WASHINGTON — The US Senate has voted to acquit President Donald Trump of both impeachment charges he faced. He will not be removed from office.
The Senate voted Wednesday afternoon, mostly across party lines, to dismiss the impeachment articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Sen. Mitt Romney was the only Republican to join Democrats in voting to remove Trump from office over the abuse of power charge. Romney joined the rest of the Senate’s 52 Republicans in voting against the second charge.
Trump was found not guilty of abuse of power on a 52–48 vote and not guilty of obstruction of Congress on a 53–47 vote.
Trump's defense team and allies had repeatedly argued the impeachment and removal trial were not bipartisan, seeking to delegitimize the proceedings. Following the vote, Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow said he had "no reaction" to Romney's decision. Asked about the bipartisan nature of the conviction, Sekulow repeatedly said, “It was one vote on one count.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham took a similar line, saying in a statement, "only the President’s political opponents — all Democrats, and one failed Republican presidential candidate — voted for the manufactured impeachment articles."
Trump's initial response to the vote was to tweet a video of a fake Time magazine cover suggesting he will be president forever. He later tweeted that he will speak at 12 p.m. Thursday from the White House "to discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!" Trump's campaign, meanwhile, said it "only got bigger and stronger as a result of this nonsense" and crowed that the president had been "totally vindicated."
Romney’s vote is politically awkward for Senate Republicans because they have spent recent weeks portraying the House votes to impeach Trump as purely partisan. Not a single House Republican voted in favor of either impeachment article, they have repeatedly stressed, whereas opposition was “bipartisan” because two Democrats voted against at least one article (one of those Democrats, Rep. Jeff Van Drew, has since joined the Republican Party).
Romney’s vote flipped that dynamic. Democrats can now advertise there was a bipartisan vote to remove Trump from office, blocked only by Republicans.
Sen. Bernie Sanders said "it’s a sad day for the country" as he left the Senate. "I think that the acquittal of Trump and the fact that we only had one Republican voting to impeach sends a signal to future presidents that you can operate above the law. You don't have to pay attention to the Constitution," he said.
Trump’s impeachment trial took just over two weeks, the shortest of the three presidential impeachment trials in US history. The 1999 trial of Bill Clinton lasted five weeks, and the 1868 trial of Andrew Johnson lasted over seven weeks.
Trump was impeached by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in December over charges that he abused the powers of his office to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine in exchange for the country launching an investigation into the family of a political rival, former vice president Joe Biden. The administration stonewalled the House impeachment inquiry, leading to a second charge of obstruction of Congress.
Democrats denounced the Senate trial as a sham because Republicans blocked all attempts to subpoena additional documents or witnesses, including John Bolton, in particular; the former national security adviser reportedly wrote in a forthcoming book manuscript that Trump told him directly he was withholding the Ukrainian aid in exchange for the Biden investigation.
Republicans rejected the charges against Trump as a politically motivated attempt to overturn the results of the last election.
A couple of hours before senators were to vote on the impeachment articles, protesters filed into the Capitol's rotunda. A group of 10 locked arms during a sit-in and shouted “Trump is guilty,” many of them wearing shirts that read “ARREST TRUMP” and “AN ACQUITTAL IS A COVER-UP.” Capitol Police removed the protesters within minutes and escorted them out of the building.
It had long been clear that Trump would not be removed from office. Conviction required supermajority support of 67 out of 100 senators; with Republicans controlling 53 seats, this was never in play. Instead, the key question became whether four or more Republicans would side with Democrats to call witnesses. In the end, only two — Romney and Susan Collins of Maine — did. Collins ultimately voted against both articles of impeachment.
Some moderate Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Doug Jones of Alabama, had considered voting no on one or both articles of impeachment, but all three said Wednesday that they would vote to remove Trump from office on both charges.
"I take no pleasure in these votes, and am saddened this is the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren. I have always wanted this president, and every president, to succeed, but I deeply love our country and must do what I think is best for the nation," Manchin said in a statement just before the vote.
The Ukraine scandal has consumed the past several months of Trump’s term since news broke in September of an anonymous whistleblower report that had been written in August. The report laid out secondhand allegations that Trump had used his official powers to extract an investigation into the Bidens from Ukraine.
The identities of federal whistleblowers are protected by law, but several high-ranking politicians have accused the individual of having a political agenda and demanded the whistleblower be called to testify before Congress. Rep. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chair, refused, saying every allegation in the report was later backed up by firsthand testimony in the House impeachment inquiry.
After the votes Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thanked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for his work presiding over the trial during the last two and a half weeks. The Senate presented Roberts with "the golden gavel," which McConnell said is typically given to senators after they've spent 100 hours in the chair, presiding over the Senate. "But I think we can agree that chief justice has put in his due and then some," McConnell said.
The Senate adjourned as a court of impeachment at 4:41 p.m., formally ending Trump's trial.
The trial's conclusion will allow the Senate to return to its normal business — largely confirming swaths of Trump's judicial nominees. True to form, McConnell teed up votes on five new judges as the Senate left for the week.
The trial's end also means Democratic senators running for president will get to return to the campaign trail ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11. The candidates had been forced to stay in Washington for much of the last two weeks to attend the trial, including on the day of the disastrous Iowa caucuses earlier this week.
One of the candidates, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, appeared to be in the middle of a very long week as she left the Senate on Wednesday, telling reporters, "I'll never forget it. And I'm very proud of Sen. Romney."