U.S. President Donald Trump (R) greets Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) after delivering his State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on February 04, 2020 in Washington, DC.
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The final vote in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is set for Wednesday afternoon, with the Senate expected to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Trump, just the third president in history to face the threat of removal by the Senate, was impeached in the House in December in the wake of revelations about his efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into his political opponents.
But the chance of a Republican-led Senate ousting Trump was widely considered remote from the outset. After the Senate voted against even allowing additional witnesses and documents into the trial, acquittal became a virtual certainty.
The GOP holds a 53-47 majority in the Senate. It would take 67 votes convict Trump.
Seven Democratic House impeachment managers, led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California, had argued throughout their roughly two weeks on the floor that Trump’s actions threatened U.S. institutions. Schiff warned, in his sweeping closing argument Monday, that Trump cannot be trusted to do the right thing:
“He will not change, and you know it,” Schiff said in his final appeal to the Senate.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of only two GOP members to vote alongside Democrats in favor of the new evidence, said Tuesday she would vote for acquittal on both articles. She said later in the day that she believed Trump has “learned” his “lesson” and that he “will be much more cautious in the future” — eliciting groans from her critics.
The 4 p.m. ET vote comes a day after Trump gave his State of the Union address in a highly polarized joint session of Congress.
Trump took credit for the strength of the economy and dazzled Republicans with a series of made-for-TV moments, including a homecoming surprise for a military family and an in-chamber Medal of Freedom award ceremony for conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who revealed a day earlier that he has advanced lung cancer.
Trump in his speech did not mention impeachment, but Wednesday’s looming vote nonetheless bled into the House chamber Tuesday night. One of the most telling moments came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who upstaged Trump’s theatrics by ripping up a copy of his speech before either of them had even left the dais.
Trump, who snubbed Pelosi when she tried to shake his hand when he arrived at the podium, spent much of Wednesday morning retweeting comments trashing the California Democrat.
Pelosi had long been reluctant to pursue Trump’s impeachment, arguing that it was exactly the kind of destined-to-fail attack Trump wanted in order to “solidify his base.” She resisted intense pressure from a growing coalition of Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings after a lengthy investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller found numerous instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump.
Mueller was probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, as well as possible coordination between the Kremlin and Trump’s campaign and possible obstruction of justice. He found insufficient evidence to support a conspiracy but declined to recommend any charges against Trump, kicking that decision over to Attorney General William Barr, who cleared the president.
But after a whistleblower’s bombshell complaint revealed that Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call to “look into” his potential 2020 opponent former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, Pelosi launched an impeachment inquiry in the House.
Trump was accused of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to announce that probe — and another into a debunked conspiracy theory that Kyiv, not Moscow, interfered in the 2016 election — while withholding nearly $400 million in congressionally appropriated military aid to the country.
Democrats say Trump was attempting to cheat in the 2020 election by coercing a foreign ally to smear his possible political opponent with the stain of a criminal probe. They also argue he obstructed Congress by refusing to hand over any documents in the House’s probe, and by pressuring potential witnesses not to comply.
When Trump was impeached in the House on Dec. 18, no Republicans voted against him.
Trump has maintained that his call with Zelenskiy was “perfect.” His defense team argued in the trial that the president’s conduct did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
Between Trump’s likely acquittal, the State of the Union and a Democratic debacle in the Iowa caucus, the president’s supporters are celebrating what they see as one of his most auspicious weeks in the White House.
Impeachment is “such a disservice to the country,” Vice President Mike Pence said in a Fox News interview Wednesday. “And to look out and to see the Democrats with their arms folded last night, I think that contrasted with a president who made the speech, made the moment about him.”