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Donald Trump acquitted in impeachment trial

WASHINGTON: U.S. president Donald Trump drew on staunch Republican support to defeat the gravest threat yet to his three-year-old presidency, winning acquittal in the Senate on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Only the third U.S. leader ever placed on trial, Trump readily defeated the Democratic-led effort to expel him from office for having illicitly sought help from Ukraine to bolster his 2020 re-election effort.

 

Trump immediately claimed “victory” while the White House declared it a full “exoneration” for the president — even as Democrats rejected the acquittal as the “valueless” outcome of an unfair trial.

Despite being confronted with strong evidence, Republicans stayed loyal and mustered a majority of votes to clear the president of both charges — by 52 to 48 on abuse of power and 53 to 47 on obstruction of Congress — falling far short of the two-thirds supermajority required for conviction.

“Two thirds of the senators present not having found him guilty of the charges contained therein, it is therefore ordered and adjudged that the said Donald John Trump be, and he is hereby, acquitted,” said Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts, who presided over the trial.

The months-long impeachment of the 45th US leader shone a harsh light on America’s political divide, with Trump’s core support base united behind him in rejecting it as a “hoax.”

One Republican, senator Mitt Romney, a longtime Trump foe, risked White House wrath to vote alongside Democrats on the first count, saying Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.” He voted not guilty on the second charge.

But the verdict was never truly in question since the House of Representatives formally impeached Trump in December, and has now cleared out a major hurdle for the president to fully plunge into his campaign for re-election in November.