The US Senate has voted to acquit former president Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.
The vote came after a five-day proceeding in which arguments focused on whether Trump incited the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, and whether it’s constitutional to conduct an impeachment trial of a former president who’s now a private citizen.
It was the most bipartisan impeachment trial vote ever, with seven Republicans breaking ranks to join all 50 Democrats in seeking conviction — a dark and permanent stain on a former president who may yet seek to run for office again.
But two-thirds of the chamber, or 67 senators, is necessary to convict, and the Senate ultimately was not willing to punish the former president.
In Trump’s historic second impeachment trial, the senators for the first time ever were not only jurors, but witnesses to the assault at the heart of the charge against Trump.
Democrats argued that Trump’s behavior was an “open and shut” example of an impeachable offense, saying that as president he repeated the falsehood that the election was stolen, then whipped up supporters to attack Congress and stop the certification of the vote.
The Republicans who voted alongside Democratic senators to convict Trump were Sens. Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse, Pat Toomey, Bill Cassidy and Richard Burr.
During the trial this week, prosecutors relied on disturbing video footage showing the Capitol riot, as well as video and audio clips and social media posts showing Trump repeatedly calling on supporters to march on the building on Jan. 6 and in the days and months leading up to that date. House impeachment managers additionally showed tweets where Trump lauded violent actions by his supporters in the lead-up to the 2020 election, continued stoking the violence during the insurrection and “did nothing to protect us.”
Trump’s defense team used more dispassionate constitutional and legal analysis to argue the trial is a violation of the former president’s First Amendment rights, as well as claiming Trump’s rally speech was taken out of context — and that Democrat leaders have used the same language in the past in calling on their own supporters to “fight.”
The trial began Feb. 9, with Trump facing a single impeachment article for incitement of insurrection regarding his role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol, which left five people dead including a Capitol Police officer. In a speech that day in front of the White House, Trump urged supporters to march to the Capitol.
The siege of the Capitol building sought to overturn the 2020 election results and halt the process of confirming Biden’s win in the Electoral College. Biden was confirmed after the riot and later inaugurated on Jan. 20.