guilty.

Also Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy. He issued a one- sentence statement on why he voted to convict. He said, "Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty."

And then let's talk about Richard Burr. Part of his statement, he said, "By what he did" -- meaning Trump -- "And by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Very strong words from these tried-and-true Republicans from red states.

I mean, North Carolina, maybe you could say, is on the bubble. And also Richard Burr is not facing voters anymore because he retired.

Bill Cassidy might. He's from Louisiana. And -- (CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: Not for six more years.

BASH: Not for six more years, but I'm guessing that the base has a long memory.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, look, it's not the politically popular, whether you are retiring or not. We all know, in Washington, retirement just means you just need to find another line of work in the political sphere that usually requires Republicans to have your back.

It's not an easy thing to do what they did.

But I was struck by how strong Richard Burr's statement was because he made a clear connection -- a lot of the same connections the impeachment managers did.

He said, "The crowd became violent, the president used his office to inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault."


So, all throughout both the lie, the incitement at the riot, the failure to act, Richard Burr says all of those things rise to a high crime and misdemeanor.

And I think that that is one of the clearest statements.

I was also struck by Ben Sasse making a really important point about where we go from here, which is: Does the Congress have the power that it thinks that it does?

Impeachment is a really powerful tool. But now three times it has failed to remove a president.

And in this case, on the most serious of charges, failed to remove and convict someone on the most serious possible charges, an insurrection against insurrection against the government.

And Ben Sasse asked questions whether the Congress really does believe in co-equal branches of government because so many Republicans handed the keys over to the executive branch, effectively, with their vote today.

CHALIAN: We should note the difference between Donald Trump's first impeachment a year ago and now with Republican votes. It went from zero Republican votes in the House to 10 this time around.

It went from one -- you look at that graphic of the seven Senators. It was just Mitt Romney's face on that graphic a year ago of Republicans voting to convict Donald Trump to seven. He now has gathered six more of his colleagues into this group.

So, there's no doubt that the egregious display of the violation of oath that Donald Trump partook in during his time in office at the end here in the lead up to the insurrection and thereafter had an effect on his own party, just not as big of an effect to actually peel off enough to come through with a conviction.

BASH: Yes, I mean quite a day, a day for the history books, Erin.


BASH: And the fact is that we didn't expect seven Republicans to vote against the president of their party. But still it's 10 short of actual conviction.

And that is what is going to be remembered for the history books, how each of these Senators voted, never mind what they said in their statements.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: No, that's absolutely true.

And let me just go to Ross Garber here.

Since you've been involved in so many impeachment proceedings.

We do you make of the fundamental point here. I know what they're saying, look -- and they were just talking about this. Mitch McConnell gives this impassioned argument, as if he were a House impeachment manager, and yet votes to acquit based on constitutionality.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, and after this process now, the question of whether you can impeach and try and convict a former official is still clear as mud.

Basically, what happened this time was the same thing that happened the previous time this was tried in the 1800s, in this Belknap case, secretary of war for Ulysses S. Grant, where, in that situation, a lot of Senators thought there was no jurisdiction. But most Senators thought there was jurisdiction.

So, the Senate took jurisdiction. Belknap -- there was no question he was guilty in that case, but he was acquitted. And most of those who acquitted him said they did it for the McConnell reason. They did it because they thought there was no jurisdiction.

Some took the Burr path and said, we don't think there's jurisdiction, but we're still voting guilty on the merits because the Senate as an institution, decided there is jurisdiction. So, that issue is still up in the air.

BURNETT: And, Gloria, the other thing about this is you can go the Burr path or the McConnell path.

But McConnell is the one who set us on this path because he is the one who could have called the Senate back while Donald Trump was president of the United States and done this while he was president.


BURNETT: So, he waited until afterwards to excoriate him and say, but it's too late.

BORGER: Right. And then he waited for weeks, if you'll recall, to call Joe Biden president-elect. I think it was more than 50 days or whatever it was.

Look, Mitch McConnell wants to have it both ways. He's above all else a political creature.

