The acquittal on both articles of impeachment was not a surprise, as few expected enough Republicans to break ranks and reach the 67 vote threshold needed to convict and remove Trump from office.
But still it was dramatic and historic, covered across broadcast and cable networks. This was the third time in American history that a president has been impeached — and the third time that there has been an acquittal after a Senate trial.
The vote on Article I, for abuse of power, was 52-48 to acquit, and it was 53-47 on Article II, for obstruction of Congress.
One element of suspense was whether any senators would cross party lines. Just hours before the vote, Mitt Romney gave a speech on the Senate floor in which he said that he would vote to remove Trump from office. Romney voted for Article I but not Article II. All Democrats voted to convict.
Trump insisted throughout that he did nothing wrong, repeatedly describing a July 25 phone call with the new president of Ukraine as “perfect.” A summary of the call showed that Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky to look into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president. Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry in September as stories surfaced that military aid to Ukraine was being held up as Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pressured that country’s officials to announce investigations of the Bidens and of a conspiracy theory involving the 2016 election.
After a series of hearings, the House voted in December to impeach Trump.
Although the outcome was all but certain, the atmosphere in the chamber was far different than usual. Senators stayed silent as one-by-one, they stood up and said “guilty” or “not guilty.” Few even whispered to each other during the roll call, and most senators remained stone faced as Chief Justice John Roberts announced, “It is therefore ordered and adjudged that the said Donald John Trump be, and is hereby, acquitted of the charges in the said articles.”
In the chamber gallery were two of Trump’s biggest boosters, his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and David Bossie, the political operative behind conservative group Citizens United. Also watching was Jane Sanders, the wife of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Trump tweeted after the vote that he would make a public statement at noon on Thursday “to discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!”
He then tweeted out a video that posits Time magazine covers in which he is president forever.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, “Today, the sham impeachment attempt concocted by Democrats ended in the full vindication and exoneration of President Donald J. Trump. As we have said all along, he is not guilty.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters afterward that Republican senators up for reelection this year were in a better position following the proceedings than they were before. But he avoided answering when three different reporters asked him whether he found the president’s conduct inappropriate.
“It is time to move on,” McConnell said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Democrats “walked out of the Senate chamber with their heads held high.”
“We sought the truth,” he said. “We did everything we could to get the truth.”
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