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 TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Most Democrats took their seats so they could hear Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Democrats block two Senate abortion bills 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 McConnellRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Democrats block two Senate abortion bills VA could lead way for nation on lower drug pricing 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 FeinsteinCalifornia lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe House passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum MORE (D-Calif.) was seen talking to fellow Californian Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenTop Democrats demand answers on DHS plans to deploy elite agents to sanctuary cities Gillibrand proposes creating new digital privacy agency GOP senator proposes overhauling federal agency to confront Big Tech MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyKennedy, Markey neck-and-neck in Massachusetts primary: poll Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development MORE (D-Mass.) chatted with Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOcasio-Cortez: Trump would 'never' say to her face some of the shots he takes at her on Twitter John Ratcliffe back under consideration by Trump for top intel job Trump says he wants 'no help from any country' in 2020 election 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) ManchinOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way MORE (D-W.Va.), two Democrats who had previously been considered swing votes, embraced one another in a hug. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 AlexanderLawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn The Trump administration's harmful and immoral attack on children MORE (R-Tenn.) was the first to stand and announce his vote: "Not guilty." 

Then, jumping across the aisle, Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOvernight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Democratic senators press Amazon over injury rates 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 RomneyLawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Romney: Trump administration unprepared for coronavirus outbreak Ex-Romney adviser praises economic populism 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 BarrassoWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Senators to meet with Zelensky after impeachment trial GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 BluntSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' MORE (R-Mo.) walked beside Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (D-Vt.) with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocrats duke it out in most negative debate so far Republicans give Barr vote of confidence Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (R-S.C.) and Feinstein following behind them as they escorted Roberts out of the Senate chamber. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 SekulowWhat the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber Senate votes to acquit Trump on articles of impeachment Roberts emerges unscathed from bitter impeachment trial 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 LeeWhat the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber No experience required: US hiring immigration judges who don't have any immigration law experience Trump administration restricts travel from Nigeria and five other countries 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 HironoDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Senate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber MORE (D-Hawaii) joined them, giving Jones a hug. 

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe 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 CollinsOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic MacGregor confirmed as Interior deputy chief 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.