The US Senate voted Saturday to acquit former US President Donald Trump on a sole impeachment article charging him with inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection carried out by his supporters.
The 57-43 vote saw seven Republicans -- Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey -- join ranks with the entire Democratic caucus in voting for Trump's conviction.
The Senate requires a two-thirds majority for conviction under constitutional rules, and it was long believed to be unlikely that 17 Republicans would have chosen to vote against the former president with the Senate split 50-50 along party lines.
BREAKING: US Senate votes to acquit former President Trump on article of impeachment for "incitement of insurrection." pic.twitter.com/k3bTKNcXjQ— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) February 13, 2021
"The failure to convict Donald Trump will live as a vote of infamy in the history of the United States Senate," said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. "The vast majority of the Senate Republican caucus, including the Republican leader, voted to acquit former President Trump, signing their names in the columns of history alongside his name forever."
Romney, a longtime Trump critic, said he voted for conviction because Trump "incited the insurrection against Congress by using the power of his office to summon his supporters to Washington on January 6th and urging them to march on the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes."
"He did this despite the obvious and well known threats of violence that day," he said in a statement. "President Trump also violated his oath of office by failing to protect the Capitol, the Vice President, and others in the Capitol. Each and every one of these conclusions compels me to support conviction.”
President Joe Biden said in a statement: "This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile. That it must always be defended. That we must be ever vigilant."
There is no place for violence and extremism in the US, according to Biden who said everyone, especially leaders, have a duty and responsibility to defend the truth and to defeat untruths.
"That is how we end this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation. That is the task ahead. And it’s a task we must undertake together. As the United States of America," he added.
The vote caps a five-day trial that was set to run much longer before Democrats backtracked Saturday on calling witnesses.
During the proceedings, House of Representatives managers brought to light new video evidence from the assault, showing that rioters came within moments of confronting and likely inflicting violence on lawmakers, including former Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence became a focus of Trump's ire after he rejected the former president's call to overturn proceedings that were occurring on the day of the assault, which was the final step before US President Joe Biden's inauguration.
In all, five people died after Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol, including one Capitol Police officer. Two other law enforcement officers took their lives in the aftermath of the raid.
While he voted to acquit Trump even though there is "no question" he was "practically and morally responsible" for the riot, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested the former president may still be criminally liable for the chaos.
"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen unless the statute of limitations is run, still liable for everything he did while he was in office; didn't get away with anything yet," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
"We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one," he added.
In a sign, however, that Trump is not yet throwing in the towel on his political career he said shortly after the vote, "Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun."
"In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people," he said in a statement.
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