Democratic Party lawmakers and other public figures in the United States have responded with outrage at the results of the second impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump after the U.S. Senate found Trump not guilty of a deadly riot last month to have “instigated” Capitol Hill.
In a vote on Saturday afternoon, which was largely partisan, the Senate voted 57-43 against the charges against the former Republican president.
The US House of Representatives charged Trump in January with “inciting insurrection” in connection with the deadly assault on the Capitol by a crowd of his supporters.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who voted against Trump on Saturday, slammed his Republican counterparts for failing to convict the ex-president and accused them of putting “the volatile politics of the moment” before their oath Defend US Constitution.
“In private, they complain that they feel trapped by President Trump’s toxic hold on the Republican Party and yet refuse to break free by voting to prevent him from running for office,” Menendez said in an explanation after the vote.
“This is pure political cowardice and I fear that your refusal to hold Donald Trump accountable will have lasting negative and even dangerous consequences for the future of our country.”
The US Senate voted 57 to 43 for the acquittal of former President Donald Trump on Saturday [US Senate TV/Handout via Reuters]
Trump’s legal team had rejected the Democrats’ efforts to indict the former president, calling the trial “ridiculous” and unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.
“Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him,” said Trump’s lawyer Michael van der Veen in his closing arguments on Saturday afternoon. “The act of incitement never happened.”
In a post-vote statement, Trump – the only US president ever charged twice – described the Senate trial as “yet another phase in the greatest witch hunt in our country’s history” and vowed to continue his “Make America Great Again” movement.
Other Republican lawmakers, as well as Trump supporters in the US and abroad, welcomed the results of the impeachment vote.
NOT GUILTY. Now, maybe it would be nice if the senators stopped doing show trials during free airtime and actually started working for the American people for a change.
– Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 13, 2021
“I was against the Senate’s jurisdiction in this process from the start,” said Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who voted in favor of Trump’s acquittal and said the incitement to incitement was “just a hasty act of partisan retaliation.”
“NOT GUILTY. Now maybe it would be nice if the senators stopped doing show trials during free airtime and actually worked for the American people for a change,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr.
“Thank God the second attempt to indict Trump is over,” said right-wing British politician Nigel Farage on Twitter. “Donald can fight again now.”
But the House impeachment executives who led the indictment against Trump during the Senate trial said their efforts were successful despite the results.
“This was the most bipartisan impeachment event for the president in the history of the country,” property manager Jamie Raskin said during a press conference following the vote.
“We have a clear and convincing majority of Congress members that the president did indeed instigate violent uprisings against the Union and against Congress,” he said.
Seven Republicans voted alongside Democrats to condemn Trump, including Senator Ben Sasse, who said he had promised “always to vote [his] Conscience, even if it was against the flow of partisans ”.
“I cannot go back to my word and Congress cannot lower our standards on such a serious matter simply because it is politically favorable,” Sasse said in a statement.
However, some political observers criticized the Democratic Party for failing to call witnesses after House impeachment managers said they wanted to force witnesses earlier on Saturday.
Instead, an agreement was reached between Senate Democrats and Republicans to deliver a statement by Republican Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler describing a conversation between Trump and Republican leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy, during the insurrection.
But Raskin said “no number of witnesses” had convinced enough Republicans to vote for impeachment.
“They were on a legal matter,” he said during the press conference, referring to an allegation by Republican lawmakers that Trump could not be charged because he was not in office. This argument has been rejected by constitutional scholars.
Mitch McConnell, minority leader in the Republican Senate, voted against the charges against Trump. But moments later, he said in the Senate: “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”
McConnell justified his vote by saying that Trump could not be charged because he was no longer president.
But Kentucky lawmakers blocked efforts to begin the impeachment process in January while Trump was still in the White House – a fact that has been widely criticized by Democrats and other observers.
“It is so pathetic that Senator McConnell kept the Senate closed so that the Senate could not get the impeachment notice and has used that as his excuse not to convict Donald Trump,” said Nancy Pelosi, spokeswoman for the Democratic House.
@ LeaderMcConnell: “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.” pic.twitter.com/CznzAu3B0S
– CSPAN (@cspan) February 13, 2021
“It’s really sad and dangerous that only 7 Republicans voted to condemn a president who promotes a big lie, conspiracy theories and violence, and is aggressively trying to destroy American democracy,” Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted.
Andy Gallacher of Al Jazeera, who reports from West Palm Beach, Fla., Said most Trump supporters had stayed firmly in the former president’s corner and were not influenced by any of the allegations made against him in the U.S. Senate trial.
Gallacher said there was a battle going on between established Republicans and pro-Trump Republicans over the party’s future.
“Donald Trump continues to cast a long and dark shadow on this party,” he reported.
“Mitch McConnell’s speech, powerful as it was, doesn’t really dismiss the statement that this is Donald Trump’s Republican Party. It seems to belong to a man for now.”