Leahy, Sanders vote to convict Trump of inciting insurrection

By: Paul Heintz, VT Digger

Vermont’s delegates to the U.S. Senate on Saturday voted to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting a mob of supporters to breach the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to subvert the certification of the 2020 election. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joined 55 other senators, including seven Republicans, in support of conviction — the most bipartisan impeachment vote in Senate history. But Democrats and their Republican allies fell short of the 67 votes needed to convict the former president, thereby acquitting him. 

Shortly after the vote, Sanders wrote on Twitter, “It is truly sad and dangerous that only 7 Republicans voted to convict a president who is promoting a Big Lie, conspiracy theories and violence, and is aggressively trying to destroy American democracy.”

Saturday’s verdict capped off a five-day trial presided over by Leahy, the president pro tempore of the Senate. Though House impeachment managers secured a vote that morning to allow witnesses to testify, they ultimately backtracked and rested their case without calling a single witness. 

Leahy and Sanders had made clear for more than a month that they would vote to convict Trump. Within days of the Jan. 6 riots, both senators — along with U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. — called for the immediate impeachment of the then-president. 

A week after the attempted insurrection, Welch joined his House colleagues in impeaching the president. Senate Republicans, however, declined to take up the charges during Trump’s remaining weeks in office; many of them then argued that impeaching him after he had left office was unconstitutional. 

Unlike most Senate Republicans, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott supported impeachment and conviction, issuing a statement mere hours after the attack on the Capitol calling for Trump to resign or be removed from office. Impeachment managers this week played for senators video of Scott blaming Trump for the riots. Following Trump’s acquittal on Saturday, Scott took to Twitter to thank the seven Republican senators who voted to convict the former president “for having the courage to do what was right.”

Soon after the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., castigated Trump on the Senate floor, calling him “practically and morally responsible” for the violence of Jan. 6. Writing on Twitter, Welch castigated McConnell for making such a statement moments after voting to acquit the former president. 

“Sen. McConnell admits Trump is responsible, yet he votes to acquit,” Welch wrote. “That sums it up for him and the other 42 Republicans who were presented with overwhelming evidence that Trump incited the violence on Jan. 6 but gave him a pass. The majority of the senate voted to convict Trump.”

For Leahy and Sanders, Saturday’s vote was their third in favor of convicting Trump for violating his oath of office. In January 2020, the pair backed two articles of impeachment accusing the then-president of abusing his power and obstructing justice in his efforts to solicit Ukraine’s help in undermining a political rival, President Joe Biden.

Trump was acquitted then, too.