WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump’s acquittal on charges of inciting a deadly attack on the U.S Capitol left Democrats and Republicans deeply divided on Sunday even as Washington seeks to move on with Democratic President Joe Biden’s political agenda.
The Senate trial concluded on Saturday with a 57-43 vote in favor of convicting the Republican former president, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to do so. Seven Republicans joined the Senate’s 48 Democrats and two independents in favor of conviction.
The trial has left lawmakers and the country they represent in a continued state of political discord. The Capitol building and the White House both remain barricaded from the public.
Biden appealed for unity to “heal this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation,” saying each American had a duty and a responsibility to defend the truth.
“This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile. That it must always be defended. That we must be ever vigilant. That violence and extremism has no place in America,” he said in a statement. “That is the task ahead. And it’s a task we must undertake together. As the United States of America.”
Trump, while lauding the acquittal, called the impeachment effort a further “witch hunt.” Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi called Republicans who did not support conviction “cowardly.”
Biden, who took office on Jan. 20, has called for unity after the Jan. 6 riot by Trump supporters that left five people dead and forced lawmakers to evacuate congressional chambers in fear for their safety in the middle of the certification process of the November election results.
The end of the trial could make room for momentum on Biden’s priorities. The Democrat is eager to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill and get the remaining nominees for his Cabinet confirmed by the Senate. But lawmakers’ disagreements over the proceedings are likely to linger.
“Tragically, Senate Republicans who voted not to convict chose to abandon the Constitution, the country and the American people with this vote,” Pelosi said.
Republican Senators Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey voted to convict.
“I’m sure that there are many Alaskans that are very dissatisfied with my vote, but I’m sure there are many Alaskans that are proud of my vote,” Murkowski told Politico after the trial.
Murkowski is the only one of the seven who is up for re-election in 2022. The other six either are retiring from Congress or their six-year terms do not expire in 2022.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to go after Republicans who do not support him by endorsing opponents in their primary elections. On Saturday he indicated he was thinking about his own political future without divulging details.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Trump is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and Richard Cowan; Editing by Ross Colvin, Jonathan Oatis and William Mallard