What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber

What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber
© Greg Nash

The upper chamber was strangely quiet before the Senate began voting Wednesday on whether to convict President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE on two articles of impeachment, standing in remarkable contrast to the weeks of loud chest-beating over whether he should be removed from office.

The outcome was not in question. Senators had declared their decisions in the three days leading up to the two crucial votes and Trump was all but certain to be acquitted.

Still, the chamber, that for weeks had been defined by partisan acrimony, paused its political war cries and followed Senate decorum by remaining silent as this moment became history. 


Most Democrats took their seats so they could hear Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' MORE (D-N.Y.) make his final remarks before the vote. As he spoke, Republicans shuffled into the chamber and took their seats. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Trump blasts Obama speech for Biden as 'fake' after Obama hits Trump's tax payments White House hoping for COVID-19 relief deal 'within weeks': spokeswoman MORE (R-Ky.) had the final say, noting that he hoped this was the end of the effort to remove the president, not the beginning.

During a break shortly before the vote, senators made small talk in the chamber.

Democratic senators greeted the House impeachment managers. Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinMurkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade Democrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett MORE (D-Calif.) was seen talking to fellow Californian Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenWhy prevailing wage reform matters for H-1B visas Fears grow of voter suppression in Texas Business groups start gaming out a Biden administration MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court FCC reaffirms order rolling back net neutrality regulations Markey rips GOP for support of Amy Coney Barrett: Originalism 'just a fancy word for discrimination' MORE (D-Mass.) chatted with Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIn our 'Bizarro World' of 2020 politics, the left takes a wrong turn Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager. 

The White House defense team, meanwhile, appeared to largely talk among themselves as they took their seats, awaiting their client's verdict.

Some reporters excitedly detailed an interaction in which Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  Susan Collins and the American legacy MORE (D-W.Va.), two Democrats who had previously been considered swing votes, embraced one another in a hug. 


At the time the reporters, who are prohibited from having their phones in the chamber, didn’t know that Manchin had announced minutes before the 4 p.m. scheduled vote that he intended to vote to convict. 

The Senate was then called to order. While reporters could not see Chief Justice John Roberts from the press seating area in Senate gallery, he could be heard relaying instructions on how the Senate vote would go.

Roberts said he would go down the list of senators’ names, a process done in alphabetical order, at which point they would “stand in his or her place and vote guilty or not guilty.” 

The first vote focused on the charge that Trump abused his power by using $391 million in U.S. military aid to Kyiv to pressure the Ukrainian government to open investigations to benefit his reelection, including into a 2020 political rival.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Senate Health Committee chair asks Cuomo, Newsom to 'stop second guessing' FDA on vaccine efficacy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base MORE (R-Tenn.) was the first to stand and announce his vote: "Not guilty." 

Then, jumping across the aisle, Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinInfrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak MORE (D-Wis.) rose to cast Democrats' first formal vote as "guilty."

The vote followed a similar volleyball-like pattern, with senators going back and forth standing up and announcing their vote.  

When Manchin, who has enjoyed a friendly relationship with the president, stood and announced his vote as "guilty," Baldwin – sitting next to him – nodded in approval.  

All eyes were Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Memo: Five reasons why Trump could upset the odds Will anyone from the left realize why Trump won — again? Ratings drop to 55M for final Trump-Biden debate MORE, who was one of the last senators to enter the chamber for the vote. When his turn came, reporters and the public alike craned their heads to watch. 

He was set to become the first senator in U.S. history to vote in an impeachment trial to remove a president of his own party.

Romney had previously been flushed with emotion, choking up as he announced on the Senate floor that he would vote to convict Trump on one charge, abuse of power, just two hours earlier. But by the time the formal vote arrived, the Utah Republican had regained his composure, maintaining an expressionless face as he rose from his seat – surrounded by allies of the president -- and voted "guilty."

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G MORE (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican, was among the GOP senators who turned in their seats to look at Romney as he broke with the party line. 


In contrast with the many weeks deliberations and debates, it took roughly 10 minutes for the first vote to finish and the acquittal announcement on the charge of abuse of power to be made.

