Moments after the U.S. senate voted to acquit him of inciting a deadly insurrection, Donald Trump had a message for the U.S.: “Make America Great Again has only just begun.”
The former Republican president dismissed his second impeachment trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country” in a publicly released statement on Saturday.
His comments wrapped up five days of legal proceedings in which House Democrats had sought to prove that Trump had incited a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 led by his supporters to delay the certification of U.S. President Joe Biden. The attack left five people dead.
“No president has ever gone through anything like it, and it continues because our opponents cannot forget the almost 75 million people, the highest number ever for a sitting president, who voted for us just a few short months ago,” Trump’s statement read.
“In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. There has never been anything like it!”
U.S. Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority (67 votes) needed to convict Trump of inciting the riot in a 57-43 vote.
Seven Republicans sided with Democrats and voted to convict Trump, representing the largest ever number of party members to vote against their own president in the country’s history.
GOP members who voted against Trump included Sens. Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Patrick Toomey.
Republican senate leader Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit Trump, said Trump could not be convicted as a private citizen but emphasized that he was, in fact, “practically and morally responsible” for the Capitol riot.
“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” he said, adding that Trump is “still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen.”
In statement sent out several hours after the impeachment verdict, Biden noted that while Trump may not have been convicted, “the substance of the charge is not in dispute.”
Despite the trial’s results, Biden’s statement capitalized on his presidency’s desire to see the U.S. move past its political divisions, adding that everyone had a duty to “defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”
“That is how we end this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation. That is the task ahead. And it’s a task we must undertake together,” said Biden.
The trial showed gruelling new footage of the attack, detailing graphic violence against officers attempting to stop the mob and several rioters dressed in tactical gear chanting to hang former vice-president Mike Pence while members of Congress ran for their lives.
Democrats argued that Trump was the “inciter in chief” of the riot, after he was filmed telling his supporters to “fight like hell” and march towards the Capitol building on Jan. 6 during what was supposed to be a routine certification.
House prosecutors framed the trial as a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.
Rep. Madeleine Dean, one of the House prosecutors in closing arguments, told members of Congress that “what we do here, what is being asked of each of us here in this moment will be remembered.”
“This trial in the final analysis is not about Donald Trump,” said lead prosecutor Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. “This trial is about who we are.”
— With files from The Associated Press