WASHINGTON, D.C. – At the beginning of February, a split American Senate acquitted President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial.
A majority of senators expressed unease with Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine that resulted in the two articles of impeachment. But the final tallies — 52-48 favoring acquittal of abuse of power, 53-47 of obstruction of Congress’ investigation — fell far short.
Two-thirds “guilty” votes would have been needed to reach the Constitution’s bar of high crimes and misdemeanors to convict and remove Trump from office.
The outcome on Feb. 5 followed months of remarkable impeachment proceedings, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House to Mitch McConnell’s Senate, reflecting the nation’s unrelenting partisan divide three years into the Trump presidency.
What started as Trump’s request for Ukraine to “do us a favor” spun into a far-reaching, 28,000-page report compiled by House investigators accusing an American president of engaging in shadow diplomacy that threatened U.S. foreign relations for personal, political gain as he pressured the ally to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the November election.
The vote was swift.
With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over the trial, senators sworn to do “impartial justice” stood at their desks for the roll call and stated their votes — “guilty” or “not guilty.”
On the first article of impeachment, Trump was charged with abuse of power. He was found not guilty.
The second, obstruction of Congress, also produced a not guilty verdict.
Only one Republican, Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s defeated 2012 presidential nominee, broke with the GOP.
Romney choked up as said drew on his faith and “oath before God” to announce he would vote guilty on the first charge, abuse of power. He would vote to acquit on the second.
Republicans intended to acquit Trump, but many wanted to be on record as frowning on his conduct.
Perhaps the most prominent example was retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who voted against hearing from witnesses but called out Trump’s actions “inappropriate.”
Other Republicans followed suit, insisting that their votes against witnesses or in favour of acquittal should not be interpreted as approval of his actions.
This was only the third presidential trial in American history. No president has ever been removed by the Senate.
Trump and the Republican Party quickly shifted focus on drumming up support on the campaign trail in hopes of gaining a second term in power.
One day after Trump avoided talk of impeachment in his State of the Union address and argued that he had delivered on his 2016 campaign promises, the president already was moving to use impeachment as a 2020 rallying cry.
Trump would lose the 2020 election to Democrat candidate Joe Biden.