By Our Editor/Agency Reports
The House impeached Trump last month for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The Senate on Saturday acquitted former President Donald Trump in a 57-43 vote in his second impeachment trial.
The vote came on the fifth day of trial after the House impeached Trump last month on a charge of incitement of insurrection for his role in the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. There were seven Republican senators who voted in favor of conviction, short of the 67 total votes needed to bar Trump from running for public office again.
The trial was the fourth of an impeached president, the second for Trump. No president has ever been convicted.
The Democrats argued that Trump purposely incited a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol in an effort to overturn the results of the presidential election he lost to Joe Biden, after months of laying the groundwork by relentlessly pushing false election fraud claims.
In response, Trump’s lawyers argued that his speech at the rally that preceded the riot was “ordinary political rhetoric” protected by the Constitution, and claimed that Democrats were motivated by their “political hatred” of the former president and impeached him as an act of retribution.
Trump issued a statement after the vote thanking his team and saying this was “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country.”
After voting in favor of former President Donald Trump, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., delivered a scathing rebuke of the former president’s actions, a move that appeared at odds with his vote to acquit just moments earlier.
“There’s no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” he said. “And having that belief was a forceable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting out through the largest megaphone on planet earth.”
McConnell also acknowledged that Trump did not respond swiftly once it was clear that then-Vice President Mike Pence and Congress members were in danger, saying that Trump instead “watched television happily as the chaos unfolded.”
McConnell said he ultimately did not to vote for conviction because he did not believe the constitution allows for the Senate to convict a former president. He could have called the Senate back into session earlier to ensure that the trial happened while Trump was still in office, but didn’t.
“If President Tump were still in office I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge,” he said. “The question is moot because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction.”
McConnell said the vote to acquit did not excuse Trump’s behavior and said that the former president is still liable for everything he did while in office now that he is a private citizen.