US Senate acquits Trump in impeachment trial

Donald Trump has been acquitted of "incitement of insurrection" during the January 6 Capitol uprising after a five day Senate trial.

Mr Trump was the only president to be impeached twice, the first former US president to face such a trial and only the third US president in history to be impeached.

Democrats charged that Mr Trump's refusal to accept the November 2020 election results preceded him calling on his supporters to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's presidency last month.

A two thirds majority vote in the evenly held Senate had been necessary to convict Mr Trump but he was found not guilty by 43 Republican senators.

 

However some Republicans turned on the former president, with senators Mitt Romney, Richard Burr, Susan Collins, Bill Cassidy, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey opting for a guilty verdict.

Earlier, Mr Trump's lawyers slammed his "phony impeachment show trial" as they wrapped up their defence of the former US president.

"It is time to bring this unconstitutional political theatre to an end," said Michael van der Veen as he called on senators to vote for an acquittal.

Warning that the impeachment of a private citizen could "haunt" future presidents for years to come, Mr van der Veen said House impeachment managers had failed to prove the single charge of "incitement of insurrection".

The Senate is expected to vote soon on a verdict after five days of hearings.

Earlier, the impeachment took a dramatic turn after the Senate voted to hear from witnesses, a last minute development that would potentially have caused lengthy delays in the trial.

Democrats called for witnesses to testify about what steps the then-president took to quell the January 6 uprising by his supporters.

House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin said he wished to hear evidence from Republican congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler that he said would show Mr Trump continued to stoke the violence even when he knew rioters had overrun the US Capitol.

Ms Herrera Beutler on Friday night relayed a conversation relayed to her by senior Republican and Trump-confidante, Kevin McCarthy, who told him that Mr Trump had refused to call on his supporters to stand down during the riot.

Mr McCarthy reportedly said he asked Mr Trump "to publicly and forcefully call off the riot".

"Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," Mr Trump said, according to Ms Herrera Beutler.

Ms Herrera Beutler said the phonecall showed Mr Trump was more concerned with getting his supporters to keep fighting for him, rather than ending the incursion.

"You have to look at what he did during the insurrection to confirm where his mind was at," she said on CNN on Friday night.

"That line right there demonstrates to me that either he didn't care, which is impeachable, because you cannot allow an attack on your soil, or he wanted it to happen and was OK with it, which makes me so angry."

Five Republican Senators joined Democrats in voting to hear from witnesses, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Ben Sasse.

However both parties soon came to a deal that simply admitted Ms Herrera Buetler's statement and avoided the delay of calling witnesses.

Senior Republican Lindsey Graham had warned his opponents that it was a risk for Mr Trump's political enemies, given lingering questions about security failings at the Democrat-run Capitol and in Washington DC on January 6.

 

"If you want a delay, it will be a long one with many, many witnesses," Mr Graham tweeted minutes before the trial recommenced Saturday.

Mr Trump's lawyer Michael van der Veen reacted with anger, saying if witnesses were called he need "hundreds" of depositions and that the delays would be lengthy.

"Do not handcuff me by limiting the number of witnesses I can have," he said.

Both sides were expected to be given two hours to make their closing arguments before a vote on whether to find Mr Trump guilty of "incitement of insurrection".

This vote was widely predicted to fail, given it would require 67 of 100 senators in the equally held Senate.

Seventeen Republicans would need to side with Democrats and while Mr Trump's support has plummeted since January, only eight Republican senators have said the may vote against him.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said early Saturday that he would be among those voting to acquit Mr Trump.

Mr Trump's lawyers had used just over three hours of their available 16 hours to rebut about House impeachment managers on Friday, describing the prosecution as a "sham".

His lawyers also returned serve of the emotive video montages Democrats used over two days of opening statements which they claimed showed Mr Trump stoked the violence on January 6.

They played their own tightly edited clips of top Democrats rejecting Mr Trump's 2016 election win and encouraging his opponents to "fight" the results.

Mr Trump's defence slammed the trial as an "unjust and blatantly unconstitutional act of political vengeance" and an "attack on his first amendment rights" to free speech.

Mr van der Veen compared the trial to every "politically motivated witch-hunt the Left has engaged in over the past four years".

"This appalling abuse of the Constitution only further divides our nation when we should be coming together around shared priorities," he said.

He said no reading of Mr Trump's January 6 speech could be construed as encouraging the attack on the Capitol and that Democrat claims to the contrary were "completely divorced from the facts, the evidence and the interests of the American people".

Originally published as US Senate acquits Trump in impeachment trial


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