Not Guilty: Senate acquits Trump of impeachment charges

The U.S. Senate acquitted President Donald Trump of both impeachment charges Wednesday, ending only the third presidential trial in American history with votes that split the country and tested civic norms.

The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to acquit President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, ending a historic Senate trial that was centered on his conduct toward Ukraine but that did not include live witnesses or new documents.

The Senate voted 52-48 to acquit Trump on the charge of abuse of power.

The near-party-line vote in the Republican-led Senate came on the first article against Trump, the third president to be impeached by the House.

Several Republicans said Trump was wrong to leverage U.S. aid to Ukraine to pressure a foreign leader to investigate his domestic political rival, but argued that it did not warrant a guilty verdict and ouster from office.

One Republican — Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah — crossed party lines to join Democrats in voting to convict Trump on the first charge. The Senate voted 53-47 to acquit Trump on the second impeachment charge, obstruction of Congress. Unlike on the first charge, Romney joined members of his party in voting to acquit Trump on the second charge.

Several Trump administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, had predicted earlier Wednesday that Trump would be acquitted on a bipartisan vote.

But that prediction did not come true: Republicans did not succeed in persuading any Democrats to cross the aisle in voting for acquittal on either charge.

The acquittal follows a State of the Union address Tuesday night in which Trump pointed to the strong economy as vindication as he sought to move on from impeachment. The speech ended with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tearing up a copy of Trump’s prepared remarks.

The crux of the case against Trump was the allegation that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s presidential campaign manager, celebrated Wednesday’s vote, declaring in a statement that the president’s campaign “only got bigger and stronger as a result of this nonsense.”

The impeachment, he added, “will go down as the worst miscalculation in American political history.”

“President Trump has been totally vindicated and it’s now time to get back to the business of the American people,” Parscale said. “The do-nothing Democrats know they can’t beat him, so they had to impeach him.”

Shortly after Wednesday’s vote, Trump himself took a victory lap, tweeting an animated video created by one of his supporters suggesting that he will remain president for eternity.

Earlier, Romney sealed a place in history with his announcement that he will to vote to convict Trump of abuse of power, becoming a rare lone voice in a Republican Party that otherwise has marched in lockstep with the president throughout the impeachment proceedings.

“There’s no question that the president asked a foreign power to investigate his political foe,” Romney said ahead of the floor statement he delivered Wednesday. “That he did so for a political purpose, and that he pressured Ukraine to get them to do help or to lead in this effort. My own view is there’s not much I can think of that would be a more egregious assault on our Constitution than trying to corrupt an election to maintain power. And that’s what the president did.”

Romney’s speech on the Senate floor drew a furious reaction from some Republicans, including Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., who accused the senator of being “forever bitter” that he will never be president. “He was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now,” Trump Jr. said in a tweet. “He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP.”

During an interview with Fox News Channel host Chris Wallace that aired shortly after his Senate floor speech, Romney referred to his 2012 White House defeat, describing it as the worst thing that’s happened to him politically.

“I’ve got broad-enough shoulders to weather personal changes in my career, political or otherwise,” he told Wallace. “But what I don’t have is the capacity to ignore my conscience.”

Reps. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., two of Trump’s vocal defenders on Capitol Hill, echoed Trump Jr.’s argument. In tweets Wednesday afternoon, Zeldin and Gaetz branded the Utah Republican a “sore loser.”

“Mitt Romney absolutely despises that Donald Trump was elected POTUS & he was not,” Zeldin tweeted. “The sore loser mentality launched this sham impeachment & corruptly rigged & jammed it through the House. It looks like Schiff recruited himself a sore loser buddy on the GOP side to play along.”

Romney’s unequivocal speech before voting yes on impeachment caught many in Utah by surprise. Republicans in the state are unusually divided on the president, so while some were heartened to see Romney cast what he described as an agonizing vote dictated by his conscience, Trump supporters were left angry and frustrated.

Still, with four years to go before any re-election campaign, Romney has a long time to explain his vote to an electorate with a deep well of goodwill that gives him a celebrity-like status.

The Wednesday afternoon vote was swift. With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, senators sworn to do “impartial justice” stood at their desks for the roll call and stated their votes — “guilty” or “not guilty.”

No president has ever been removed by the Senate.

Ahead of voting, some of the most closely watched senators took to the Senate floor to tell their constituents, and the nation, what they had decided.

Influential GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring, worried that a guilty verdict would “pour gasoline on the fire” of the nation’s culture wars over Trump. He said the House proved its case but it just didn’t rise to the level of impeachment. “It would rip the country apart,” Alexander said before his vote.

One key Democrat, Alabama Sen. Doug Jones — perhaps the most endangered politically for reelection in a state where Trump is popular — announced he would vote to convict. “Senators are elected to make tough choices,” Jones said.

Both Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 drew cross-party support when they were left in office after impeachment trials. President Richard Nixon resigned rather than face revolt from his own party.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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