GOP Senator Rob Portman Delivers Scorching Rebuke of Trump After Voting Against Conviction

Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, released a statement condemning former President Donald Trump following the end of the impeachment Senate trial on Saturday, despite voting to acquit the former commander in chief.

Seven Republican senators voted with all 50 members of the Democratic Caucus to convict Trump for inciting the insurrection against the U.S. Capitol on January 6, meaning the 57 to 43 decision was the most bipartisan presidential conviction vote in U.S. history. However, it still failed to reach the high constitutional threshold of a two-thirds majority (or 67 senators), which would have required 10 additional Republicans to vote "guilty."

Portman, who announced at the end of January that he will not seek re-election, explained in his post-impeachment trial statement that Trump's actions were "inexcusable" but argued that the trial itself was unconstitutional because the former president was no longer in office. A number of GOP senators made the same argument to justify their acquittal vote, although most legal scholars—conservatives and liberals—agree that the Senate trial was constitutional.

"The siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was an attack on democracy itself," Portman said in his rebuke of the former Republican president.

Rob Portman
Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said former President Donald Trump's "inexcusable actions and words must be addressed" by the criminal justice system after voting against conviction in the Senate trial. In this photo, Portman speaks during a hearing at the U.S. Capitol on February 9. TING SHEN/POOL/AFP/Getty

"I have said that what President Trump did that day was inexcusable because in his speech he encouraged the mob, and that he bears some responsibility for the tragic violence that occurred. I have also criticized his slow response as the mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, putting at risk the safety of Vice President Pence, law enforcement officers, and others who work in the Capitol. Even after the attack, some of the language in his tweets and in a video showed sympathy for the violent mob," the senator continued.

Portman also suggested, as did Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, that Trump could face prosecution through the criminal justice system for his actions.

"The appropriate place to address former officials' conduct is the criminal justice system. In fact, the Constitution makes clear that former presidents are subject to the criminal justice system. That is where the issues raised by the president's inexcusable actions and words must be addressed," Portman said.

Newsweek reached out to spokespeople for Trump for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

The Ohio senator's comments aligned with those of McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. Like Portman, McConnell rebuked Trump after voting to acquit the former president due to his belief that the trial was unconstitutional.

"Former President Trump's actions that preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty," McConnell said. "Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day."

The Senate minority leader suggested that Trump could be prosecuted via the criminal justice system, arguing that impeachment was not the appropriate avenue for a former government official to be prosecuted.

"We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one," McConnell said.

The GOP senators who voted to convict Trump included Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Richard Burr of North Carolina. Notably, Burr said that he also personally believed that the Senate trial was unconstitutional but still voted to convict Trump.

"The Senate is an institution based on precedent, and given that the majority in the Senate voted to proceed with this trial, the question of constitutionality is now established precedent. As an impartial juror, my role is now to determine whether House managers have sufficiently made the case for the article of impeachment against President Trump," Burr said in a statement following the vote.

The Republican senator argued that the "evidence" was "compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government and that the charge rises to the level of high Crimes and Misdemeanors."