Senate votes to acquit Trump on articles of impeachment
The Senate on Wednesday voted to acquit President Trump on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings with Ukraine, marking the end of the months-long saga that has dominated Washington.
Senators voted 48-52 on abuse of power and 47-53 on obstruction, falling well short of the two-thirds requirement for convicting Trump and removing him office.
But, in a blow to Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) efforts to keep Republicans unified, Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, announced less than two hours before the vote that he would vote to convict Trump on the abuse of power charge, while acquitting him on the second article.
“The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did. … The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” Romney said during a Senate floor speech.
Refuting months of GOP predictions, no Democratic senators voted to acquit Trump. Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — all seen as potential swing votes — announced earlier Wednesday that they would vote to convict.
Trump is the third president to be impeached in the country’s history, and the first to run for reelection afterward. The battle also marked the first that occurred while the chambers of Congress weren’t controlled by the same party, setting up the most sectarian and acrimonious of the three presidential impeachments.
When the articles passed in the House in December, two Democrats — Reps. Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Jefferson Van Drew (N.J.) — voted against them, while Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), a White House hopeful, voted “present.” No House Republicans voted to impeach Trump, and Van Drew announced he was joining the GOP.
Wednesday’s votes cap off a weeks-long impeachment trial in which Trump’s legal team and House managers spent hours making their case to the senators, but also to the American public.
With the outcome of the trial pre-baked — Republicans have a 53-seat majority, and Democrats needed 67 votes to convict — the arguments were really meant to sway a handful of undecided senators in both parties and for the benefit of voters ahead of November’s elections.
McConnell immediately declared victory after the votes closed, calling impeachment a “colossal political mistake” for Democrats.
“The president has his highest approval rating since he’s been in office. … Every one of our people in tough races is in better shape today than they were before the impeachment trial started,” McConnell told reporters during a press conference.
Asked about Romney’s vote, the GOP leader conceded that he was “surprised and disappointed,” but noted Romney had supported most of the party’s agenda.
The trial wasn’t without its drama: Debate raged around the Capitol until late last week about whether or not there would be a tie on a crucial vote on witnesses.
Republicans had faced days of intense scrutiny to call former national security adviser John Bolton after The New York Times reported that he will claim in his forthcoming memoir — entitled “The Room Where It Happened”— that Trump tied Ukraine aid to the country helping with investigations into Democrats including former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential candidate, and his son Hunter Biden.
Romney noted ahead of the vote that he had hoped to hear from Bolton “because I believed he could add context to the charges but also because I hoped that what he might say could raise reasonable doubt and thus remove from me the awful obligation to vote for impeachment.”
Despite the jostling, the facts underlying Trump’s impeachment are not seriously contested: Trump and his allies pressed Ukrainian leaders to open investigations — the first into Hunter Biden and the second on debunked theories that Kyiv, not Moscow, meddled in the 2016 election.
At the same time, the administration temporarily delayed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, which is fighting Russian aggression in eastern parts of the country.
But the pieces for Trump’s quick acquittal began to fall into place on Thursday night when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he would not vote to hear new witnesses, a blow to the Democratic effort to get four GOP senators to side with them to compel new testimony.
Alexander, contradicting the Republican talking points, said that Trump engaged in “inappropriate” but not impeachable behavior. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) called Trump’s behavior “shameful and wrong,” while Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Trump showed “poor judgement.”
“We expect a bipartisan vote in the United States Senate,” Vice President Pence had said earlier on Wednesday in an interview with Fox News. “The only bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives was against the articles of impeachment. And we expect a bipartisan vote in the United States Senate today.”
Trump is expected to address the votes in the Senate later on Wednesday after ignoring impeachment in his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress last night.
The first article of impeachment accused Trump of “using the powers of his high office” to solicit “the interference of a foreign government … in the 2020 United States 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 election, the article states.
White House lawyers repeatedly countered during the trial that Trump delayed the Ukraine aid over concerns about corruption and burden sharing with other countries.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow quickly declared victory on Wednesday and brushed off questions about Romney.
“We’re very pleased with the result. I’m glad this is behind us. I’m glad this is behind the country,” Sekulow said.
Pressed on Romney, he added: “The president has been acquitted of all charges. We’re not concerned about anything. I have no reaction to it. My reaction is the president won.”
— Updated at 5:12 p.m.