In a predictable, but no less historic vote, President Donald J. Trump has been acquitted by the Senate on the charges contained in two articles of impeachment, related to abuse of power and obstruction of Congress that had been endorsed by the House of Representatives in December.
The Senate overwhelmingly acquitted President Trump on both articles of impeachment following a brief trial, in a pointed rejection of Democrats’ claims that the president’s Ukraine dealings and handling of congressional subpoenas merited his immediate removal from office.
All Democratic senators supported convicting the president of abuse of power and obstruction of justice, including swing-vote moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Doug Jones, D-Ala.
The only party defection was on the abuse of power charge from Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who declared hours before the final vote that Trump had engaged in as “destructive an attack on the oath of office and our Constitution as I can imagine.” Romney voted not guilty on the obstruction charge.
By a final vote of 52-48 against conviction on the abuse of power charge and 53-47 on the obstruction charge, the Senate fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict and remove the president. Swing-vote Republican senators — including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — voted to acquit on both counts.
The separate obstruction of Congress charge concerned the White House’s assertion of executive privilege and refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas. Romney explained he would acquit on the obstruction count, saying House Democrats had chosen not to respond to the White House’s legal arguments against the subpoenas.
After Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts formally declared Trump acquitted, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., presented him with the “Golden Gavel” award as a thank-you for his service. Former Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist received the same award — which is usually presented to freshmen senators after long hours presiding over the body — for his handling of President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial.
“I look forward to seeing you all again under happier circumstances,” Roberts said as he concluded his remarks and prepared to depart the chamber.
A “Political Loser”
Speaking to reporters after the vote, McConnell noted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had resisted calls for impeachment from the party’s progressive wing before finally caving — and said she should have trusted her “instincts,” which he argued were the reason she decided to rush through the impeachment proceedings.
“I’m pretty sure she didn’t want to do this,” McConnell said, referring to Pelosi’s lengthy reluctance to initiate impeachment proceedings. Trump, speaking to Fox News ahead of the Super Bowl, made a similar argument, saying the “radical” wing of the Democratic Party had pushed her into making a grave mistake and realizing her “worst nightmare.”
McConnell also said he was “perplexed” by Democrats’ arguments that the evidence against Trump was overwhelming and obvious, but at the same time, more witnesses and evidence were desperately needed. He called the proceedings a “thoroughly political exercise,” and added that ironically, Pelosi was right “in the beginning” when she didn’t want to go down this path.
“This was a political loser for them,” McConnell said. “At least in the short-term, it has been a colossal political mistake.”
While the result has been expected for months, the process brought a series of surprises and heightened animosity to Washington — exemplified dramatically during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, in which Pelosi furiously ripped up the president’s speech upon its conclusion.
Speaking ahead of the vote, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. issued a dire warning to Democrats. “By legitimizing this impeachment process,” he said, “what you have done is unleash the partisan forces of hell.”