Washington / President Donald Trump was acquitted on Wednesday in a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate on the two impeachment charges filed against him by the House of Representatives for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
After the vote, White House Press Secretary hailed Trump’s “full vindication and exoneration.”
The charges had stemmed from the president’s attempt last July to pressure Ukraine to launch a corruption investigation into Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The senators, who constituted the “jury” in the trial, voted first on the abuse of power charge, with 52 voting to acquit Trump and 48 voting to convict him.
Just one Republican joined the 47 Senate Democrats or Independents, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, thus becoming the first lawmaker in the history of the country to support the removal from office of a president of his own party in an impeachment trial.
Regarding the second of the two charges, obstruction of Congress, a total of 53 lawmakers – all Republicans, and including Romney – voted to acquit Trump versus 47 Democrats and Independents who voted to convict him.
“This verdict is ours to render,” Romney said in his Senate floor remarks before the vote. “The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfilled our duty. The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a ‘high crime and misdemeanor,'” to which he answered his own rhetorical question by saying: “Yes, he did.”
To remove the president from office would have required the backing of two-thirds of the 100 senators on at least one of the two charges filed against him by Democrats in December.
Before the vote on Wednesday afternoon, the head of the Democratic minority in the Senate, New York’s Chuck Schumer, issued a call to his colleagues – both Republican and Democrat – to vote to remove Trump from office.
Schumer said Trump’s conduct in pressuring Ukraine – which many Republican senators publicly acknowledged that he had done – was “unforgivable,” adding that “The president sought to cheat the people out of a free and fair election” but that “the Senate majority is poised to look the other way.”
He also noted that this is the first presidential impeachment trial in history – and there have now been three – where not a single witness was called to testify before the Senate.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky criticized the case against Trump as “incoherent” and accused Democrats of wanting to “break” the rules and write new ones solely because they lost the 2016 presidential election.
He claimed that the Democrats’ impeachment effort was part of a broader attack on US institutions after they failed to win the 2016 election, saying that “We should agree this is the kind of recklessness the Senate was created to stop,” and adding that he hoped Trump’s acquittal would cause the “fever to break.”
In September, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, announced the impeachment investigation of Trump after a US intelligence official filed a whistleblower complaint over a July telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which the US leader asked his counterpart in Kyiv to announce the launch of a corruption investigation into Biden and his son Hunter.
According to the Democrats, Trump conditioned the delivery of almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine and the scheduling of a coveted White House meeting for Zelensky to the investigation into Biden – who may well be the Democratic presidential nominee for the November election – and his son.
After months of investigation in the House, and a number of fact witnesses – although Trump refused to allow any of his close aides, advisers or officials to testify – ultimately the House filed impeachment articles against him and the Senate trial began on Jan. 16.
Trump has castigated Democrats all through the process, lambasting them for mounting a “sham” impeachment and going on a “witch hunt” against him, and moreover insisting that his July 25 phone call with Zelensky was “perfect.”
Meanwhile, after the vote the White House trumpeted Trump’s “full vindication and exoneration” in what Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham called a “corrupt” impeachment trial, going on to suggest that some kind of “punishment” should be meted out to the lead House “manager” of the trial, in effect the lead prosecutor against the president, California Congressman Adam Schiff.
“As we have said all along, (the president) is not guilty. 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,” Grisham said in a statement.
She went on to say that despite the impeachment investigation and trial, Trump has “successfully advanced the interests of the United States and remained focused on the issues that matter to Americans.” (February 5, 2020, EFE/Practica Español)
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