WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday voted to acquit President Donald Trump on both counts in his impeachment trial.
Forty-eight senators, including one Republican, voted to convict Trump on a count of abuse of power, while 52, all Republicans, voted to acquit him.
The president was also impeached on the charge of obstruction of Congress, in which all 53 Republicans found him not guilty and the remaining 47 senators voted to convict.
The acquittal vote was the final step in a two-week trial marked by impassioned arguments from House Democrats that Trump was a danger to the nation, and stalwart support from Senate Republicans for a president who maintains a political stranglehold on their party.
Sen. Mitt Romney, who delivered a searing condemnation of the president’s actions earlier in the day on the floor of the Senate, broke with his party to vote to convict Trump on the abuse of power count.
After Roberts announced the outcome of both articles, McConnell thanked the chief justice for his “clear head, steady hand and the forbearance that this rare occasion demands.
“For his efforts, McConnell awarded Roberts the “golden gavel,” which was presented to him on the Senate floor.
The Democrat-led House voted on Dec. 18 to impeach Trump on two articles: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Trump was accused of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to announce probes into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as a debunked conspiracy theory about interference 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.
But with the outcome of the Senate trial all but certain since its first days, the suspense turned instead to an up-or-down vote late in the trial over whether or not to admit additional evidence, which only needed 51 votes to pass.
For several days, Washington hung on the words of a handful of moderate senators, both Democrats and Republicans, who have broken with their parties on previous votes.
Two Republicans voted with Democrats to admit additional evidence, Romney and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, and the measure was defeated. Unlike Romney, however, Collins ultimately voted to acquit Trump of the charges against him.
Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s last minute announcement that he would vote to convict on both counts came as a surprise on Capitol Hill.
Both sides, the White House and Democrats, had wanted to stake claim to a “bipartisan vote,” on their side. The president had sincerely hoped to convince at least one Democrat to vote to acquit him on at least one charge, so that the White House could have declared, technically accurately, that Trump had been acquitted by a bipartisan vote.
Ultimately, only Democrats will be able to claim a “bipartisan vote,” having convinced Romney to cross party lines and vote to convict Trump on the first article.
This scenario represents a reverse of the House impeachment vote in December, when no Republicans crossed party lines to vote with Democrats to impeach Trump, but several Democrats crossed lines to vote against the articles of impeachment.
Trump is just the third president in U.S. history to face trial in the Senate on articles of impeachment.
Republicans have accused Democrats of searching for reasons to take Trump out of office from the moment he won the presidency in 2016 over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But Democratic leaders did not always support impeaching Trump.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had argued 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.
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