The Republican Party in the United States has been thrown into deep reflection over its relationship with Donald Trump, following a partisan vote in the Senate that absolved the former president of responsibility for a deadly mob attack on the Congress on January 6th.
In an impeachment hearing followed around the world, the Senate failed - along party lines - to reach the two-thirds vote margin needed to convict Mr Trump.
Seven Republicans voted with the Democrats in a 57 to 43 split, 10 votes short of the required 67.
It was the controversial ex-president’s record second impeachment hearing and again escaping conviction which this time would have banned him from running for the presidency again.
The depth of soul searching amongst Republicans over their party's future comes as Mr Trump is now strategising for another presidential run in 2024.
That splintering, already evident with key former allies distancing themselves from their erstwhile leader, was brought into sharp focus with an unequivocal condemnation of Mr Trump by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.
Shortly after he voted to acquit him, Mr McConnell launched a blistering attack on Mr Trump accusing him of being “practically and morally responsible” for the mob attack.
“They did this because they’d been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth because he was angry he lost an election,” he stated despite casting the equivalent of a "not guilty" verdict.
Continuing his condemnation of the former president's instigation of the attack, Mr McConnell said: "He did not do his job. He didn't take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored."
Despite that, Mr McConnell said Trump was not "constitutionally eligible for conviction" as he had already left office by the time of the hearing.
However, it was Mr McConnell, then as Senate majority leader, who had blocked an attempt by the Democrats to hold the impeachment hearing before he'd left office.
An emboldened Donald Trump said after the acquittal, "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.”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has decried the outcome of the process which led to his political nemesis being let off the hook.
"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," Mr Biden said.
In a statement after the acquittal, he added: "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."
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