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Senate acquits former President Donald Trump in second impeachment trial

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) ––– The Senate voted 57-43, acquitting former President Donald Trump on the single charge of inciting an insurrection in his second impeachment trial.

7 Republican senators joined all Democrats in voting in favor of convicting the former president, failing to reach the 67 votes needed to achieve the necessary two-thirds supermajority.

43 Republican senators voted Trump was “not guilty” of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection by supporters who stormed the seat of Congress in Washington to stop lawmakers from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s election victory, resulting in the deaths of five people, including a police officer. Earlier Saturday, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues he would vote to acquit Trump.

GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania voted in favor of convicting the former president.

While McConnell voted to acquit Trump, he said after there is still “no question” that Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the deadly attack, but he could not vote to convict Trump because he is “constitutionally not eligible for conviction” because he is no longer president.

The vote comes after a nearly weeklong impeachment trial, which began Tuesday with opening arguments from both sides and a vote ruling it is constitutional to try a former president once out of office. 

In arguments this week, Democratic House impeachment managers showed videos and shared tweets they said made clear Trump set the stage for the violence by falsely claiming the election results were fraudulent and egging on his supporters with his rhetoric long before Jan. 6.

They said he summoned the mob to Washington, gave the crowd its marching orders and did nothing to stop the violence as it played out on television. His one request to act peacefully did not absolve him, they said.

In addition to the graphic, never before seen security footage from the moment the rioters broke through windows and entered the Capitol in a purported attempt to overturn the election results, they also showed videos of the Republican former president cheering violence at his rallies, repeating his election fraud claims and urging his supporters to gather in Washington on Jan. 6 for a rally he said would be “wild.”

The Democratic-led House of Representatives impeached Trump on Jan. 13 on a single charge of inciting insurrection, focusing on a speech he made to supporters shortly before the D.C. riot.

Trump released a statement after the acquittal, saying part:

I want to first thank my team of dedicated lawyers and others for their tireless work upholding justice and defending truth.

My deepest thanks as well to all of the United States Senators and Members of Congress who stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country.

Former President Donald J. Trump

Trump’s defense argued the former president was entitled to dispute the 2020 election results and that his doing so, including in the speech that preceded the breach of the Capitol, did not equate to inciting the violence that followed.

Trump’s lawyers argued that his remarks were protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which ensures the right to free speech.

“To claim that the president in any way wished, desired or encouraged lawless or violent behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie,” said Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s lawyers.

US President Donald Trump arrives to speak to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. – Thousands of Trump supporters, fueled by his spurious claims of voter fraud, are flooding the nation’s capital protesting the expected certification of Joe Biden’s White House victory by the US Congress. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Van der Veen said there was a double standard at the heart of the prosecution’s case, arguing that some Democrats had “encouraged and endorsed” violence that erupted at some anti-racism protests across the United States last summer without facing any legal consequences.

The defense contended the siege was carried out by people who had “hijacked” for their own purposes what was supposed to be a peaceful event and had made plans for violence before Trump had even spoken on Jan. 6.

“You can’t incite what was going to happen,” Van der Veen said. 

Trump’s defense team also portrayed the impeachment trial as little more than the result of a political witch hunt by Democrats who had been trying to get Trump for four years.

After the vote, Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, took to the Senate floor to decry the Senate’s acquittal of the former president on a charge that he incited the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

He applauded the seven Republicans who joined all 50 Democrats in voting to convict Trump.

He called the day of the riot the “final, terrible legacy” of Trump and said the stain of his actions will never be “washed away.”

Watch Live: Senators speak after falling short of votes needed to convict Trump of inciting insurrection

If Trump had been convicted, the Senate would have taken a second vote on whether to ban him from running for office again. Only two other presidents, Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson in 1868, have been impeached. Both were also acquitted.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report