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Biden says ‘democracy must always be defended’ after Trump’s acquittal in second impeachment trial

FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(CNN) — President Joe Biden weighed in late Saturday night on former President Donald Trump’s acquittal in his second impeachment trial, saying that democracy is “fragile” and “must always be 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. 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,” Biden said in a statement.

The Senate acquitted Trump in his second impeachment trial Saturday, voting that the former President was not guilty of inciting the deadly January 6 riot at the US Capitol.

The final vote — 57 guilty to 43 not guilty — was 10 votes short of the 67 guilty votes needed to convict, with seven Republicans finding him guilty.

“The Senate vote followed the bipartisan vote to impeach him by the House of Representatives,” Biden said. “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.”

The vote came swiftly on the fifth day of the Senate trial after a surprise Democratic request for witnesses earlier Saturday threw the trial briefly into chaos.

The trial underscored the dilemma Trump poses to Republicans in the aftermath of the January 6 riot, with many Republican senators eager for the party to move on from the former President but still grappling with the reality that he holds sway over the party’s base. It’s a dichotomy that the party will face heading into the 2022 midterm elections, when it seeks to regain control of Congress, and the 2024 GOP presidential primary.

Biden has been careful in the comments he’s made about Trump’s impeachment trial, saying on Friday that he was “anxious” to see how Senate Republicans would vote in the impeachment trial and whether they would “stand up.”

“I’m just anxious to see what my Republican friends do, if they stand up,” Biden told CNN in his first comments about the impeachment trial since the House impeachment managers rested their case on Thursday.

Biden said he did not plan to speak with any senators about the trial or how they would vote.

House impeachment managers this week aired disturbing and gripping footage showing rioters violently attacking officers and coming dangerously close to reaching lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence as they fled the House and Senate chambers. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the riot at the Capitol.

Despite the national spotlight being on Trump’s impeachment trial, the White House has stressed it is focused on carrying out Biden’s agenda, including passing the President’s sweeping coronavirus relief bill.