United States’ Senate on Saturday acquitted former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, voting that he was not guilty of the charge of inciting the January 6 riots at the Capitol, Reuters reported.

The final count came at 57 members voting guilty, as compared to 43 not guilty. At least 67 guilty votes were required to convict Trump, according to CNN. Significantly, however, as many as seven Republican senators voted against Trump, which according to CNN, was higher than what the former president’s legal team had anticipated.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted “not guilty,” in the trial, offered scathing remarks about Trump after the verdict.

“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he said, according to Reuters. “The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”

Republican Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney of Utah voted to convict Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Republicans’ refusal to hold Trump accountable would be remembered “as one of the darkest days and most dishonorable acts in our nation’s history”, Reuters reported.

However, Jamie Raskin, the lead Democratic prosecutor from the House of Representatives, said that the “bottom line” was the fact that a “big majority in the Senate” were convinced.

On January 13, the United States House of Representatives had impeached Trump for his role in inciting the violence at the Capitol, following which the trial began on February 10. Trump had left office on January 20, so the impeachment could not be used to remove him from power. But Democrats had hoped to secure a conviction to hold him responsible for the siege and set the stage for a vote to bar him from serving in public office again.

Meanwhile, following his acquittal, Trump said that his political movement “has only just begun”, AFP reported. “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” the former president said in a statement issued just moments after the Senate vote.

Trump denounced his second impeachment trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country”. “No president has ever gone through anything like it,” he added.

Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen said the former president was “vindicated” by Saturday’s vote to acquit him, CNN reported. “The political witch hunt that they had, that the Democrats had thrown at him was defeated, so he should feel quite pleased,” he said.

US Capitol violence

On January 6, hundreds of supporters of Trump stormed the Capitol complex in Washington DC, and clashed with the police as members of the Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 presidential elections, which Democrat Joe Biden won. Five people died in the violence. At least 68 were arrested.

The incident triggered shock across the world. Several White House officials tendered resignations following the incident, while the demands for Trump’s removal from the top office grew.

After the violence, however, Trump conceded defeat to Biden. For months, he had peddled election conspiracy theories and claimed that the presidential poll was rigged.