- The Senate on Wednesday acquitted President Donald Trump of the two charges against him in his impeachment trial.
- Trump was impeached in December, charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The charges related to his effort to strong-arm Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election and his subsequent stonewalling of Congress’ investigation.
- Wednesday’s vote to acquit Trump of abuse of power fell largely along party lines: 48 senators (every Democratic and independent senator and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney) voted to convict Trump, while 52 senators, all Republicans, voted to acquit him.
- On the obstruction-of-Congress charge, Romney sided with Republicans, and the final vote was 47-53.
- Romney’s vote was the first time in US history that a member of the president’s own party voted to convict and remove him from office.
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The Senate on Wednesday acquitted President Donald Trump of the two charges against him in his impeachment trial.
The vote came after a bitter fight between House impeachment managers, who acted as prosecutors in the president’s trial, and Trump’s defence team over his dealings with Ukraine.
The vote to clear Trump of abuse of power fell largely along party lines: 48 senators (every Democratic and independent lawmaker and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney) voted to convict Trump, while 52 senators, all Republicans, voted to acquit him.
On the obstruction-of-Congress charge, Romney sided with Republicans, and the final vote was 47-53.
To remove the president from office, two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 lawmakers, needed to vote to convict him.
It was the first time in US history that a member of the president’s own party voted to convict and remove him from office. It was also the first time that the entire opposing party voted to convict the president.
Trump was impeached in December. Both articles of impeachment related to his efforts to strong-arm Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election while he withheld $US391 million in vital military aid and dangled a White House meeting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky desperately sought and still hasn’t gotten.
At the centre of the impeachment inquiry was a July 25 phone call during which Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter over the latter’s employment on the board of the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings.
Trump also asked Zelensky to help discredit the Russia inquiry by investigating a bogus conspiracy theory suggesting Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to help Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Documents and testimony from more than a dozen witnesses eventually revealed that the July call was just one data point in a months-long effort by Trump and his allies, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to leverage the weight of the US government and foreign policy to force Ukraine into acceding to his political demands.
In a heated trial, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to subpoena documents or hear new witness testimony. The move was unprecedented – the Senate had called witnesses in each of the previous 15 impeachment trials, including those of Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.
Senate Republicans’ decision to block witnesses was especially noteworthy given that John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, announced he was willing to testify and had firsthand knowledge of the president’s pressure campaign in Ukraine.
The New York Times reported in late January that Bolton said in his upcoming book that Trump personally told him he would withhold aid to Ukraine until Zelensky gave in to his demands for politically motivated investigations targeting his rivals. The revelation directly undercut Trump and his lawyers’ claims that there was no “quid pro quo” with Ukraine.
Bolton also said that last May, shortly after Zelensky was elected, Trump asked Bolton to call Zelensky to ensure he met with Giuliani, who spearheaded Trump’s pressure campaign. Bolton said Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel who led Trump’s defence team in the impeachment trial, both witnessed Trump making that demand. Bolton added that he did not call Zelensky.
House impeachment managers argued that the Senate had a constitutional obligation to hear new witness testimony, particularly from someone like Bolton, the highest-profile person in Trump’s inner circle to allege wrongdoing by the president.
Trump’s defence lawyers, meanwhile, argued that the Senate already had enough testimony from the 17 witnesses who testified in the House impeachment hearings. However, this argument was at odds with the defence team’s claim that the House rushed through impeachment proceedings without allowing for more witnesses.
Ultimately, 51 senators, all Republicans, voted against calling new witnesses, and 49 senators voted in favour of it; two Republican senators, Romney and Susan Collins of Maine, voted with Democrats to call witnesses.
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