President Joe Biden late on Saturday responded to the Senate’s vote to acquit former President Donald Trump on an article of impeachment for “inciting” the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
Biden said the events of Jan. 6 and the outcome of the impeachment trial are a reminder that “democracy is fragile,” according to a statement released hours after the upper chamber’s vote. He called on Americans to stay vigilant and to ensure that democracy is always defended.
“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,” Biden said. “And that each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”
The Senate on Saturday voted 57-43, resulting in an another acquittal for Trump. Democrats needed 67 votes in order to convict the former president.
Biden, who was at the Camp David presidential retreat when the Senate was conducting the vote, said that although the final vote did not lead to a conviction, he believes “the substance of the charge is not in dispute.”
“Even those opposed to the conviction, like Senate Minority Leader McConnell, believe Donald Trump was guilty of a ‘disgraceful dereliction of duty’ and ‘practically and morally responsible for provoking’ the violence unleashed on the Capitol,” Biden said.
McConnell voted to acquit Trump on Saturday but he castigated the former president, saying he felt that Trump was “morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol. The breach forced lawmakers who were counting electoral votes to evacuate or shelter in place as law enforcement attempted to gain control of the protesters who illegally entered the congressional buildings.
The top Republican said he voted “not guilty” because he believes a former president could not face trial in the Senate.
House Democrats during the trial argued that Trump was responsible for “inciting” the breach by rehashing claims that the 2020 presidential election was tainted by irregularities and allegations of voter fraud, and for telling his supporters to “fight like hell.” However, the impeachment managers’ argument left out parts of Trump’s speech where he told his supporters to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Trump’s legal team argued that protesters who breached the Capitol had acted on their own volition and that the former president’s remarks were protected by freedom of speech. Senate Republicans pointed out that if words like “fight like hell” constitute incitement, then “every single political candidate in America is guilty of incitement.”
“I guarantee you, all 100 senators in that chamber have stood on the stump and said we need to ‘fight or fight like hell,'” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Thursday.
Several Senate Republicans who voted to acquit Trump said they were concerned about the lack of due process and constitutionality of the trial. Meanwhile, some Senate Democrats accused their Republican colleague of already setting their mind on acquitting Trump even before the trial started.
All Senate Democrats voted to convict Trump, while seven Republicans joined their Democrat colleagues.
Trump also issued a statement in reaction to the acquittal by expressing gratitude to his supporters, while calling out the Democrats for their actions over the last few years that he believes assault democracy.
Democrats are “given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree,” Trump said in the statement.
He also vowed to “be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.”