Donald Trump acquitted in historic second impeachment trial

Video report by ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy

Former US president Donald Trump has successfully fought off the latest attempt to impeach him - over his involvement in last month's deadly Capitol riot in Washington.

House Democrats, who voted a month ago to charge Mr Trump with “incitement of insurrection”, needed two thirds of the senate, or 67 votes, to convict him.

The vote was 57-43, short of the two-thirds needed for conviction. Seven Republicans broke party ranks to find Mr Trump guilty, the highest number of defections ever in an impeachment trial, but still far below the minimum of 17 needed for the former president to have been convicted.

Mr Trump was only the second US president to have been impeached twice and this trial was the shortest of all of them.

Mr Trump's acquittal means he can run for the 2024 presidency, should he chose to.

Welcoming the verdict, the 74-year-old said his “Make America Great Again” movement “has only just begun”.

In a lengthy statement, the former president thanked his lawyers and defenders in US congress, who he said “stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country”.

Mr Trump slammed his trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country”.

He told his supporters he would have more to share with them in the months ahead.

ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy on Donald Trump's reaction to his acquittal and his promise to reveal more about his plans to "Make American Great Again"

The nearly week-long trial delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the January 6 riot and its consequences for the nation in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to terms with.

House prosecutors argued that Mr Trump’s rallying cry to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” for his presidency just as Congress was convening to certify Joe Biden’s election was part of an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims that unleashed the mob.

Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Defence lawyers countered in a short three hours on Friday that Mr Trump’s words were not intended to incite violence, they were simply political rhetoric, and impeachment is a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

Despite voting to acquit, Republican senate minority leader Mitch McConnell condemned Mr Trump, calling him “practically and morally responsible” for the riot.

Mitch McConnell said Mr Trump was ‘practically and morally responsible’ for the January 6 riot Credit: AP

Though Mr Trump was acquitted, it was easily the largest number of senators to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment charge.

Voting to find the former president guilty were Republican senators 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 Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The senate’s top Democrat said January 6 will live as a “day of infamy” in American history and that the vote to acquit “will live as a vote of infamy in the history of the United States senate”.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump Credit: Senate Television via AP

Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, took to the senate floor to decry the acquittal. He applauded the seven Republicans who joined all 50 Democrats in voting to convict Mr Trump.

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

Unlike last year’s impeachment trial in the Ukraine affair – a complicated charge of corruption and obstruction over his attempts to have the foreign ally dig up dirt on then-rival Mr Biden – this one brought an emotional punch over the unexpected vulnerability of the nation’s tradition of peaceful elections.

Earlier in the day it had appeared as if the trial would be extended, after it took an unexpected twist when Senators voted to consider calling witnesses.

The hearing was then paused while both sides tried to work out an agreement and a deal was then reached to skip witness testimony, averting a prolonged trial and allowing closing arguments from both sides to begin and the trial to wrap up just several hours later.

What has caused Donald Trump's private anger amid new Senate trial shocks? Listen to ITV News's US politics podcast: Trump Lost! What Now?