NOT GUILTY: Trump acquitted in historic presidential impeachment trial
CONTINUING COVERAGE: IMPEACHMENT
By Tim Darnell
Feb 5, 2020
Romney breaks with GOP on first vote | Trump memes never-ending presidency
President Donald Trump was acquitted on both Democrat-led articles of impeachment Wednesday in the Senate.
On the first article of impeachment — abuse of power — Trump was acquitted 52-48.
On the second article of impeachment — obstruction of Congress — the president was acquitted 53-47.
The acquittal brings to an end the nation’s second impeachment trial in history.
The vote was held along party lines with one exception — Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah — who announced on the Senate floor that he was breaking with his party on the first charge, abuse of power. Romney appeared to choke up as he spoke of his deep faith and “oath before God” demanding that he vote for impeachment.
“The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” Romney said on the Senate floor. “What the president did was wrong, grievously wrong.”
Watch the vote on the first charge.
However, Romney voted with Republicans on the second count, obstruction of Congress.
Watch the vote on the second charge.
Trump's acquittal came less than 24 hours after he delivered his State of the Union address, joining Bill Clinton as only the second American president to make the speech while undergoing a Senate impeachment trial.
Immediately after the vote, Trump posted a Twitter meme referencing a seemingly never-ending presidency.
What started as Trump’s request for Ukraine to “do us a favor” spun into a far-reaching, 28,000-page report compiled by House investigators accusing an American president of engaging in shadow diplomacy that threatened U.S. foreign relations for personal and political gain as he pressured the ally to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 election.
A politically emboldened Trump has eagerly predicted vindication, deploying the verdict as a political anthem in his reelection bid. The president claims he did nothing wrong, decrying the “witch hunt” and “hoax” as extensions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian 2016 campaign interference by those out to get him from the start of his presidency.
The Wednesday afternoon vote was swift. With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over the trial, senators sworn to do “impartial justice” stood at their desks for the roll call and stated their votes — “guilty” or “not guilty.”
Ahead of voting, some of the most closely watched senators took to the Senate floor to tell their constituents, and the nation, what they had decided. The Senate chaplain opened the trial with daily prayers for the senators, including one Wednesday seeking “integrity.”
Influential GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring, worried that a guilty verdict would “pour gasoline on the fire” of the nation’s culture wars over Trump. He said the House proved its case but it just didn’t rise to the level of impeachment.
“It would rip the country apart,” Alexander said before his vote.
Other Republicans siding with Trump said it was time to end what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the “circus” and move on. Trump ally GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said it was a “sham” designed to destroy a presidency.
Most Democrats, though, echoed the House managers’ warnings that Trump, if left unchecked, would continue to abuse the power of his office for personal political gain and try to “cheat” again ahead of the 2020 election.
Democrat after Democrat took to the Senate floor to announce they would vote to convict Trump, with senior Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island outraged by the conduct of White House lawyers, whom he said performed for an audience of one — meaning Trump — while playing fast and loose with the facts.
“The presentation by White House counsel was characterized by smarminess, smear, elision, outright misstatement and various dishonest rhetorical tricks that I doubt they would dare to pull before judges,” said Whitehouse.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, perhaps the only Democrat seen as a likely vote to acquit Trump, had floated the idea of censuring Trump instead, though the idea doesn't seem to be gaining much traction. Sen. Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor and Democrat seeking reelection in strongly pro-Trump Alabama, voted to convict Trump on both charges.
The U.S. Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, or 67 senators, to convict in an impeachment trial.
Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate, while Democrats hold 45. However, two Independents — including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont — regularly caucus with Democrats, giving the nation’s blue party 47 votes.
The first article of impeachment passed by the House charged Trump with abuse of power.
Democrats alleged Trump “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election to his advantage.”
The “election prospects of a political opponent” refer to Biden, a former vice president who is currently a front-runner in a narrowing field of Democratic White House hopefuls.
The president “also sought to pressure the government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official U.S. government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of investigations.”
Democrats argued the president “used the powers of his presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the nation.”