He hates Donald Trump. And he let that be known today, talking about the former president's reckless hyperbole, which he shouted into the largest megaphone on planet earth.

But Mitch McConnell thinks politically.

So, let me say a few things here. One is he made it very clear that Trump is still liable for everything he did while in office. He didn't get away with anything, comma, yet, ellipses.

What is he saying to us there? He is saying, D.A.s, courts, whatever have it. Have at him. Do what you will. You want to sue him one way or another, do what you will.


There's another thought here, who know if it's accurate or inaccurate, which is that perhaps he wanted to convict but because of his position in the Senate -- remember what Liz Cheney went through -- he wanted to keep his party together more.

And that he feels he has a better shot of, A, staying in leadership, and, B, getting rid of Donald Trump, out of politics in a way, if he maintains this position.

So, he might have been afraid for his own leadership skin because, if he had voted the other way, he might have been out.

But I think he wants the Republican Party to reinvent itself and perhaps -- now, I don't want to give him too much credit here, but this might be a better way of getting rid of Donald Trump than the other way.

Now, I don't -- I don't know. I can't -- I can't read his mind. But he's a party guy. And he wants Trump out of there.

You can make the other case, too --


BORGER: -- that convicting him would have really gotten him out of it. But it could have also emboldened a lot of his supporters. And maybe he wanted to keep the temperature at a different level.

So, there are lots of things going on --

(CROSSTALK) BURNETT: Well, and of course, Trump has been quiet recently. But he's already put out a statement saying, now you're going to hear a lot more from me.

For those Republicans who thought, he's gone, he can't win again, he's quiet, no, the beast is rearing its head.

Laura, what do you see as the main takeaway here, especially now that we heard from Senator McConnell? But we do have statements from Burr, from Sasse, from Romney.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: My takeaway is that the audacity of an acquittal is appalling.

For McConnell to stand up there and confirm every iota of what was said by the House impeachment managers and then say, but he's no longer in office, now Biden, Justice Department and state level prosecutors can all handle what we have now punted.

I mean, imagine. Frame it again. Not more than two days ago, those Senators stood up and gave a round of applause, a standing ovation to officers who protected the capitol, whose mission it is to ensure that they can safely carry out their constitutional and legislative obligations.

They demonstrated not even an eighth of the cowardice -- they had far more bravery than what we saw right now in the Senate. They were absolutely political cowards.

And why? They were more comfortable with political incumbency than physical and personal safety.

They all agree that they've met their burden. They've made the case. It was a high crime and misdemeanor. Imagine if those officers at the capitol had said, you know, I don't know if we have jurisdiction to protect you right now. We might be off duty soon. What should we do? Imagine the infamy of January 6th then.

So, I really had to tell you it is appalling as a prosecutor to know that the case was proven. And then for Mitch McConnell to stand up there and echo the same sentiment. And then say, but I'd like to have it both ways. I mean, it's just mind boggling.

What it does is show you how important it was to have this impeachment because it was never just about conviction or acquittal.


COATES: It was also about what the Senators stood for and what they were willing to sit on their hands for.

BURNETT: And, Elie, it's also very interesting, had things gone even a little bit differently on that day


BURNETT: -- had they succeeded in killing a member of Congress or the speaker, or the vice president, none of this would be in question.

HONIG: Can you Imagine --

BURNETT: But now, because that didn't happen, they found a way to look the other way, as a body, the Republican Party.

HONIG: And Mitch McConnell's speech there was a perfect example of that. He gave a heck of a closing for conviction until he copped out.

And his cop out to me raising two institutional questions for the Senate. First of all, they voted four days ago. They debated is this constitutional to try a former official, and they voted yes.

Is the Senate bound by its own rulings or a free for all? That's a question for the Senate.

Then he said there still could be prosecutions. Of course, we don't need Mitch McConnell to tell us that.

We have the Fulton County D.A. investigating, the Justice Department investigating, we potentially, have the D.C. attorney general investigating.

