Senate acquits Trump on two articles of impeachment

President Donald Trump was acquitted on two articles of impeachment -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Pool Photo by Leah Millis/UPI

Feb. 5 (UPI) — The Senate voted Wednesday to acquit President Donald Trump on two charges, an expected outcome to the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.

The chamber voted 52-48 in favor of the president on an abuse of power charge and 53-47 on an obstruction of Congress charge.

Within minutes of the votes, Trump posted a video on Twitter showing him on the cover of Time Magazine with campaign signs suggesting he’ll continue to run for the presidency even after he’s reached a term limit at the end of 2024. It’s a doctored social media video that was originally posted by Time when it ran a story on “How Trumpism Outlasts Trump.”

A statement from press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the votes a “full vindication and exoneration” of Trump.

“Throughout this wholly corrupt process, President Trump successfully advanced the interests of the United States and remained focused on the issues that matter to Americans,” she said. “He spent his time achieving real victories for the people of this country, and the Democrats — once again — have nothing to show for their fraudulent schemes.

“The president is pleased to put this latest chapter of shameful behavior by the Democrats in the past, and looks forward to continuing his work on behalf of the American people in 2020 and beyond.”

A two-thirds majority vote was required to remove Trump from office on either charge, meaning 20 Republicans would have had to break ranks and vote with Democrats.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was the only one to do so in the first vote.

Had the chamber voted to convict Trump, he would’ve become the first U.S. president to be removed from office under the impeachment process.

Trump’s Republican Party supporters control the chamber and had shown no indications of wavering in their stated intentions of acquitting him on charges that say he abused his power in pressing Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden last year and obstructed the House investigation that followed.

“I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice,” Romney said earlier Wednesday when announcing his plans to vote in favor of conviction. “I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am.”

He said Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”

After the vote, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer released a clip of part of his Senate floor speech on Twitter.

“Madison and Washington were right. There’s no greater subversion of our democracy than for powers outside our borders to determine elections within. For an American president to deliberately solicit such a thing — blackmail a foreign country to help win an election — is unforgivable,” he said.

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Wednesday’s vote follows Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, during which bitter political divisions were put on display.

Before the speech, the president refused to shake hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. After he finished, Pelosi ripped up her copy of Trump’s address. Trump did not mention his impeachment and instead focused mainly on his administration’s record.

During the impeachment trial, senators served as jurors as Democratic managers argued their case that Trump abused his power and stonewalled the House investigation that ultimately resulted in his impeachment, on both articles. In closing arguments Monday, Democratic managers said failing to remove Trump from office would show the president is above the law.

At the center of the case was Trump’s decision to withhold hundreds of millions in military aid to Ukraine and his pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations of Biden and his son Hunter Biden, a former board member at Ukrainian gas company Burisma. Democrats argued the aid and a White House visit for Zelensky were used as leverage to obtain the Biden investigations.

White House attorneys countered that Democrats haven’t provided sufficient evidence of what motivated the decision to delay the aid, which was ultimately sent in September. Trump’s team has dismissed the impeachment effort as a partisan attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

As lawmakers voiced their opinions Tuesday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell summed up the GOP view by calling for Trump’s acquittal.

“We must vote to reject the House abuse of power,” he said. “Vote to protect our institutions. Vote to reject new precedents that would reduce the framers’ design to rubble. Vote to keep factional fever from boiling over and scorching our republic. Vote to acquit the president of these charges.”

Schumer said Republicans’ refusal to hear testimony from key witnesses or allow new evidence uncovered since the House impeachment showed they were not interested in putting on a fair trial.

“The Republicans refused to get the evidence because they were afraid of what it would show, and that’s all that needs to be said,” he said.

At the conclusion of Wednesday’s vote, McConnell thanked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for presiding over the trial “with a clear head, steady hand and the forbearance that this rare occasion demands.”

He presented Roberts with the golden gavel.

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