Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah denies Trump unanimous GOP support in removal vote
WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump won impeachment acquittal Wednesday in the U.S. Senate, bringing to a close only the third presidential trial in American history with votes that split the country, tested civic norms and fed the tumultuous 2020 race for the White House.
With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, senators sworn to do “impartial justice” stood and stated their votes for the roll call — “guilty” or “not guilty” — in a swift tally almost exclusively along party lines. Trump, the chief justice then declared, shall “be, and is hereby, acquitted of the charges.”
The outcome followed months of remarkable impeachment proceedings, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House to Mitch McConnell’s Senate, reflecting the nation’s unrelenting partisan divide three years into the Trump 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, political gain as he pressured the ally to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the next election.
No president has ever been removed by the Senate.
A politically emboldened Trump had 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” as an extension of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian 2016 campaign interference by those out to get him from the start of his presidency.
Trump’s political campaign tweeted videos, statements and a cartoon dance celebration, while the president himself tweeted that he would speak Thursday from the White House about “our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax.”
However, the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said there will always be “a giant asterisk next to the president’s acquittal” because of the Senate’s quick trial and Republicans’ unprecedented rejection of witnesses.
A majority of senators expressed unease with Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine that resulted in the two articles of impeachment. But two-thirds of them would have had to vote “guilty” to reach the Constitution’s bar of high crimes and misdemeanors to convict and remove Trump from office. The final tallies in the GOP-held Senate fell far short.
On the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, the vote was 52-48 favoring acquittal. The second, obstruction of Congress, also produced a not guilty verdict, 53-47.
Only one Republican, Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s defeated 2012 presidential nominee, broke with the GOP.
Romney choked up as he said he drew on his faith and “oath before God” to vote guilty on the first charge, abuse of power. He voted to acquit on the second.
All Democrats found the president guilty on the two charges.
Both Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 drew cross-party support when they were left in office after impeachment trials. Richard Nixon resigned rather than face sure impeachment, expecting members of his own party to vote to remove him.
Ahead of Wednesday’s voting, some of the most closely watched senators took to the Senate floor to tell their constituents, and the nation, what they had decided.
Influential GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee worried a guilty verdict would “pour gasoline on the fire” of the nation’s culture wars over Trump and “rip the country apart.’’ He said the House proved its case but it just didn’t rise to the level of impeachment.
Other Republicans siding with Trump said it was time to end what McConnell called the “circus” and move on.
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.
President Donald Trump welcomes Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to the White House. The Senate acquitted Trump of impeachment charges on Wednesday. On the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, the vote was 5248 favoring acquittal. The second, obstruction of Congress, also produced a not guilty verdict, 53-47.