But he's not saying anything that's not already true. He's looking for various ways to deflect.


BORGER: What's worse is after Burr. After Burr came out and said, we decided and that was the decided issue on the constitutional question, so, then I had to look at everything else, and he's guilty.

What McConnell did, was say, yes, they decided on the constitutional issue, but I still disagree. Well, that's -- he's the leader of the Senate. He knows what's happening there.

So he was clearly trying --


PHILLIP: So basically, saying -- now he's saying that any time the Senate makes a ruling that can't be appealed, the Senators are free to disregard it at their whim.

You set a hell of a precedent just now Mitch McConnell. I wonder if he meant to.

BURNETT: OK, all of you stay with us.

I want to go to Jamie Gangel.

Jamie, did the reporting that change the course of the trial today, calling witnesses, Jamie, because of your reporting about the call between President Trump and Kevin McCarthy.

[16:50:08] What are you hearing from your sources?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I've been speaking to several Republicans.

And I want to underscore something that Gloria just said about Mitch McConnell's statement, where he said he didn't get away with anything yet.

A number of Republicans, who were in favor of conviction, have texted me to say, remember, this is not over with the impeachment. There's an FBI investigation happening. Justice is going to weigh in.

And if you take a look at Donald Trump's statement today, you'll notice there's not one word of remorse or regret.

And a former Justice Department source said to me, DOJ, Department of Justice, doesn't look kindly upon that.

This may be the beginning. We've seen what's happening in Georgia.

I want to point out one other thing I'm hearing about. And that is there are certain people, you have to wonder how they're feeling about the acquittal.

The 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach, Officer Goodman and all the Capitol Hill police officers, the people who lost their lives, Officer Sicknick's family, and last but not least, Mike Pence.

And I just want to remind everyone, earlier this week, I spoke to a Republican source, a senior Republican on the Hill, who said to me, if they don't vote to convict, they're not listening and they don't want to listen.

And I think, by listening to Mitch McConnell's closing statement, which could have been given by one of the House managers, they didn't want to listen -- Erin?

BURNETT: Jamie, it is incredible. When you think about this and McConnell coming out and saying Trump's actions are disgraceful, a dereliction of duty, he is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.

Just to remind everybody watching here, 65 D.C. police officers were injured --

GANGEL: Right.

BURNETT: -- in this riot, right? More than 70 capitol police officers were hurt. These are the numbers from the "Washington Post." You have had suicides. People died.

GANGEL: Right.

BURNETT: And yet, I just want to remind people of exactly what Mitch McConnell just said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen. Unless the statute of limitations is run, still liable for everything he did while he was in office. Didn't get away with anything yet.


BURNETT: Except for, Jamie, he did. Because you now have the Senate saying that a president of the United States is able to be completely liable and responsible for these things and still not be removed from being president of the United States.

GANGEL: Yes, 100 percent. And it wasn't too many days ago that they were paying tribute to Officer Sicknick in the capitol where he was lying in honor.

I would say that what we saw today was that Donald Trump still has control over the Republican Party. They are still scared of him. They are still worried about his base.

They could have been rid of him. Today was the day. They could have voted to convict and voted to keep him from running again. But they chose not to do it.

BURNETT: They did choose not to.

And obviously, there were seven who went the other way. Burr was completely unexpected. Cassidy could have gone the other way.

Those seven did stand tall. Obviously, as you say, not enough. Not enough Republicans.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Erin, thanks very much.

We're standing by. Momentarily, we're told, the House impeachment managers, nine of them, will go before the microphones and make their statements. We'll hear what they have to say. We're standing by for that.

John, I think it's really significant that seven Republican Senators did vote to convict Donald Trump of incitement of insurrection, even. Remember, a year ago, in his first impeachment trial, just one.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Those seven, incredibly consequential, plus the House Republicans who voted to impeach, 17 very influential vocal voices as we move into the next chapter.

Still the party of Trump, into the 2020 cycle, the 2024 cycle.