Roberts read the final tally, with 48 voting to convict and 52 voting to acquit. The Senate did not reach the threshold of a two-thirds majority to remove Trump from office, Roberts said.

Democrats did not stir when the announcement was made, a likely sign that they had long known what the outcome of the vote would be. There was no climax, just closure.

The second vote followed a similar pattern with Roberts going through the roll call on the second impeachment article, obstruction of Congress. House Democrats had accused Trump of obstructing their inquiry into his contacts with Ukraine by blocking the release of documents and witness testimony.

But this vote, unlike the previous one, was strictly along party lines with Romney choosing to vote “not guilty.” The final vote count landed at 47-53.

Roberts again said that the threshold had not been met and announced that Trump was acquitted of the charges laid against him.


“The Senate having tried Donald John Trump, President of the United States, upon two articles of impeachment exhibited against him by the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the senators present not having found him guilty of the charges contained therein,” Roberts read in part. “It is therefore ordered and adjudged that the said Donald John Trump be, and he is hereby, acquitted of the charges in the said articles.” 

After a months-long, highly-partisan process, the third impeachment trial in history of a U.S. president concluded with a bipartisan moment -- applause for Roberts and others who helped the trial take place.

McConnell offered praise to Roberts, thanking him for the hours he spent overseeing the trial, which often stretched late into the night. McConnell awarded him a golden gavel for his service. 

The Senate pages -- who were often seen running back and forth handing out water and slips of paper to restless senators -- also received claps from both sides. Both McConnell and Schumer praised them for coming into these high-profile roles in the midst of a hectic, historic event. 

The Senate then adjourned and the chamber started to clear.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntPower players play chess match on COVID-19 aid GOP to Trump: Focus on policy Low-flying helicopters to measure radiation levels in DC before inauguration MORE (R-Mo.) walked beside Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySchumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-Vt.) with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamNew Lincoln Project ad goes after Lindsey Graham: 'A political parasite' The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Justice Barrett joins court; one week until Election Day Biden's polling lead over Trump looks more comfortable than Clinton's MORE (R-S.C.) and Feinstein following behind them as they escorted Roberts out of the Senate chamber. 


The impeachment managers followed as they were led out of the chamber in a single file.

After the House members left the floor, senators and others on the floor began to leave.

White House defense lawyer Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowTrump cannot block grand jury subpoena for his tax returns, court rules Now, we need the election monitors Judge denies Trump's request for a stay on subpoena for tax records MORE could be seen shaking hands with his team members before they walked off the floor.

Still, some senators hung back.

One of the senators who appeared to linger after the vote was Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who had been considered a swing vote on whether to convict or acquit. Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeePocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Grand jury charges no officers in Breonna Taylor death Hillicon Valley: Murky TikTok deal raises questions about China's role | Twitter investigating automated image previews over apparent algorithmic bias | House approves bill making hacking federal voting systems a crime MORE (D-Texas), who was one of multiple House members watching the vote from inside the chamber, went up and shook his hand. Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoOvernight Defense: Dems want hearing on DOD role on coronavirus vaccine | US and India sign data-sharing pact | American citizen kidnapped in Niger Senate Democrats want hearing on Pentagon vaccine effort FCC reaffirms order rolling back net neutrality regulations MORE (D-Hawaii) joined them, giving Jones a hug. 

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Democrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  MORE (D-Ill.) shook his hand in passing as he left the Senate floor.

Jones then went over to talk to Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - One week out, where the Trump, Biden race stands The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Justice Barrett joins court; one week until Election Day House Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Justice Barrett joins court; one week until Election Day Harris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' MORE (R-Alaska), two moderate Republicans who ultimately decided against voting to convict the president, despite describing his conduct as wrong and inappropriate. 

It was unclear what the three talked about, but the discussion appeared friendly. The two female senators, leaning on their desks, nodded emphatically as they spoke to him. And at one point, Murkowski extended her arm and placed it on Jones's shoulder.

After the floor cleared, many senators reprised one often-seen act by running to the cameras in the Senate basement.  

Manchin, Jones and others stopped to talk to reporters about how they arrived at the decisions they did.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, took a celebratory lap, cheering the results, while also forecasting that House Democrats will keep plowing forward with their investigations into the president they had just impeached.