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UPDATE 2-With Trump impeachment trial over, wounded Washington grapples with divisions

Jeff Mason and Susan Cornwell
·4 min read

(Adds Senators Graham and Murphy, details about McConnell,Murkowski quote)

By Jeff Mason and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Former President DonaldTrump's acquittal on charges of inciting a deadly attack on theU.S. Capitol left Democrats and Republicans deeply divided onSunday even as his Democratic successor, Joe Biden, sought tomove on with his political and economic agenda.

Democrats said they looked to the courts for possible civiland criminal charges against the former Republican presidentover the assault by his supporters on Jan. 6, which left fivepeople dead.

The Senate trial concluded on Saturday with a 57-43 vote infavor of convicting Trump. The vote was bipartisan, with sevenRepublicans joining Democrats and independents, but the tallyfell short of the two-thirds needed to secure conviction.

After the verdict, a fractured Republican party was battlingover the way forward, with some senators who voted to convictfacing swift backlash in their home states.

Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham said he had talked toTrump on Saturday night about uniting the Republican party underhis leadership.

"You know, he is ready to move on and rebuild the RepublicanParty. He's excited about 2022," Graham told Fox News Sunday,referring to congressional elections next year.

But Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the Republicans who foundTrump guilty, said on Sunday he believed more of hisconstituents would come to agree with him as the facts becameknown. Republican party leaders in Cassidy's home state ofLouisiana voted on Saturday to censure the senator for his vote.

"I'm attempting to hold President Trump accountable ... I amvery confident as time passes, people will move to thatposition," Cassidy said on ABC's "This Week" when asked aboutcensure.

The party leader in Pennsylvania, Lawrence Tabas, alsocriticized its Republican Senator Pat Toomey for voting toconvict.

Some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader MitchMcConnell, criticized Trump's actions on Jan. 6 even as theyvoted to acquit him. McConnell blasted the former president onSaturday as morally responsible for the Capitol attack, but saidhe didn't vote to convict because Trump was no longer in office.

Cassidy declined to say whether Trump should face criminalcharges. But Democratic Senator Chris Coons told ABC he thoughtthis could happen.

"I think there's ground for further proceedings, both civiland criminal, against former President Trump," Coons said.

Coons said the country needed to set up a 9/11-stylecommission to investigate the events of Jan. 6. But he and otherDemocrats said it was the correct decision not to call witnessesin the Senate trial. Calling witnesses might have prolonged thetrial by weeks and even lost some votes to convict on theRepublican side, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy told CNN.

'DEMOCRACY IS FRAGILE'

The assault on the Capitol forced lawmakers to evacuatecongressional chambers in fear for their safety in the middlecertifying Biden's win in the November election, which Trumpfalsely maintained he lost due to widespread electoral fraud.

Biden, who took office on Jan. 20, appealed for unity to"heal this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation,"saying each American had a duty and a responsibility to defendthe truth.

"This sad chapter in our history has reminded us thatdemocracy is fragile. That it must always be defended. That wemust be ever vigilant. That violence and extremism has no placein America," Biden said in a statement.

Trump, while hailing the acquittal, called the Houseimpeachment and trial in the Senate a "witch hunt." Trump is theonly president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives NancyPelosi called Republicans who did not support conviction“cowardly.”

Biden, who stayed largely out of the fray during theimpeachment proceedings, is eager to pass a $1.9 trillionpandemic relief bill and have the remaining nominees for hisCabinet confirmed by the Senate. But lawmakers' disagreementsare likely to linger.

The Republican Senators who voted in favor of convictionalso included Richard Burr, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, MittRomney and Ben Sasse.

Murkowski, of Alaska, is the only one of the seven up forre-election in 2022. The other six either are retiring fromCongress or their six-year terms do not expire that year.

Murkowski published a defense of her decision on Twitter onSunday, saying that if Trump's actions were not worthy ofimpeachment, "I cannot imagine what is."

Trump has repeatedly threatened to go after Republicans whodo not support him by endorsing opponents in their primaryelections. On Saturday he indicated he was thinking about hisown political future, without divulging details.(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Raphael Satter andRichard Cowan; Editing by Mary Milliken and Sonya Hepinstall)