Former US President Donald Trump has been acquitted for a second time by the Senate after Republicans overwhelmingly voted against convicting him on the charge of inciting the January 6 riot at the Capitol, but senior party leader Mitch McConnel blasted him soon afterwards for provoking it.
The Senate voted 57 to 43 to convict him on Saturday and although seven Republicans went over to the Democrat's side to convict him, it was 10 votes short of the 67 needed for the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.
The other Republicans stood firmly by Trump thwarting his conviction, although after the vote McConnell delivered his harsh criticism pinning on him the blame for the riot that killed at least five people including a police officer.
Two other police officers died in its aftermath.
In his first trial in February 2020 on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress he went free because the Democrats could not muster 67 votes.
If Trump can claim a victory, it was tarnished by his own party members blaming him for the riot, even as they voted against his conviction.
"There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day," McConnell said after he had voted to acquit him.
He said that his vote against conviction was based on a technicality that under the Constitution Trump could not be impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate because he was out of office.
Most Republicans and Trump's lawyers argued that since the Constitution specified the president as one of those who can be impeached with the punishment of being removed from office, he could not be tried as he was now a private citizen.
Democrats and their Republican supporters, however, said that although he was no longer the President, he could still be impeached and face the penalty of being barred from running for office.
The Democratic Party leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer condemned the Republicans who voted against the conviction.
"The failure to convict Donald Trump will live as a vote of infamy in the history of the US Senate," he said.
Reacting to the acquittal, President Joe Biden said: "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.
"While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, 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."
Trump has disputed the results of the November 3, 2020, election that he lost alleging that there was massive fraud.
On the day of the riots, he held a rally of his supporters at which he repeated the fraud claim saying that the election was "stolen" and told them "we fight like hell and if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore".
Some of his supporters later marched to the Capitol while Congress was tallying the votes of the electoral college that elected Biden.
A section of them broke through the security and stormed the building, breaking into the Senate chamber and the offices of leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mike Pence, who as the then-Vice President was presiding over the Senate, and other members of Congress were hustled away to safety.
"The former president tried to overturn the results of a legitimate election and provoked an assault on our own government," Schumer said of the attack while Congress was completing the election process.
It was "the most despicable act that any president has ever committed", he added.