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Verdict: Trump acquitted as just seven Republicans side with Democrats in Senate vote

The former US president was accused of inciting the deadly riot at the US Capitol last month.

Image: Shutterstock/Sebastian Portillo

Updated Feb 13th 2021, 10:01 PM

US SENATORS HAVE voted to acquit Donald Trump of inciting the deadly riot at the US Capitol last month in which five people lost their lives. 

Just seven Republicans and all 50 Democratic members of the chamber voted to convict the former US President. 

A two-thirds majority would have been needed to convict – meaning at least 17 Republicans would have had to join with the Democrats. 

As the trial began earlier this week a conviction was never considered a serious prospect. 

The GOP leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, indicated earlier that he would not vote to convict – putting paid to any lingering chance of a guilty verdict. 

The vote followed closing arguments from the prosecution and defence – but earlier on proceedings were interrupted for several hours after House prosecutors, in a surprise move, said they wanted to call witnesses at the trial. 

Lead Democratic prosecutor Jamie Raskin of Maryland asked for a deposition of Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler over fresh information she had put forward. 

Herrera Beutler had widely shared a conversation she had with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy over Trump’s actions on January 6 as a mob was rioting at the US Capitol.

In a statement last night she said McCarthy had told her he called Trump as the riot was taking place to plead with him to tell his supporters to stand down.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump told McCarthy, according to Herrera Beutler.

Raskin said it was necessary information for determining Trump’s role in inciting the deadly riot.

Instead of calling witnesses, the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defence team agreed to admit into the record the statement by Herrera Beutler about the phone call.

Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen baulked at the request to call a witness, saying he would then call 100 witnesses, and that it was not necessary.

Reaction 

Responding to the result Democrat leader in the Senate Chuck Schumer said he wanted to salute the “Republican patriots” who did “the right thing” today. 

The events of 6 January, he said, would “live on in infamy”.

Mitch McConnell, speaking next, said Trump had committed  a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” by not intervening as the riot raged. 

“There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically, and morally, responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell added. 

McConnell voted ‘not guilty’ in the vote and insisted in his speech tonight that he did not believe the Senate had jurisdiction to convict Trump as a former President cannot be tried in the chamber. 

He finished his contributon by saying Trump was”still liable for everything he did in office” in the criminal justice system, adding “he didn’t get away with anything yet”.

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In his own statement the former President thanked his legal team and the senators who had voted to clear him, calling the trial “another phase of the greatest witch-hunt in the history of our country”.

The statement added: “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. There has never been anything like it.”

Trump is the only US president to be impeached twice, and the first to face trial charges after leaving office.

If he had been convicted, senators could then have voted to bar him from holding elected office.

Today’s result means he is entitled to run for President again if he wishes. 

Short trial 

The nearly week-long trial delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the 6 January riot and its consequences for the US in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to terms with.

House prosecutors had argued that Trump’s rallying cry to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” for his presidency just as Congress was convening to certify Joe Biden’s election was part of an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims that unleashed the mob.

Defence lawyers countered in a short three hours on Friday that Trump’s words were not intended to incite violence and impeachment is a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

- Includes reporting by Lauren Boland and wires

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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