Former US president, Donald Trump, has been acquitted of inciting the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol after a majority of Senate Republicans closed ranks and refused to punish the former president in his historic second impeachment trial.
The five day trial ended with seven Republicans finding him guilty. The final vote was 57 guilty to 43 not guilty, short of the 67 guilty votes needed to convict.
The 74-year-old former president’s trial is regarded as the most bipartisan impeachment trial in US history.
But while the 57-43 majority that voted to convict fell short of the two-thirds needed in the Senate, seven Republicans joined with Democrats to seek Trump’s conviction.
Trump, who has been secluded in his Florida club since he left office on January 20, accepted the verdict, denouncing the proceedings as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”
Despite the stain of a second impeachment, Trump hinted at a possible political future, saying that “our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.
“We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future.”
Trump’s legal team expected a lesser number of votes from Republican senators against the former president.
But this time, Republicans Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Romney voted against Trump.
Burr’s decision came as a bigger surprise but the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman said although he argued earlier that the trial was unconstitutional, he had to put that aside after the Senate voted that the trial should proceed.
“As I said on January 6th, the President bears responsibility for these tragic events. The evidence is 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 Misdemeanours. Therefore, I have voted to convict,” Burr said in a statement.
Most Senate Republicans sided with the constitutionality argument in their votes to acquit, allowing them to avoid casting judgment based on Trump’s conduct.
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on January 13, a week after the chaotic assault that stunned the nation and provoked widespread bipartisan outrage.
Democrats argued that Trump’s behavior was an “open and shut” case of impeachable conduct, retracing how he spent two months repeating the falsehood that the election was stolen, before inciting his supporters to attack Congress and stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.