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Senate acquits Donald Trump of incitement of insurrection

The impeachment charge being read out to senators before they vote during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AP

Former U.S. President Donald Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate in the impeachment trial of inciting an insurrection with regard to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters seeking to stop the certification of the Electoral College results.

At the conclusion of proceedings that began last week, the Senate voted 57-43 on Saturday to acquit Mr. Trump, with seven Republican senators joining their Democratic colleagues to convict the former president. A majority of 67 votes would have been required for a conviction.

“We saw it, we heard it, we lived it,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, calling the events of January 6 a “constitutional crime” that Senators had witnessed. “The failure to convict Donald Trump will live as a vote of infamy in the history of the United States Senate,” he said.

Mr Trump’s second impeachment trial was shorter than his first in 2020 and relied in large measure on the impact of video footage of the former President’s incendiary remarks and the Capitol attack. The defence argued that Mr Trump did not incite “what was already going to happen” on January 6 and that his comments were protected by his right to free speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

“While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute,” President Biden said in a statement released late on Saturday night (Washington time) by the White House. The President has been mostly quiet about the trial these past weeks.

“This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile. That it must always be defended,” he said.

Mr. Trump, who won just over 74 million votes in the elections — a record for any incumbent — and has repeatedly said he will continue to be politically active, hinted at the possibility again on Saturday. His massive support base has made the majority of Republican senators wary of crossing the former President.

“This has been yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country,” Mr Trump, said in a statement on Saturday. “No President has ever gone through anything like it.”

“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. There has never been anything like it!” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the GOP senators who voted to acquit Mr Trump, “cowardly”. Ms Pelosi, however, ruled out censuring Mr. Trump, saying it would let “everybody off the hook”.

“What we saw in that Senate today was a cowardly group of Republicans who apparently have no options because they are afraid to defend their job … respect the institution in which they serve,” Ms. Pelosi said at a press conference after the trial.

“What is so important that the political survival of any one of us that [sic] is more important than our Constitution that we take an oath to protect and defend?” she asked.

Ms Pelosi criticised Republican leader Mitch McConnell, saying the trail could not go ahead while Mr. Trump was in office because of the way Mr. McConnell — then the Majority Leader — had not permitted a speedy trial before Mr. Trump left office and after the House had impeached him on a charge of incitement of insurrection.

Mr. McConnell said he had voted to acquit Mr. Trump because “former Presidents are not eligible for conviction.” However, shortly after the vote, Mr. McConnell said Mr. Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the January 6 attack.

“They [the mob] did this because they’d been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth,” he said.

“By saying he takes comfort in the possibility of a future prosecution in the courts, McConnell is all but calling Trump out as a criminal,” prominent Conservative lawyer George Conway said on Twitter. Mr Conway, a Trump critic who is married to Mr Trump’s (former) senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, was commenting on a letter Mr. McConnell had written to fellow GOP senators explaining his vote.

The seven GOP Senators who voted to convict Mr Trump were Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy and Pat Toomey.

Mr Romney, a former presidential candidate, had also voted last year to convict Mr Trump at his first impeachment trial. He cited Mr Trump’s use of his office to summon supporters to Washington on January 6 and his encouragement of them to march to the Capitol. Mr Romney also cited Mr Trump’s pressuring of Georgia Secretary of State to “falsify the election results” — a reference to a call Mr. Trump made to the official on January 2 to “find” votes to overturn the November 3 election results.

With the trial concluded, Democrats in Congress are expected to focus on Mr Biden’s legislative agenda, including the passage of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 8:37:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-senate-votes-to-acquit-donald-trump-as-republicans-save-him-in-impeachment-again/article33833084.ece

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