GOP Senator Richard Burr, Approaching Retirement, Shocks Democrats With Vote to Convict Trump

U.S. Senator Richard Burr, who is planning to retire next year, joined six of his GOP colleagues and voted with Democrats unsuccessfully to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting the violent riot that smothered the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Burr hadn't publicly indicated how he planned to vote. When he voted for conviction, Democratic senators gasped and visibly reacted.

Republican U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey had already signaled their openness to finding Trump guilty, but Burr, of North Carolina, had remained an outlier. Burr voted on Tuesday, before much of the trial testimony, that he didn't think it was legal to convict someone on an impeachment charge if they are no longer in office.

Burr, who has been in the Senate since 2005, announced in 2016 that he would not seek a fourth term. He would not comment when approached by reporters after his vote.

He later released a written statement that said the January 6 riot was an attempt to "undermine our democratic institution and overrule the will of the American people through violence, intimidation and force."

"I have listened to the arguments presented by both sides and considered the facts. The facts are clear," he wrote. "The president promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to cast doubt on the integrity of a free and fair election because he didn't like the results."

A vote to convict would have required support from two-thirds of the members of the Senate. It ultimately failed 57-43, with only Republicans voting against.

Democrats appeared visibly shocked by Burr's vote. The North Carolina senator sat still in his seat until the final vote was taken. In his statement, he said that because the Senate majority voted in favor of the trial moving forward, he felt he could reverse from his earlier vote.

During the trial's closing arguments on Saturday, Cassidy—who shocked many when he voted to let the trial proceed and has been aggressively taking notes in the days since—appeared to confab with Burr.

Burr read the note, leaned back and nodded at Cassidy in agreement.

"Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty," Cassidy said in a video statement after the vote.

Democrats had hoped to convict Trump and bar him from ever seeking office again after a mob of his supporters left a rally near the White House and stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Dramatic, never-before-seen footage showed senators narrowly escaping the rabid crowd as it breached both chambers of the Capitol to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden's election.

"He deserves to be convicted and I believe he will be convicted in the court of public opinion," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said after the vote.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted against conviction, said Trump had "provoked" the riots with unfounded claims that the election had been stolen.

"They had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth, because he was angry he lost an election," McConnell, of Kentucky, said from the floor after the vote. "The election was settled. It was over."

Trump acquittal
In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, Senate votes 57-43 to acquit on the fifth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. House impeachment managers had argued that Trump was “singularly responsible” for the January 6th attack at the U.S. Capitol and he should be convicted and barred from ever holding public office again. congress.gov/Getty