Donald Trump acquitted in second impeachment trial

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 2306 GMT (0706 HKT) February 13, 2021
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3:38 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Trump defense lawyer calls impeachment a “complete charade”

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Senate TV
Senate TV

In his closing remarks, former President Trump’s defense attorney Michael van der Veen slammed Democrats for pursuing impeachment.

“This impeachment has been a complete charade from beginning to end. The entire spectacle has been nothing but the unhinged pursuit of a long-standing political vendetta against Mr. Trump by the opposition party,” he said. 

“Democrats were obsessed with impeaching Mr. Trump from the very beginning of his term. … And now they have conducted a phony impeachment show trial when he's a private citizen out of office,” van der Veen added. 

Van der Veen said Democrats’ fear of Trump possibly being elected to public office in the future is driving this impeachment trial. 

He called the proceedings a “maniacal crusade” by House Democrats and urged senators to not “go down this dark path of anonymity and division.”  

3:20 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Trump was briefed on Pence's safety on day of Capitol riot

From CNN's Pamela Brown and Kevin Liptak

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Then-President Trump was aware his vice president had been evacuated to a secure location as rioters were storming the US Capitol, according to a person who was with the former President on Jan. 6.

And while Trump never attempted to contact Vice President Mike Pence directly, infuriating Pence’s team, he did express concern for Pence to advisers gathered in the dining room off the Oval Office over the course of the afternoon, said Gen. Keith Kellogg, who was among the aides surrounding Trump.

After returning to the White House from his midday rally on the Ellipse, Trump and his aides gathered around the flat-screen television in the presidential dining room as his supporters began storming the Capitol.

Trump at the time was irate with Pence for informing him he would not attempt to overturn the election results. He continued to be focused on the electoral count well into the afternoon.

As images on television played of rioters entering the Capitol, rushing past security barriers, Trump asked aides whether Pence was safe, according to Kellogg, who was Pence’s national security adviser but was with the then-President that day.

Aides informed Trump that Pence was under Secret Service control and had been taken to a secure location, Kellogg said.

“Absolutely he was concerned about Pence,” said Kellogg, who was with Trump at the White House as the rioting unfolded. Kellogg, who was Pence's national security adviser was in communication with the vice president through this staff at the Capitol. They were communicating back to the White House and getting that information to Kellogg

Another person familiar with the situation confirmed Kellogg's account to CNN. 

Multiple sources say Trump never attempted to contact Pence directly. 

At 2:24 p.m. ET, Trump tweeted that Pence lacked “courage,” a message that came minutes after the vice president was rushed off the Senate floor and to a secure location. People in the room said they did not fully understand how bad situation was at the time the tweet was sent as they do in hindsight.

In the ensuing minutes, however, the severity of the situation became more apparent. Aides gathered in the dining room weighed how to respond, ultimately convincing Trump to tweet to the protesters to be peaceful — a sentiment he initially resisted, another source familiar says.

Another source involved pushed back on that characterization, saying it was a very dynamic environment and there were several versions of the tweet being passed around. 

At one point, officials at the White House were made aware of a plan to evacuate Pence to Joint Base Andrews, which never ultimately transpired. Pence remained at the Capitol and later returned to the Senate chamber to oversee the Electoral College certification.

Separately, on the night before the Jan. 6 rally, Trump heard protesters gathering for the next day’s rally from the Oval Office, according to a person familiar with the matter. The energy from the crowd prompted Trump to ask what could be done to put maximum pressure on lawmakers to object to the Electoral College certification.

Aides told him his speech would be the focal point of the day.

2:52 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Trump's lawyers are making their closing arguments

Senate TV
Senate TV

Donald Trump's defense team is now making closing arguments in the second impeachment trial against the former President.

The House managers have already made their speeches. Rep. Jamie Raskin, lead impeachment manager, argued that Trump was the "inciter-in-chief" of the violence that happened on Jan. 6 and "supported the mob."

"We've proved he betrayed his country, we've proved he betrayed the Constitution, we proved he betrayed his oath of office," Raskin said.

"Senators, this trial in the final analysis is not about Donald Trump, the country and the world knows who Donald Trump is. This trial is about who we are, who we are," he added. 

Moments earlier, House managers and Trump's defense team agreed to enter a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler describing a phone call between former President Trump and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy into the record.

House impeachment managers had asked the Senate this morning to call witnesses in Trump's second impeachment trial. Instead, Senate and trial lawyers agreed hours later to insert the statement into the trial record, moving the trial toward a final vote later today.

3:05 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

"You can't claim there's no due process," impeachment manager says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Senate TV
Senate TV

House impeachment manager Joe Neguse went through the reasons he believes that former President Trump and his legal team have offered up “distractions” during the impeachment trial, including claims of the denial of due process. 

