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Senate acquits Trump of impeachment charges, only Sen. Mitt Romney breaking Republican support

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, right, departs after the impeachment acquittal of President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill, Wed
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, right, departs after the impeachment acquittal of President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was acquitted Wednesday by the Republican-controlled Senate of charges e abused the powers of his office and obstructed Congress as it probed his attempts to pressure Ukraine into political investigations.

While predicted, the outcome caps a tumultuous trial that leaves Trump’s fate in the hands of voters Nov. 3.

Democrats fell far short of the two-thirds majority required to remove Trump from office, as senators voted 52-48 to acquit him on the abuse-of-power allegation and 53-47 to clear him of obstruction.

The outcome represented a political triumph for the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who successfully held together nearly the entire GOP caucus in blocking witnesses or additional evidence from the proceedings.

Just one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, voted to convict Trump of abuse of power.

Shortly after the twin acquittal votes, Trump tweeted he will deliver a statement Thursday on “our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!” He also tweeted a clip featuring a mock magazine cover with signs showing him staying in office far beyond the two terms permitted under the Constitution.

“Throughout this wholly corrupt process, President Trump successfully advanced the interests of the United States and remained focused on the issues that matter to Americans,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. “He spent his time achieving real victories for the people of this country, and the Democrats — once again — have nothing to show for their fraudulent schemes.”

Iowa’s senators — both Republicans, Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley — sided with Trump.

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“The arguments of the House Managers simply did not demonstrate that the president’s actions rise to an impeachable offense, said Sen. Joni Ernst. “Given the constitutional requirements, voting any other way on these articles would remove the ability of the American people to make their own decision at the ballot box in November.”

The third impeachment trial of a president in U.S. history concluded one of the most bitter episodes in recent memory in Washington — marked by partisan fighting over what constitutes a fair trial, furious debates over the propriety of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and outsize pressure on a small core of moderate GOP senators who held considerable sway.

The vote by Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, robbed the president of the unified GOP opposition against impeachment that he had enjoyed and repeatedly boasted of since the inquiry began in September. Romney is the first senator in history to vote to remove a president of his or her own party.

Romney called Trump’s demand to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that he investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, a “flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values.”

In a July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump pressed him to investigate not only the Bidens but a discredited theory that it was Ukraine rather than Russia that attempted to interfere in the 2016 election.

“There’s no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the president would never have done what he did,” Romney said in an eight-minute speech.

Democrats accused Republicans of emboldening an unchecked president who sought foreign influence in U.S. campaigns for his personal benefit.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., insisted that Democrats were not motivated by politics and said “Democrats walked out of the Senate chamber with their heads held high.”

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Ripples from impeachment also may continue in the House, with Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and one of the impeachment managers, saying Wednesday that Democrats will likely subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton in the near future.

“When you have a lawless president, you have to bring that to the fore, you have to spotlight that,” Nadler told reporters. Bolton has said he would appear before the Senate if subpoenaed but has been silent on whether he would appear before the House.

The question of whether Trump should stay in office now moves from the Senate chamber to the presidential campaign trail.

The issue is also likely to surface in competitive Senate races, mostly as Democrats target GOP senators for aligning themselves with Trump and his conduct.

But in a victory lap news conference after the votes, McConnell said the Democrats’ decision to proceed with impeachment was a “colossal political mistake.”

The majority leader noted that Trump is enjoying some of his strongest approval ratings now and added that “as a poll watcher who’s looking at polls in certain Senate races, every one of our people in tough races ... is in better shape today than they were before the impeachment trial started.”

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