Donald Trump acquitted by Senate in second impeachment trial

13 February 2021, 20:50 | Updated: 13 February 2021, 22:53

Outgoing US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump address guests at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland
Outgoing US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump address guests at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Picture: Getty

By Megan White

Former President Donald Trump has been acquitted by the Senate in his second impeachment trial.

The vote gave Mr Trump a historic second acquittal in an impeachment trial.

Mr Trump later welcomed his acquittal, saying that his "Make America Great Again" movement "has only just begun".

Read more: Donald Trump 'will wind up in a courtroom' within a year, former Dep. Solicitor Gen. predicts

House Democrats, who voted a month ago to charge Mr Trump with "incitement of insurrection", needed two thirds of the senate, or 67 votes, to convict him.

The vote was 57-43, short of the two-thirds needed for conviction. Seven Republicans broke party ranks to find Mr Trump guilty.

In a lengthy statement, the former president thanked his lawyers and defenders in US congress, who he said "stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country".

Mr Trump slammed his trial as "yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country".

And he told his supporters that "our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun", and that he will have more to share with them in the months ahead.

Despite voting to acquit, Republican senate minority leader Mitch McConnell condemned Mr Trump, calling him "practically and morally responsible" for the riot.

Though Mr Trump was acquitted, it was easily the largest number of senators to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment charge.

Voting to find the former president guilty were Republican senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The senate's top Democrat said January 6 will live as a "day of infamy" in American history and that the vote to acquit "will live as a vote of infamy in the history of the United States senate".

Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, took to the senate floor to decry the acquittal. He applauded the seven Republicans who joined all 50 Democrats in voting to convict Mr Trump.

Mr Schumer called the day of the riot the "final, terrible legacy" of Mr Trump, and said the stain of his actions will never be "washed away".

The Democrats had argued in the short trial that Mr Trump caused the violent attack by repeating for months the false claims that the November 2020 election was stolen from him, and then telling his supporters gathered near the White House that morning to "fight like hell" to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden.

Five people died after a mob laid siege to the Capitol.

Mr Trump's lawyers argued that the rioters acted on their own accord and that the former president was protected by freedom of speech, an argument that resonated with most Republicans.

They said the case was brought on by Democrats' "hatred" of Mr Trump.