US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday scoffed at the “cowardly” Senate Republicans who voted to acquit former president Donald Trump of inciting the deadly Capitol siege.
“What we saw in that Senate today was a cowardly group of Republicans who apparently have no options because they were afraid to defend their job,” she said at the Capitol.
The US House speaker came down on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit Trump while holding him “morally responsible” for the fatal riot. McConnell sent a private email to GOP senators Saturday morning saying, “While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction.”
Pelosi called that line of argument “an excuse,” saying McConnell had refused to accept the article of impeachment while Trump was still in office.
“You chose not to receive it,” she said, calling McConnell’s speech on Saturday railing against Trump’s conduct while insisting he should not be impeached “very disingenuous.”
With the impeachment trial now over, some Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate have suggested censure as an option. Pelosi panned those efforts as grossly inadequate in the face of the violent attack on the nation’s seat of power in which five people died.
“We censure people for using stationary for the wrong purpose. We don’t censure people for inciting insurrection that kills people in the Capitol.”
Pelosi joined House prosecutors at a press conference at the Capitol following the Senate impeachment trial, shortly after the senators acquitted Trump on the charge of incitement of insurrection, ending Democratic efforts to hold the former president accountable over the deadly riot.
The five day trial, in which Democratic impeachment managers argued that Trump betrayed his oath of office by urging his supporters to storm Congress in a bid to block certification of the November election, concluded with an insufficient 57-43 majority of senators voting to convict.
It was the most bipartisan impeachment trial vote ever, with seven Republicans breaking ranks to join all 50 Democrats in seeking conviction — a dark and permanent stain on a former president who may yet seek to run for office again.
But two-thirds of the chamber, or 67 senators, is necessary to convict, and the Senate ultimately was not willing to punish the former president.
Many senators kept their votes closely held until the final moments on Saturday, particularly the Republicans representing states where the former president remains popular. Most of them ultimately voted to acquit, doubting whether Trump was fully responsible or if impeachment is the appropriate response.
“Just look at what Republicans have been forced to defend,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Look at what Republicans have chosen to forgive.”
Democrats argued that Trump’s behavior was an “open and shut” example of an impeachable offense, saying that as president he repeated the falsehood that the election was stolen, then whipped up supporters to attack Congress and stop the certification of the vote.
The defense team swatted such evidence away, insisting the Senate had no constitutional jurisdiction to try a former president. Most Republican senators agreed.
Trump, who has been secluded in his Florida club since leaving office on January 20, issued a statement in which he expressed thanks for the verdict, and called the proceedings “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”
The 74-year old Republican also hinted at a possible political future, and at “continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.”
“We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future,” Trump said.