Mitch McConnell trying somehow to straddle. I don't know what to make of that. Saying he wants somebody else to take Trump off the battlefield, if you will. We talked about that earlier in the week. He's still liable. He hasn't gotten away with anything yet. So Mitch McConnell trying to find middle ground.

These seven Republican Senators, one on the ballot in two years, Lisa Murkowski in 2022. Burr is retiring and Toomey is retiring.


The question is: Are they willing to plant their flag in this fight?

But you have Senator Cassidy, Senator Collins, Senator Murkowski, Sasse and Romney still in the Senate. How vocal are they willing to be as we now going into the next round here?

It is the party of Trump. That is the unmistakable conclusion today. Only 10 Republicans in the House, only seven Republicans in the Senate. As you know well, more than the first Trump impeachment trial.

A clear sign that there's a divide in the party and a fight to play out.

The former president said in his statement, he called it a witch hunt again. He says we'll be hearing more from him.

So, I said today is the moment of choosing. The choice has been made.

Donald Trump has been acquitted for the second time. He's still been impeached twice. You can't take that legacy away. He still did everything he did, before, on and after the insurrection.

But now this fight in the Republican Party plays out. And I'm fascinated to see how these seven Republican Senators, how active they decide to be going forward.

BLITZER: And we're going to hear from the House impeachment managers momentarily. We're told they're about to walk out.

And let's not forget, earlier today, they did move to call witnesses, or at least one witness, before this trial. But then a couple hours later, they decided didn't necessarily need to do this.

KING: AND I'm fascinated by this. Because the Democrat base, a lot of members of the Democratic base were furious about this. They thought they finally stood up and were going to have witnesses and were going to have some accountability and then there was the pull back.

A lot of liberals blaming Chuck Schumer for this and the Senate Democratic leadership. So it will be fascinating to hear how the managers explain how this played out.

Our reporting from the Hill team, my reporting during the day is that they got to the point but they didn't have a clear plan. Then when it became clear that, for every witness the House Democrats wanted, the Trump would get a witness as well.

Then they negotiated the compromise. It will be fascinating to see how much they're willing to get into the details of that and their take on this case.

BLITZER: I'm sure they're going to be asked a bunch of questions by reporters, assuming they answer reporters' questions about this flip from, yes, we need witnesses. But never mind, we can move without witnesses. Let's get this thing over with right away.

I'm sure, to a certain degree, President Biden and his team are relieved. They can now go ahead with confirmation in the Senate. They can go ahead with their coronavirus relief package. There's stuff they need the Senate to do.

KING: We were just talking about what is a very visceral divide in the Republican Party. Look, there are also divides within the Democratic Party about how --


BLITZER: All right, hold on.

KING: -- they should have been doing this.

There's the lead manager.

BLITZER: There's Jamie Raskin and the others are walking in behind him.

RASKIN: Hello, everyone.

I want to start by thanking the American people for engaging so seriously with this process.

And I want to thank members of the Senate. And I want to thank the members of the House. And I want to thank the terrific members of the House impeachment manager team.

Trump stormed our House with the mob he incited and we defended our House. And he violated our Constitution, and we defended the Constitution. And they tried to trash our democracy, and we revived it and we protected it.

This was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in the history of the United States. And we know that impeachment, for reasons that we could explore at some other time, often becomes partisan. But this was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment event in the history of the country.

It was also the largest Senate vote for a presidential impeachment, 57-43, and of course, the vote to impeach was 232-197 in the House.

So, we have a clear and convincing majority of members of Congress that the president actually incited violent insurrection against the union and against the Congress.

Senator Mitch McConnell just went to the floor essentially to say that we made our case on the facts, that he believed that Donald Trump was practically and morally responsible for inciting the events of January 6th.

He described it as we did, as a disgraceful dereliction of duty, a desertion of his office.

And he made a series of statements that we didn't even make, saying that this was not over yet by a long shot, essentially, and that there was the path of criminal prosecution for the former president, the disgraced and now twice-impeached former president.


So, the bottom line is that we convinced a big majority in the Senate of our case.