Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement on her vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial:
“The Constitution reserves impeachment for cases of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Congress must never take this action lightly and only in the most extreme circumstances.
On January 13, the House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach Donald Trump on a count of inciting the insurrection that took place on January 6.
I have taken care over the past week to fulfill my charge as an impartial juror in this trial. I have listened carefully to the presentations made by both sides. And I believe the House impeachment managers proved the case that Donald Trump bears responsibility for inciting the violence and the insurrection on January 6.
I therefore cast my vote to convict him of the impeachment charge.
The argument has been made that Donald Trump is no longer president, thus he cannot be removed from office as he has already left.
I understand the argument, but it fails on several counts.
First, failure to act would set the precedent that a president can get away with anything at the end of his term. Relying on criminal proceedings in place of impeachment is insufficient; Congress must have the power to impeach regardless of when actions occur. Indeed, the House approved the article of impeachment when Donald Trump was still president.
Second, there is legitimate fear that if allowed to run for office again, we could see an emboldened Trump who wouldn’t hesitate to repeat the actions of January 6. If convicted, a simple majority vote would bar him from running for office.
And third, a conviction would send a clear message to Trump’s followers – particularly the ones who accept violence as a legitimate means of protest – that perpetrators of insurrection and those who enabled them will be held responsible for their action.
As impeachment manager Diana DeGette said of the mob at the Capitol: “All of these people who have been arrested and charged, they’re being accountable, held accountable for their actions. Their leader, the man who incited them, must be held accountable as well.”
It’s important to understand that Donald Trump’s actions on January 6 weren’t without precedent. The House impeachment managers made a compelling case that Donald Trump has a long history of urging and supporting violence among his supporters, knowing full well that they would take action.
This is a key matter for this impeachment trial: Did Donald Trump’s words inspire violence? Were those carrying out the insurrection following his direction?
The House managers gave several examples of Trump’s past practice:
After Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte in 2018 pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter who asked him a question, former President Trump praised him. “Any guy that can do a body slam — he's my guy.”
After a 2017 rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis turned violent in Charlottesville and killed a woman, former President Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.”
Last year, Trump sent a message for his followers to “liberate Michigan.” Weeks later, messages threatening violence were directed against Governor Gretchen Whitmer. And later in the fall, a plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer emerged, led by Trump followers. President Trump made a call to action, and his followers responded.
And during the 2020 presidential debates, when Donald Trump was asked if he would condemn white supremacists and other groups like the Proud Boys, a far-right group that endorses violence, he wouldn’t answer, instead saying, “Proud Boys — stand back and stand by.”
It is clear that Donald Trump’s supporters – including those who participated in the insurrection on January 6 – heeded his words and support of violence.
The Proud Boys took Trump’s words – “stand back and stand by” – and made it their official motto.
Rioters at the Capitol told U.S. Capitol Police officers as they were threatening violence that they had been “invited” by President Trump. While the insurrection was going on, Trump supporters were reading Trump’s tweets over a megaphone.
The pattern is clear: Donald Trump has no qualms about asking his followers to commit violence. In fact he celebrates them when they do.
After the November 2020 elections, Donald Trump immediately set out to undermine the results. His lawyers and his supporters filed 60 lawsuits to object to the results – as was his right under the law.
But when those cases were tossed out, then-President Trump sought to cheat. He urged the Secretary of State for Georgia to “find” enough votes to declare him the victor.
When officials rebuffed his efforts to reverse his electoral loss, he led efforts to bring thousands of people to Washington to, in his words, “Stop the Steal.”
The day he chose was January 6, the day Congress was meeting to certify the election results.
Trump directed his followers to go to the Capitol and to “fight like hell.”
As was documented extensively in this trial, Trump knew that this group was preparing for violence when he directed them to walk to the Capitol.
What we learned this week is that Donald Trump was also aware of the violence at the Capitol as a frenzied insurrection mob ransacked the Capitol and sought to physically harm Members of Congress and even kill the Vice President.
After being told that Vice President Pence had been removed from the Senate chamber for his safety, Trump tweeted to his supporters that Pence lacked “courage” to reject the Electoral College results. This happened precisely as Trump’s supporters were building a gallows and chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”
Indeed, new information revealed during the course of this trial indicates that President Trump knew the state of violence in the Capitol. One senator has stated publicly that he told President Trump on the phone that Vice President Pence had been removed from the Senate chamber by his Secret Service detail.
We have also heard on-the-record reports that in a phone call between President Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy while the Leader’s office was under attack, then-President Trump apparently continued to support those carrying out the violent insurrection.
So despite direct pleas from Members of Congress and the former president’s closest Republican confidants, Trump refused for hours to call off the mob or urge calm.
As House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin said during the presentation, “Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander-in-chief and became the inciter-in-chief of a dangerous insurrection.
Five people – including a U.S. Capitol Police Officer – lost their lives as a result of this insurrection guided by Donald Trump. And nearly 140 officers from the Capitol Police and Washington Metropolitan Police Department were injured, some severely.
The evidence presented this week shows that Donald Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors and that he should be convicted.
I thank the House managers for their hard work in making a thoroughly compelling, convincing and fair case, and I hope we can move past this terrible moment in our nation’s history.”