Senate acquits Trump on both impeachment charges

Mitt Romney of Utah was the lone Republican to cross party lines to convict Trump on abuse of power.
By Dareh Gregorian and Frank Thorp V

The Senate on Wednesday acquitted President Donald Trump almost entirely along party lines on charges of abusing his power and obstructing Congress, bringing an end to the third presidential impeachment trial in United States history.

On the first of two articles of impeachment, Mitt Romney of Utah was the lone Republican to vote to convict Trump, along with all Democrats and independents. On the second article, obstruction of Congress, the president was acquitted in a pure party-line vote with all Republicans voting not guilty and all Democrats and independents voting guilty. The final tallies were 52 to 48 to acquit on article one, and 53 to 47 to acquit on article two.

"It is therefore ordered and adjudged that Donald John Trump be and is hereby acquitted of the charges in said articles," Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over the trial, declared after the votes.

A super majority of 67 votes on each article was needed to convict.

The president responded to the verdict on Twitter with a parody video showing him being re-elected in perpetuity, ending with the message, "Trump 4EVA."

He later tweeted that he'd make a statement on "our Country's VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax" on Thursday at noon ET.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that the verdict was a "full vindication and exoneration" of the president.

"The Senate voted to reject the baseless articles of impeachment, and only the President’s political opponents – all Democrats, and one failed Republican presidential candidate – voted for the manufactured impeachment articles," she said.

Romney's vote marked the first time in American history that a senator voted to convict a president of his own party in an impeachment trial, and his decision disappointed the White House, where officials had hoped for unity to be able to criticize the impeachment case as purely partisan.

Romney announced his vote in a dramatic speech on the Senate floor two hours before the vote.

"I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice," he said. "I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am."

What Trump did, Romney said, was "grievously wrong."

"The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust," he said.

"What he did was not 'perfect.' No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one's oath of office that I can imagine," Romney said.

Romney, a frequent target of the president, was one of only two GOP senators to call for witness testimony in the trial. He said he'd wanted testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton in part "because I hoped that what he said might raise reasonable doubt and thus remove from me the awful obligation to vote for impeachment."

"In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts. Many demand that, in their words, 'I stand with the team.' I can assure you that that thought has been very much on my mind. I support a great deal of what the president has done. I have voted with him 80 percent of the time," Romney said.

"But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience."

Romney said he was aware that there were not enough votes to convict the president, and that he would be "vehemently denounced" by some fellow Republicans for his vote. He called it "the most difficult decision" of his life.

"I am sure to hear abuse from the president and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?"

Romney is not up for re-election until 2024, but his clashes with Trump have already caused him problems with fellow Republicans in Utah and Washington.

Backlash from Romney's party was quick, with Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel — Romney's niece — tweeting, "This is not the first time I have disagreed with Mitt, and I imagine it will not be the last." "I, along with the @GOP, stand with President Trump," she said.

The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted that "Romney is forever bitter that he will never be POTUS. He was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now. He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, took a softer line than some of the president's allies after the vote. Asked how long Romney would be in the doghouse, McConnell laughed and said, "We don't have any doghouses here. The most important vote is the next vote."

In his closing argument on Monday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., pleaded for at least one Republican to stand up to the president and be among "the Davids who took on Goliath."

"Every single vote, even a single vote by a single member can change the course of history. It is said that a single man or woman of courage makes a majority. Is there one among you who will say 'enough!'?" Schiff asked then.

"There is," Schiff tweeted Wednesday.

White House director of legislative affairs Eric Ueland shrugged off the announcement to reporters.

"We're very gratified that today the Senate will be acquitting the president and finding innocent on article one, article two, both impeachment charges,” he said.

In the minutes before the vote to acquit the president, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called for unity going forward — after taking a shot at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"The speaker says she will just refuse to accept this acquittal, whatever that means. Perhaps she will tear up the verdict like she tore up the State of the Union address," McConnell said.

“I hope we will look back on this vote and say this was the day the fever began to break. I hope we will not say this was just the beginning," McConnell said.

Pelosi, D-Calif., said after the verdict that "the president and Senate Republicans have normalized lawlessness and rejected the system of checks and balances of our Constitution."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, meanwhile, reacted to the verdict by tweeting out a video of him tearing up the articles of impeachment. "Acquitted for life," he wrote.

A two-thirds vote was required to convict on each of the two articles of impeachment, and while several Republicans had said they believe Trump acted inappropriately in his dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, no others have said they believe his conduct was impeachable.

Some Democrats kept their vote close to the vest ahead of the proceedings.

Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who faces a difficult re-election battle this year, announced his vote to convict earlier Wednesday.

"The president's actions demonstrate a belief that he is above the law, that Congress has no power whatsoever in questioning or examining his actions, and that all who do so, do so at their peril. That belief, unprecedented in the history of this country, simply must not be permitted to stand," Jones said.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Jones acknowledged he could pay a political price in his state, where Trump is wildly popular and former attorney general Jeff Sessions, ex-Rep. Bradley Byrne, onetime Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville and disgraced former Judge Roy Moore are all vying to be the Republican who runs against him.

"There will be so many who will simply look at what I'm doing today and say it is a profile in courage. It is not. It is simply a matter of right and wrong. Doing right is not a courageous act," Jones said.

Asked afterward if he was worried about the decision's impact on his re-election, Jones said, "No, It has never crossed my mind." Told that Sessions had already attacked him — the former attorney general tweeted that Jones is a "foot soldier" for "the radical left" — Jones responded, "So?"

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who called for the president to be censured instead of removed on Monday, indicated he was leaning toward acquittal in the morning, but announced he would vote to convict Trump shortly before the vote.

"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.

Another Democrat from a state Trump won in 2016, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, also announced shortly ahead of the vote that she'd vote to convict.

“The facts are clear — security aid was withheld from Ukraine in an attempt to benefit the president’s political campaign. While White House attorneys claim this behavior is not serious, it is dangerous to the fundamental principles of American democracy to use the power of the federal government for personal or political gain," she told the Arizona Republic.

House Democrats who passed the articles of impeachment in December acknowledged ahead of the vote that the president would likely be acquitted.

Rep. Katherine Clark, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, said the president and his allies "will do a victory lap today" but added that "history and the truth are right behind them and will overtake them."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., suggested the House would continue investigating Trump's decision to withhold almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said Wednesday it's "likely" that a House committee will subpoena former national security adviser Bolton, one of the key witnesses that did not testify in the impeachment inquiry. Bolton reportedly has incriminating information about the president and had said he would testify before the Senate if subpoenaed.

Trump was impeached on the two articles of impeachment in the House on December 18 after an investigation Republicans decried as rush job and "a sham."

The first vote, 230-197, accused him of abuse of power and was almost entirely on party lines; it was followed quickly by a second, 229-198, vote accusing the president of obstructing Congress. The one-vote difference was that of Democratic Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, who voted yes on abuse of power and no on obstruction.

No Republicans voted against Trump in the House. Two Democrats — including one who later switched parties at Trump's invitation, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey — voted with Republicans against both articles. One other Democrat, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is running for president, voted "present" on both articles.

Democrats said the Senate trial, which started on January 16, was the sham because of the lack of witnesses.

Trump is the third president to be impeached in American history. None have been removed from office.

Dareh Gregorian
Frank Thorp V
Garrett Haake contributed.