Donald Trump acquitted in impeachment trial

Donald Trump has been acquitted again in his second impeachment trial, with the prosecution falling 10 votes short of conviction.

A 57-43 majority of the Senate voted guilty, including seven Republicans: Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey. In his first trial a year ago, only Mr Romney voted in favour of conviction.

However, it takes 67 votes to convict, which means the impeachment managers got nowhere near the threshold they needed.

Following the vote, Trump released a statement saying the movement has just begun.

Mr Trump will retain all the privileges of a former president and will be free to run for office again in the future.

Trump was the first US president to be impeached twice and is now the first president to be twice acquitted. If convicted, he could have been barred from holding office in the future, but this decision now paves the way – should Trump want to run again – for another tilt at the White House in 2024.

Trump’s acquittal was never in doubt. Seventeen Republicans would have had to join all Democrats to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors. Several Republicans argued that the trial was unconstitutional, even though a majority of the Senate voted on Tuesday to proceed with the trial.

The swift conclusion of Trump’s historic second trial was briefly thrown into doubt after House managers unexpectedly moved to call witnesses in an effort to shed light on the former president’s state of mind during the hours-long Capitol siege. The Democratic managers were not expected to call witnesses, but changed their minds after a new account by congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump in his final days in office on one charge of “incitement of insurrection” of the 6 January siege on the US Capitol.

Trump had invited supporters to Washington on the day electoral college votes were being counted, told them to “fight like hell” and encouraged them to go to the US capitol, Democrats charged.

Once the attack on the capitol turned deadly, placing Vice-President Mike Pence, members of Congress, elected officials and other Capitol Hill employees in danger, Trump violated his oath of office by failing to defend the US government against an attack, the charging documents alleged.

The attack came after Trump spent weeks trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Five people died as a direct result of the assault, including a police officer.

Democrats spent days making a meticulous case against Trump to senators that even earned praise among conservative Republicans. Using extensive footage from the Capitol attack, House prosecutors argued that Trump deliberately fomented violence among his supporters, who believed they were acting on his instructions when they breached the Capitol.

The violence was not just a result of the speech he gave on 6 January, they argued, but was encouragement built up over years of Trump sanctioning violence among his supporters.

During the 2016 campaign, they noted, he explicitly encouraged supporters at his rallies to rough up protesters, and he cheered on rioters as they raided the Michigan capitol last year in what would become a “dress rehearsal” for the attack on the US capitol, Democrats said.

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