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Donald Trump avoids conviction in Senate on incitement charge

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Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2021. 8:37 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: While a majority of members of the United States Senate voted to convict former president Donald Trump on a charge of incitement to insurrection over the Capitol riot on 6 January, 57 to 43, he was acquitted because a two-thirds majority or 67 was needed, the BBC reports.

Trump, who by his acquittal avoided a potential ban on running for federal office in the future, denounced the trial in a statement as “the greatest witch hunt in history”.

While voting against Trump’s conviction as unconstitutional since he had left office, and delaying the trial while still Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell told his colleagues he held the former president “responsible” for the assault on the Capitol and called it a “disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty”.

He added that Trump could still be held liable in court: “He didn’t get away with anything yet. Yet. We have a criminal justice system in this country, we have civil litigation and former presidents are not immune from being [held] accountable by either one.”

The team of Democratic Party representatives from the House of Representatives in closing the five-day trial urged their colleagues to convict in their closing statements, arguing that the greater danger lay in acquittal.

Trump’s defense attorneys, led by Michael van der Veen, called the proceedings a “show trial” and said the Democrats were “obsessed” with impeaching Trump. “This impeachment has been a complete charade from beginning to end,” he said. “The entire spectacle has been nothing but the unhinged pursuit of a long-standing political vendetta against Trump by the opposition party.”

Trump himself claimed none of his predecessors had “ever gone through anything like it” and that “the movement to Make America Great Again” had “only just begun.”

The Senate reversed itself on allowing personal testimony which would have delayed the verdict, disallowing oral testimony from a Republican House member concerning a phone call between Trump and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, while the riot was going on.

Jaime Herrera-Beutler said McCarthy had told her about the call on the day – that he had implored Trump to call off the rioters, only for the then-president to blame left-wing activists broadly known as “antifa” for allegedly causing the riot. When McCarthy rebutted this, the lawmaker said, Trump told him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” Her statement was admitted in written evidence.

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