WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump said yesterday that he suffered a "terrible ordeal" during his impeachment, in his first public comments since being cleared by the Republican-controlled Senate on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the gravest threat yet to his three-year-old presidency.
He said he had been "put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people".
"They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing very badly hurt our nation," he said at a televised prayer breakfast with a who's who of Washington power brokers.
Mr Trump watched the Senate vote on Wednesday with top aides in a White House dining room that he uses as a private study, a senior administration official said.
The US leader said he would deliver a public statement "to discuss our country's VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!"
On Twitter, he posted a video showing Trump campaign signs for future elections from 2024 ending with "Trump 4EVA".
Mr Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement: "President Trump has been totally vindicated and it's now time to get back to the business of the American people."
Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the acquittal of Mr Trump and said he remains "an ongoing threat to American democracy".
Only the third US leader ever placed on trial, Mr Trump readily defeated the effort to expel him from office for having illicitly sought help from Ukraine to bolster his 2020 re-election effort.
Despite being confronted with strong evidence, Republicans stayed loyal and mustered a majority of votes to clear him of both charges - by 52 to 48 on the first, and 53 to 47 on the second - falling far short of the two-thirds supermajority required for conviction.
"Two-thirds of the senators present not having pronounced him guilty, the Senate adjudges that respondent Donald John Trump, President of the United States, is not guilty as charged," said Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over the impeachment trial.
One Republican, Senator Mitt Romney, a long-time Trump foe, risked White House wrath by voting alongside Democrats on the first count, saying Mr Trump was "guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust". He voted not guilty on the second charge.
The verdict, which was never truly in question since the House of Representatives formally impeached Mr Trump in December, cleared out a major hurdle for the President to fully plunge into his campaign for re-election in November.
Mr Trump had repeatedly dismissed the probe as a "hoax" and a "witch hunt" but argued that he had the right as president to pressure Ukraine, while refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas for testimony and documents.
Democrats were dejected but not surprised, after an intense 78-day House investigation that faced public doubts and high-pressure stonewalling from the White House.
Anticipating the likely party-line vote by the senators, Ms Pelosi repeatedly said that, whatever happened, Mr Trump would join two previous presidents as being tarred with the "impeached" label.
Mr Trump's lawyers and Senate defenders argued, essentially, that the President's behaviour was not egregious enough for impeachment and removal.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS