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Biden On Trump Acquittal: 'The Substance Of The Charge Is Not In Dispute'

President Biden said the attack on the Capitol "has reminded us that democracy is fragile." Above, Biden speaks during a visit Thursday to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
President Biden said the attack on the Capitol "has reminded us that democracy is fragile." Above, Biden speaks during a visit Thursday to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

President Biden responded to the Senate's acquittal of Donald Trump on Saturday by reminding Americans that truth must be defended, saying the impeachment of the former president was a stark illustration of the danger posed to democracy by lies, misinformation and extremism.

And Biden said that although Trump was acquitted, his actions in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 insurrection were not "in dispute."

"This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile," Biden said in a statement. "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."

A majority of senators voted to hold Trump guilty on one charge of inciting an insurrection, but the 57-43 tally fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction. In all, seven Republicans voted to convict the former president, making Saturday's vote the most bipartisan in a presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.

"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."

Until his comments on Saturday, Biden had remained mostly silent about his predecessor's impeachment, telling reporters last week that he did not even plan to watch the trial. He neither fully supported — nor opposed — the vote by the House of Representatives last month to impeach Trump, saying he wanted to leave the matter up to Congress. He also declined to say whether the Senate should move to convict.

In his statement, Biden paid homage to Capitol Hill Police officer Brian Sicknick — one of the five people who died during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — and said he was thinking "about all those who lost their lives, all those whose lives were threatened, and all those who are still today living with the terror they lived through that day."

The president said the task ahead for the nation was to follow the example set by those who have "demonstrated the courage to protect the integrity of our democracy."

"That is how we end this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation," he said. "That is the task ahead. And it's a task we must undertake together. As the United States of America."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: February 14, 2021 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that a majority of senators voted to acquit Trump on a charge of inciting an insurrection. A majority of senators voted to hold Trump guilty, but the vote fell short of the threshold needed for conviction.