Former US president Donald Trump has welcomed his acquittal in a second impeachment trial, saying his political movement “to Make America Great Again has only just begun”.
The Senate voted 57-43 in favour of convicting the former president on Saturday, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict him on a charge of inciting the mob that attacked the US Capitol on January 6, during the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election win.
In a statement, Trump called the trial “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our nation”.
“Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” he said.
“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 added.
Trump left office on January 20, so impeachment could not be used to remove him from power.
But Democrats had hoped to secure a conviction to hold the 74-year-old responsible for the Capitol siege and set the stage for a vote to bar him from serving in public office again.
Though Trump was acquitted of the sole charge of incitement of insurrection, seven Republicans joined all Democrats to convict the former president. The figure marked the largest number of Senators to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment count of high crimes and misdemeanours.
After Saturday’s verdict, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted “not guilty,” in the trial, offered scathing remarks about Trump.
“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he said. “The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”
McConnell suggested that Trump could still face criminal prosecution for his acts, however.
“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen,” McConnell said. “He didn’t get away with anything. Yet.”
After the vote, furious Democrats launched their own attacks against McConnell and the GOP. Speaking to reporters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., mocked the “cowardly group of Republicans” in the Senate she said were afraid to “respect the institution in which they served.”
She also said McConnell had created a self-fulfilling prophecy, forcing the Senate trial to begin after Trump left the White House by keeping the chamber out of session. Republicans say Pelosi could have triggered the proceedings earlier by delivering official impeachment documents sooner.