The US Senate has acquitted former US President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial after falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict him on a charge of inciting last month’s insurrection at the Capitol, even as seven members of the former president’s party delivered a historic rebuke by joining Democrats in voting against him.
Trump, a Republican, was accused of inciting riots in the US Capitol on January 6 which left five people, including a police officer, dead.
A majority of senators – 57 to 43, including seven Republicans – voted on Saturday to convict Trump, 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority or 67 votes required for conviction. Trump, 74, is the first-ever president to have been impeached twice and the first president to have faced impeachment after leaving office.
He was first acquitted by the Senate in February 2020 on charges that he had enlisted the Ukrainian president to try to dig up dirt on his Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the November 3 election. Seven Republican senators — Bill Cassidy, Richard Burr, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey — voted in favour of impeaching him.
If he had been convicted, the Senate could have voted to bar him from running for office ever again. Trump released a statement soon after the acquittal, saying “no president has ever gone through anything like it”.
“It is a sad commentary on the times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree,” he said.
Trump denounced the trial as “the greatest witch hunt in history”.
“I always have, and always will be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honourably debate the issues of the day without malice and hate,” he said.
He thanked his team of dedicated lawyers and others for their tireless work “upholding justice and defending the truth”.
“My deepest thanks as well to all of the United States senators and Members of Congress who stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country,” Trump said in the statement.