By LISA MASCARO, ERIC TUCKER and MARY CLARE JALONICK
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Saturday acquitted// Donald Trump of inciting the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial that exposed the fragility of America’s democratic traditions and left a divided nation to come to terms with the violence sparked by his defeated presidency.
Barely a month since the deadly Jan. 6 riot that stunned the world, the Senate convened for a rare Saturday session to deliver its verdict, voting while armed National Guard troops continued to stand their posts outside the iconic building.
The quick trial, the nation’s first of a former president, showed how perilously close the invaders had come to destroying the nation’s deep tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power after Trump had refused to concede the election. Rallying outside the White House, he unleashed a mob of supporters to “fight like hell” for him at the Capitol just as Congress was certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. As hundreds stormed the building, some in tactical gear engaging in bloody combat with police, lawmakers fled for their lives. Five people died.
The verdict after the uprising leaves unresolved the nation’s wrenching divisions over Trump’s brand of politics that led to the most violent domestic attack on one of America’s three branches of government.
“Senators, we are in a dialogue with history, a conversation with our past, with a hope for our future,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Penn., one of the House prosecutors in closing arguments.
“What we do here, what is being asked of each of us here in this moment will be remembered. History has found us.”
Trump, unrepentant, welcomed the his second impeachment acquittal and said his movement “has only just begun.” He slammed the trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country.”
The trial had been momentarily thrown into confusion when senators suddenly wanted to consider potential witnesses, an hours-long standoff Saturday that stalled the momentum toward a vote. Prolonged proceedings would be politically risky, particularly for Biden’s new presidency and his emerging legislative agenda. The trial came amid the searing COVID-19 crisis, and the Biden White House trying to rush pandemic relief through Congress.