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Joe Biden reflects on 'fragile' democracy as Trump says 'MAGA only just begun' after acquittal

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By Rachael Kennedy  & Alasdair Sandford
From left to right: US President Joe Biden, former president Donald Trump, and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell
From left to right: US President Joe Biden, former president Donald Trump, and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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US President Joe Biden has commented on the saga surrounding Donald Trump's impeachment trial, describing it as evidence of the fragility of democracy.

While noting the former president's acquittal in the Senate on the charge of inciting insurrection, he said the substance of the charge was not in dispute.

In a vote on Saturday, senators decided that he was guilty by 57 in favour to 43 against, but the margin was not enough to convict, which needed a two-thirds majority, or 67 votes.

The vote was on whether Trump had incited the deadly insurrection on January 6, when his supporters -- who included white supremacists and far-right militias -- overwhelmed police and stormed the Capitol in Washington.

Biden highlighted the comments of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit but launched a blistering attack on the ex-president.

"While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute," Biden said. "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."

Trump slams another 'witch hunt'

Donald Trump happily welcomed his second acquittal from impeachment as he branded it the "greatest witch hunt in the history of our nation" on Saturday and told Americans his "movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun".

The former US president released his lengthy statement after the US Senate vote.

"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," Trump added.

"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."

Republicans who voted to acquit - but still savaged Trump

But not all Republicans shared Trump's view - not even Mitch McConnell. Although the Republican leader in the Senate voted in favour of acquittal, he then reviled the former president in a scathing speech.

He said Trump was "practically and morally responsible" for the Capitol riot in early January that saw five people killed, adding: "They [the mob] did this because they’d been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth because he was angry he lost an election."

Republican Senator Rob Portman, who also voted to acquit, said: "The question I must answer is not whether president Trump said and did things that were reckless and encouraged the mob. I believe that happened.

"My decision was based on my reading of the Constitution. I believe the Framers understood that convicting a former president and disqualifying him or her from running again pulls people further apart."

According to McConnell, there could be some criminal charges facing Trump down the line. He added: "President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen. He didn’t get away with anything. Yet."

What about in pop culture?

The view from Hollywood:

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill

Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel

Actress Alyssa Milano

Comedian Jon Stewart

Actress Yvette Nicole Brown