Donald Trump escapes second impeachment conviction

Donald Trump has been acquitted after the final verdict found the former president was not guilty of inciting an insurrection at the US Capitol last month.

Although the final vote came in as 57 "guilty" and 43 "not guilty", the Democrats did not reach the two-thirds majority they needed to secure a conviction.

Trump once again avoided conviction by the US Senate because his fellow Republicans, by and large, stuck by his side.

Both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, most GOP officeholders opposed the impeachment proceedings - and those who broke ranks, including Senators Sasse, Romney, Burr, Collins, Murkowski, Toomey and Cassidy, are already facing criticism and, in some cases, formal reprimands from their Republican constituents.

Mitch McConnell, leader of his party in the Senate, had been outspoken for weeks in his criticism of Donald Trump's conduct on 6 January but his final vote in the trial on Friday was in doubt.

On Saturday morning, he informed his fellow senators he would support acquittal.

After the Senate rendered its final verdict, he explained why. He condemned Trump's behaviour and said he engaged in a "disgraceful dereliction of duty."

There's no question that president Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day," McConnell said.

His not guilty vote, he said, was because former presidents were not eligible for impeachment trials. If such a precedent were followed, he said, any private citizen - regardless of status - could be impeached and ruled ineligible for public office by the Congress.

In a statement after the trial, Trump said it was "a sad commentary on our times" that the Democrats had been given a "free pass to transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree".

He added: "I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honourably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.

"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."

US President Joe Biden said the acquittal was a reminder that democracy was "fragile", and every American had a duty to defend the truth.

According to reports, Biden was not closely following the proceedings. Instead, during the trial he kept a busy schedule of events related to the coronavirus pandemic.

When Biden did comment, it was only to remark about the new videos of the Capitol violence - images that had been played repeatedly on television news.

"While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute," Biden said in a statement.

Mr Trump had been charged with "incitement of insurrection" over last month's violence when the US Capitol was stormed by his supporters, just as Congress was attempting to ratify the 2020 election result.

Mr Trump's supporters listened to him speak for 70 minutes, during which at one point he urged his supporters to "fight like hell - or you're not going to have a country anymore".

Meanwhile, with the trial concluded, the Senate will resume confirming Biden's administration appointments, including attorney general nominee Merrick Garland, after it returns from a week recess.