Just moments after the Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, Trump claimed his movement "has only just begun."
In a lengthy statement, Trump thanked his attorneys and his defenders in the House and Senate, saying they "stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country."
He reduced the trial to "yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country."
And he promised to have more news to share with his supporters in the coming months.
"Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun," Trump said.
While Trump was acquitted by the Senate, seven Republicans voted to convict him, making it the most bipartisan vote in the history of presidential impeachments. The vote to acquit leaves the party locked in its struggle to define itself in the post-Trump presidency.
On Jan. 6, rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress was voting to affirm Joe Biden’s election as the 46th president. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.
The impeachment trial, which began on Tuesday with debate over its constitutionality since Trump was no longer in office, delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledged they are still coming to grips with.
Former President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump address guests at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on January 20, 2021. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Only by watching the graphic videos — rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the vote tally — did senators say they began to understand just how perilously close the country came to chaos. Hundreds of rioters stormed into the building, taking over the Senate. Some engaged in hand-to-hand, bloody combat with police.
House prosecutors argued Trump's rallying cry to go to the Capitol and "fight like hell" for his presidency just as Congress was convening was part of an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims that unleashed the mob.
Trump's lawyers countered in a short three hours Friday that Trump's words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a "witch hunt" designed to prevent him from serving in office again.
Then on Saturday, when the proceedings were expected to come swiftly to a close, the trial was thrown into confusion when senators voted to consider hearing witnesses.
At issue was whether to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, one of 10 Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment in the House. She said in a statement late Friday that Trump rebuffed a plea from McCarthy to call off the rioters. Democrats consider it key corroborating evidence that confirms the president’s "willful dereliction of duty and desertion of duty as commander in chief."
Trump lawyers opposed calling witnesses, with attorney Michael van der Veen saying it would open the door to him calling about 100 of his own. He said the depositions could be done in his law office in Philadelphia, prompting laughter from senators.
The situation was resolved when Herrera Beutler’s statement on the call was read aloud into the record for senators to consider as evidence. As part of the deal, Democrats dropped their planned deposition and Republicans abandoned their threat to call their own witnesses. The case then proceeded with closing arguments.
After an afternoon of closing arguments, the Senate then reached their vote to acquit.
Republicans were anxious to get the trial over with and discussion of Trump and the Capitol invasion behind them. Democrats, too, had a motive to move on since the Senate could not move ahead on Biden's agenda including COVID-19 relief with the impeachment trial still in session.
This story was reported from Atlanta and Detroit. The Associated Press contributed to this report.