WASHINGTON (KMTV) - Politicians from Nebraska and Iowa are reacting after former President Donald Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate on Saturday in his second impeachment trial.
Trump was charged with inciting a riot at the U.S. Capitol in early January that turned deadly. Fifty-seven senators voted to convict Trump, but that was short of the 67 votes needed for a conviction.
Seven Republicans voted to convict Trump, including Sen. Ben Sasse from Nebraska. The seven Republican votes to convict mark the largest number of lawmakers to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty at impeachment proceedings.
In a statement, Sasse decried political violence and said that Trump lied about widespread voter fraud, lied about winning the election, and tried to intimidate the Georgia Secretary of State to find votes to overturn that state's election.
Sasse also said Trump publicly argued that Vice President Mike Pence could break his constitutional oath and declare a different outcome in the election.
"The president repeated these lies when summoning his crowd — parts of which were widely known to be violent — to Capitol Hill to intimidate Vice President Pence and Congress into not fulfilling our constitutional duties," Sasse said. "Those lies had consequences, endangering the life of the vice president and bringing us dangerously close to a bloody constitutional crisis. Each of these actions are violations of a president’s oath of office."
Sasse expressed concerns about what kind of precedent an acquittal would set.
"A weak and timid Congress will increasingly submit to an emboldened and empowered presidency," Sasse said. "That’s unacceptable. This institution needs to respect itself enough to tell the executive that some lines cannot be crossed."
While there was some debate about the second impeachment trial being constitutional or not, Sasse argued, "This trial is constitutional because the president abused his power while in office and the House of Representatives impeached him while he was still in office."
Sasse said his vote to convict ties back to a promise he made shortly after being elected.
"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," he said. "I cannot go back on my word, and Congress cannot lower our standards on such a grave matter, simply because it is politically convenient."
Sen. Deb Fischer, Nebraska's senior senator, voted to acquit her fellow Republican.
"It remains true that Congress simply does not have the constitutional authority to impeach a former president," Fischer said in a statement. "And rather than take its take time to hold hearings and assess all evidence, the House had a rushed impeachment process that denied President Trump due process. Accordingly, I voted to acquit President Trump. It is now time to come together and move forward."
Over in Iowa, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst joined Fischer in acquitting Trump.
"We do not have the authority to try a private citizen like former President Trump," Grassley said in a statement. "Even if we did, he should have been accorded the protections of due process of law in his trial. And even if we assume he has been, the House Managers still did not prove that he committed incitement to insurrection, the specific crime of which he stands accused. This does not excuse President Trump’s conduct on and around January 6th of this year."
Like Fischer and Grassley, Ernst also had concerns about putting a former president on trial.
"Donald Trump is no longer in office, he is a private citizen. I strongly believe Congress should not be in the business of treating impeachment as a political tool to enact partisan revenge, and if it were to do so, Congress would set a very dangerous precedent, one that is inconsistent with the Constitution I swear an oath to," Ernst said in a statement. "I urge all of my Senate colleagues to once again refocus on working together for the American people – not ourselves or political ambition, but for the hardworking men, women, and kids across this country who are in desperate need of help and hope.”
In addition to Sasse, the other six Republicans who voted to convict Trump were Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Trump released the following statement after being acquitted:
Statement by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America: pic.twitter.com/Z3nG6xeN9Z— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) February 13, 2021