Washington, 14 February 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Not enough US senators voted to convict former US president Donald Trump on Saturday in his unprecedented second impeachment trial, and he is therefore acquitted of the charges of incitement of an insurrection.
Senators voted 57-43 in favour of impeachment, but a two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, was needed to convict.
Trump thanked his lawyers following his acquittal and slammed Democratic lawmakers.
“This has been yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country,” Trump said in a statement.
“Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” he added.
“While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute,” President Joe Biden said in a statement following the vote.
“Even those opposed to the conviction, like Senate Minority Leader McConnell, believe Donald Trump was guilty of a ‘disgraceful dereliction of duty’ and ‘practically and morally responsible for provoking’ the violence unleashed on the Capitol,” Biden added.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer condemned his Republican colleagues for failing to vote to impeach.
“Look at what Republicans are forced to defend, look at what Republicans are forced to forgive,” he continued. “The most despicable act that any president has ever committed, and the majority of the Republicans cannot summon the courage or the morality to condemn it.”
Only seven Republicans voted with Democrats to impeach Trump.
The US Senate had reconvened Saturday morning for the fifth day of Trump’s impeachment, with debate centred around whether to call witnesses.
The Senate voted to allow witnesses after House impeachment managers said that they would like to call one. Democrats, however, opted not to call the witness after her public statement was officially entered into the record.
Trump’s lawyer Michael van der Veen expressed outrage at the notion that witnesses would be called over Zoom, and said that depositions should take place in his office in Philadelphia.
Senators burst into laughter at this proposition.
The US House of Representatives charged Trump with incitement of an insurrection, alleging that his baseless allegations of voter fraud and speech during a rally on January 6 had propelled a deadly mob to storm the US Capitol.
Five people died during the riots, including one policeman.
The impeachment proceedings featured dramatic video footage showing just how close some lawmakers came to being physically attacked by rioters.
The images showed Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, being ushered to safety by a Capitol police officer.
Additional videos showed then-vice president Mike Pence, Schumer and others evacuating the area around the Senate chamber through back stairways.
House impeachment managers argued that the rioters had acted at Trump’s behest.
Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, said that his words were taken out of context and that he could not be held responsible for the actions of his supporters.
They also claimed that the entire impeachment process was nothing but an effort to “eliminate a political opponent.”
On Friday, senators’ questioning was a largely partisan affair, with Democrats asking about the way Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud radicalized his followers, and Republicans suggesting the impeachment was a “political show trial” designed to discredit Trump.
Trump’s second impeachment is unprecedented. The US has only had four presidential impeachments in its history. Two were of Trump and took place during the last year.
No other president or federal official has been impeached twice, and no president has faced an impeachment trial after leaving office.