Former US president Donald Trump has been found not guilty in his impeachment trial.
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.
Seven members of Mr Trump’s own party (Senators Sasse, Romney, Burr, Collins, Murkowski, Toomey and Cassidy) joined Democrats on the charge of incitement.
In a statement after the trial, Mr 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.
“While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute,” he said in a statement.
“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.
“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. 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.”
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.
Just before the 6 January riots, thousands of his supporters gathered at a “Save America” rally on the National Mall, minutes away from the Capitol.
It had been organised to challenge the election result and Mr Biden’s win.
Mr Trump’s supporters listened to him speak for 70 minutes, during which at one point the former reality star exhorted them to “fight like hell – or you’re not going to have a country anymore”.
The attack began moments after he took the applause.
At the impeachment hearing, Mr Trump’s defence team had launched a blistering attack on the Democrats, describing proceedings as a “unjust, unconstitutional witch-hunt”.
Michael van der Veen, Mr Trump’s lawyer, said: “This whole spectacle has been nothing but the unhinged pursuit of a long-standing political vendetta against Mr Trump by the opposition party.”
He told the hearing Mr Trump was not to blame and that he had told his supporters to protest peacefully.
It was argued that his speech at the rally was “ordinary political rhetoric” and was constitutionally protected free speech.
Washington’s most powerful Republican, senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, dealt a blow to an ebullient Mr Trump by saying he believed he was “morally responsible” for the Capitol attack, and said he only voted to acquit him because he believed the senate had no jurisdiction over a former president.
It is the first time in history that a US president has been impeached twice.
The first attempt to convict Mr Trump in January 2020, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, saw him acquitted by a majority of 52 votes to 48 for one charge and 53 to 47 for the second.
Only one Republican voted against him on one of the charges.
In his defiant statement after the conclusion of Saturday’s vote, Mr Trump hinted he may return to the political spotlight.
He said: “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.
“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.
“There has never been anything like it!”