“We had a full presentation of evidence, adversarial presentations, motions. The President was invited to testify. He declined. The President was invited to provide exculpatory evidence. He declined. You can't claim there's no due process when you won't participate in the process,” Neguse said in his closing argument. 

“We know this case isn't one that requires a complicated legal analysis. You all lived it. The managers and I, we lived it. Our country lived it," he said.

Neguse also mentioned Trump’s defense presenting a video compilation of Democratic lawmakers using words like “fight.”

“What you will not find in those video montages that they showed you is any of those speeches, those remarks, culminating in a violent insurrection on our nation's Capitol,” Neguse said. “That’s the difference.” 

Watch:

3:02 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Impeachment manager: "This trial is not borne from hatred, borne from love of country"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Impeachment manager Joe Neguse concluded his case against former President Trump with an emotional appeal to senators to put their country before party. 

Neguse rebuffed the defense's claims on Friday that Democrats' case against Trump was motivated by hate saying he had taken lifelong inspiration from Martin Luther King Jr.'s own appeal to love: "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

"This trial is not borne from hatred, far from it. It's borne from love of country, our country, our desire to maintain it, our desire to see America at its best," he said. 

Neguse went on to warn of a dark future if senators did not "rise to the occasion" and convict Trump. 

"The stakes could not be higher," he said. "Because the cold, hard truth is that what happened on January 6th can happen again. I fear... the violence we saw that terrible day may be just the beginning."

"Senators, this cannot be the beginning," he concluded. "It can't be the new normal. It has to be the end. That decision is in your hands."

Watch:

2:38 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Here's why Democrats backed away from calling for witnesses to testify

From CNN's Manu Raju

After a last-minute decision calling for witnesses, House Democrats ultimately decided to cut a deal because of the unpredictability of how that would turn out and fears that doing so could backfire and undermine their case, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the discussions.

Democrats didn't make a decision to call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler to testify until shortly before the proceedings began Saturday morning, sources said. They ultimately settled on submitting her statement to the record as long as former President Trump's attorney made a public statement agreeing to submit it as evidence.

The reason: They believed that pushing forward with her testimony would add little beyond her statement and could potentially cost them GOP support, while dragging out the proceedings further.

The sources told CNN that Democrats were uncertain how Herrera Beutler's testimony would come across after she was subject to cross examination, with some concerns that she could potentially undercut their case if there were holes in her account. 

Moreover, if they called other witnesses, it could also backfire. For instance, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy could provide testimony that defended Trump, undermining what they believe is a rock-solid case that Trump incited the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, the sources said.

Plus witnesses would not ultimately change GOP senators' minds, they concluded, while hearing from witnesses could bog down the Senate for weeks and imperil President Joe Biden's agenda.

With Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Angus King of Maine, who are two centrist members of the Senate Democratic caucus, telling CNN that there needed to be an equal number of witnesses on both sides, that meant that the trial could be delayed for an indefinite period, perhaps weeks.

And with a weeks-long delay, it could threaten Democrats' ability to advance Biden's agenda since they need consent from Republicans to schedule votes on nominees and other matters. With no consent, the Senate could be in a state of gridlock because Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would be forced to take procedural steps to overcome an objection, a process that takes days for each objection.

Moreover, Democrats are pushing hard to get a massive Covid-19 relief package done within weeks, and a trial could distract from that effort.

Ultimately, the team decided that if they went forward with witnesses, it could potentially alienate Senate Republicans, causing them to shed some support, rather than gain any more supporters for conviction.

2:37 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Senate resumes closing arguments after brief pause to question managers' evidence

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate resumed closing arguments after a brief pause, again, following an objection to video being shown by House impeachment manager Madeleine Dean.

Dean argued the statement was already on record but there was confusion over admitting the video – as new evidence is not allowed to be admitted at this stage of the trial.

2:28 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Impeachment manager plays video montage of Trump's lies in closing argument

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Impeachment manager Rep. Madeleine Dean began her closing argument this afternoon by playing a video montage of former President Trump repeating the false claim that the election had been rigged.

"Donald Trump invited them, he incited them, then he directed them," she said of the mob that attacked the US Capitol before playing the video.

Dean then played the video which included Trump lying repeatedly.

"There won't be a transfer, frankly," Trump said. "There will be a continuation."

"The only way we're going to lose is if there's mischief, mischief and it will have to be on a big scale," he said. "So, be careful."

Watch:

1:54 p.m. ET, February 13, 2021

Impeachment managers have resumed their closing arguments after a brief pause

Impeachment managers have resumed their closing arguments.

Moments ago, Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, interrupted impeachment managers' closing arguments, pausing the trial.

Lee seemed to be objecting to a timeline about a call he had with former President Trump on Jan. 6 as the Capitol riot was underway.