NC's Burr On Guilty Vote: 'I Do Not Make This Decision Lightly, But I Believe It Is Necessary'
North Carolina U.S. Sen. Richard Burr voted Saturday to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, while his colleague, Thom Tillis, voted not guilty.
Burr, who is not running for reelection in 2022, had previously said Trump shared some blame for the Jan. 6 attack by right-wing extremists on the U.S. Capitol. Both Burr and Tillis are Republicans.
In a statement, Burr said, "I do not make this decision lightly, but I believe it is necessary."
Burr was one of seven Republican senators who voted guilty. His vote – along with that of Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy – were the most surprising votes.
Burr elaborated in his statement: "The President promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to cast doubt on the integrity of a free and fair election because he did not like the results. As Congress met to certify the election results, the President directed his supporters to go to the Capitol to disrupt the lawful proceedings required by the Constitution.
"When the crowd became violent, the President used his office to inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault."
Burr's vote even led the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, Michael Whatley, to release a statement saying, "North Carolina Republicans sent Senator Burr to the United States Senate to uphold the Constitution and his vote today to convict in a trial that he declared unconstitutional is shocking and disappointing."
The other Republicans who voted to convict were Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Burr had previously voted that the impeachment trial wasn’t constitutional. He also voted Saturday against allowing witnesses at the trial.
But in Burr's statement, he said, "When this process started, I believed that it was unconstitutional to impeach a president who was no longer in office. I still believe that to be the case. However, 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 unconstitutionality is now established precedent. ...
"I have listened to the arguments presented by both sides and considered the facts. The facts are clear."
Tillis also voted that the trial wasn’t constitutional, and he voted against witnesses. He released a statement Saturday explaining his vote, saying “there are valid questions whether it is constitutional for Congress to put a private citizen on trial. And even if it is constitutionally permissible, it isn’t prudent in the absence of a thorough impeachment inquiry.”
He added: “The House managers argued impeachment was necessary to bar former President Trump from running for president again. Their rationale is not rooted in any consistent, objective standard and collapses on itself: Wwhat accountability would a trial provide to a second-term president who commits impeachable offenses in their final days in office when they are already constitutionally barred from seeking another term? I have faith in the American people to determine whether former President Trump disqualified himself from seeking the presidency in the future.”
South Carolina’s two Republican senators, Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, voted not guilty. Both had voted that the trial wasn’t constitutional. Graham had voted to allow witnesses.
Mecklenburg County Democratic Congresswoman Alma Adams issued a statement after the vote saying she is “gravely disappointed in the Senate’s vote.”
She added: “I was there on that tragic day. Trump supporters in Trump hats with Trump flags stormed the Capitol and said President Trump sent them. The Capitol was attacked, the electoral vote certification was interrupted, the Senate chamber was breached, and people died as a result.
"The facts of the case could not be clearer; however, we learned today that Donald Trump has a stronger hold over Senate Republicans than the clarity of facts or the love of our Constitution and Country.”