Ohio senators split in their impeachment votes despite both condemning Trump's actions

rob portman, sherrod brown
Posted at 6:30 PM, Feb 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-13 19:33:21-05

WASHINGTON — Ohio’s two senators, Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), were split in their decisions regarding former President Donald Trump’s impeachment Saturday, with Portman voting to acquit and Brown voting to convict.

Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate on Saturday on an article of impeachment that he incited the deadly Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.

Trump was accused of instigating the Jan. 6 riot that resulted in the deaths of five people, including a member of the U.S. Capitol Police. The insurrection interrupted the counting of Electoral College votes, and forced members of Congress and Pence to be rushed to secure locations. Those pushing for conviction in the impeachment trial argued that Trump lied to supporters about the results of the 2020 election, urged his supporters to “fight like hell,” and acted slowly to respond once the Capitol was under siege.

Brown was one of the 57 senators who voted in favor of conviction, but 67 votes were needed to convict.

After the vote, Brown issued the following statement regarding the impeachment vote:

This was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment vote in American history because the managers presented undeniable evidence that the former President of the United States incited a violent insurrection on January 6th, aimed at throwing out Americans’ votes. Those who voted to acquit sent a message to our country and the world that violent attacks on our citizens, our democracy, and the will of the people have no consequences. We must now show the American people that our democracy works and their votes matter by delivering real results for Ohioans and the change they voted for.

While seven Republicans voted to convict Trump, Portman was not among that group, stating that while he believes what Trump did on Jan. 6 was “inexcusable because his speech encouraged the mob,” he chose to vote to acquit based on the “constitutionality” of the trial.

“I think the Framers of the Constitution understood that it would be inappropriate to allow Congress – an inherently political body – to convict former presidents,” Portman said.

Rather than have Trump convicted in the impeachment trial, Portman said Trump’s actions must instead be handled by the criminal justice system.

Portman issued the following statement Saturday:

The siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was an attack on democracy itself. That night, shortly after the rioters had been cleared from the Senate floor, I spoke to urge my colleagues to support the state certifications of the election results as our constitutional duty, and as a signal that ‘we will not be intimidated’ and that ‘mob rule is not going to prevail here.'

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. In response, I called on President Trump to ‘explicitly urge his supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from violence.'

But the question I must answer is not whether President Trump said and did things that were reckless and encouraged the mob. I believe that happened. The threshold question I must answer is whether a former president can be convicted by the Senate in the context of an impeachment. This would be unprecedented. Consistent with the two votes I have already taken in this process, I believe the Constitution reserves the narrow tool of impeachment and conviction for removal of current officeholders and current presidents, and does not apply to former officeholders or former presidents. Impeachment in the Constitution is fundamentally about removing someone from office.

I think the Framers of the Constitution understood that it would be inappropriate to allow Congress – an inherently political body – to convict former presidents. Instead, 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.

I have a duty to uphold my oath to the Constitution and that’s why I voted as I did, on the state certifications of the election on January 6, on the jurisdictional issue earlier this week, and on the final vote on conviction today. My decision today in no way condones the president’s conduct. On the contrary, it is keeping an oath to the Constitution, that I believe the president did not keep on January 6.

Our country is already deeply divided. My decision was based on my reading of the Constitution, but I believe the Framers understood that convicting a former president and disqualifying him or her from running again pulls people further apart. Instead, our task should be to help bridge the growing gaps that separate us. President Biden said in his inaugural address, ‘This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.’ I agree, and will continue to do my part to try to find that common ground to bring our country together to address the many challenges we face.

Had Trump been convicted, he could have been permanently barred from ever holding federal office in the future.

After being acquitted, Trump is eligible to hold federal office again and could run for president in 2024.

RELATED: Senate acquits former President Trump of article of impeachment of inciting insurrection