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 TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' 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. 

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Most Democrats took their seats so they could hear Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment 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 McConnellSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus 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 FeinsteinGraham announces hearing on police use of force after George Floyd killing Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter MORE (D-Calif.) was seen talking to fellow Californian Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBipartisan senators call for investigation of TikTok's child privacy policies OVERNIGHT ENERGY: New documents show EPA rolled back mileage standards despite staff, WH concerns | Land management bureau grants 75 royalty rate cuts for oil and gas | EPA employees allege leadership interference with science in watchdog survey EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 MORE (D-Mass.) chatted with Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers 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) ManchinDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December MORE (D-W.Va.), two Democrats who had previously been considered swing votes, embraced one another in a hug. 

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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 AlexanderSenate GOP chairman criticizes Trump withdrawal from WHO Trump: US 'terminating' relationship with WHO Soured on Fox, Trump may be seeking new propaganda outlet MORE (R-Tenn.) was the first to stand and announce his vote: "Not guilty." 

Then, jumping across the aisle, Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinWarren calls for investigation into OSHA inspections during pandemic Mail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight Justice Department investigating meat price increases: report 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 RomneyDemocrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog Coronavirus and America's economic miracle Former Romney strategist joins anti-Trump Lincoln Project 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 BarrassoIRS proposes guidance for expanded carbon capture tax credit No better time to modernize America's energy infrastructure EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 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.

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“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 BluntWashington prepares for a summer without interns GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (R-Mo.) walked beside Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  MORE (D-Vt.) with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Graham announces hearing on police use of force after George Floyd killing In a new cold war with China, America may need to befriend Russia MORE (R-S.C.) and Feinstein following behind them as they escorted Roberts out of the Senate chamber. 

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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 SekulowAppeals court rejects Trump effort to throw out emoluments case Supreme Court divided over fight for Trump's financial records   Meadows joins White House in crisis mode 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 LeePelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' Impeachment figure among those chosen for Facebook's new oversight board Texas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order 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 HironoFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Conservative group launches campaign accusing Democrats of hypocrisy on Kavanuagh, Biden MORE (D-Hawaii) joined them, giving Jones a hug. 

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight 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 CollinsDemocrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Unemployment claims now at 41 million with 2.1 million more added to rolls; Topeka mayor says cities don't have enough tests for minorities and homeless communities MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas 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.