Donald Trump was acquitted of instigating an insurgency during last month’s deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol, as Republican senators closed ranks in the former president’s second impeachment trial to prevent his conviction .
After a five-day trial, the Senate voted 57-43 on Saturday afternoon on whether Trump was guilty of inciting an insurgency. Seven Republicans – Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey – joined with all Democrats in voting to condemn the president.
Trump was absolved because under the U.S. constitution two-thirds of the Senate had to convict him to be convicted. Democrats had hoped to convict the former president and then organize a simple majority vote to prevent him from holding future public office. Trump has not ruled out running for president again in 2024.
The acquittal puts an end to a dark period in American political history that began with Trump’s rejection of the November 3 election results and culminated in the worst episode of political violence in the halls of the United States Congress in more than two centuries .
The swift conclusion of the impeachment trial will free up the political space and legislative timeline for Congress to move forward on talks to pass Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 billion economic stimulus package, his top priority since taking office on January 20.
The former president issued a statement following Saturday’s verdict saying, “This is a new phase in the biggest witch hunt in our country’s history. No president has ever experienced anything like this.
He added, “Our historic, patriotic and magnificent movement for Make America Great Again is just beginning. In the months to come, I have much to share with you and look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.
The Senate vote underscores Trump’s strong hold on the Republican Party. The former president has retained the loyalty of GOP lawmakers despite the loss of the November presidential election and the repeat of the lie that the ballots were rigged against him. He was widely criticized for his handling of the Jan.6 attack by his supporters which interrupted the certification of victory for Biden’s constituency and left five people dead, including a Capitol Hill policeman.
Trump’s acquittal was expected, especially as only six out of 50 Republican senators voted for a motion saying Trump could still stand trial even though he’s no longer in office.
It came hours after an unexpected back-and-forth in the Senate that led the upper house of Congress to vote to call witnesses and obtain information, to reverse that decision.
Jamie Raskin, the Democratic congressman from Maryland who served as the de facto chief prosecutor, said on Saturday morning that he wanted to subpoena Republican Congressman Jaime Herrera Beutler after confirming reports that Trump had rejected the calls for his intervention while his supporters plundered the Capitol.
According to a CNN report on Friday night, Herrera Beutler said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told him Trump responded to his cry for help during the riot by saying, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are. “
The Senate voted 55-45 in favor of calling witnesses, which sparked deliberations involving the prosecution, Trump’s legal team, and Senate leadership on how to proceed. But Democrats surrendered hours later, when both sides said they agreed to put a press release from Herrera Beutler on the trial record, before moving on to closing arguments.
Saturday’s acquittal marks the second time Trump has been exonerated in a Senate trial. He was found not guilty last year on charges related to his efforts to pressure the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on Biden after only one Republican, Mitt Romney, voted for a conviction.
Trump is only the third president in US history to be impeached. He is the only president to have been indicted twice and the first former president to stand trial.