The US Senate acquitted President Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Wednesday following a historic two-week trial.
Trump was acquitted largely along party lines on two articles of impeachment approved by the Democratic-led House of Representatives on December 18, with the votes falling far short of the two-thirds majority required in the 100-seat Senate to remove him under the US Constitution.
A conviction on either count would have elevated Vice President Mike Pence, another Republican, into the presidency.
Romney joined the rest of the Republican senators in voting to acquit on the obstruction charge. No Democrat voted to acquit.
On each of the two charges, the senators voted one by one on the Senate floor with US Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans engineered a stripped-down trial with no witnesses or new evidence. Democrats called the trial a sham and a cover-up. Trump called the impeachment an attempted coup and a Democratic attempt to annul his 2016 election victory.
Trump said he would deliver a public statement at noon (1700 GMT) on Thursday on his acquittal.
“President Trump has been totally vindicated and it’s now time to get back to the business of the American people,” Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said in a statement.
In the first of the state-by-state contests to determine the Democratic challenger to Trump, Biden placed a disappointing fourth in Iowa, according to incomplete results from Monday’s voting. Biden has accused Trump of “lies, smears, distortions and name-calling.”
Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, broke with his party to vote to convict Trump on the abuse-of-power charge. Romney called the president’s actions in pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden “grievously wrong” and said Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”
“What he did was not ‘perfect,’“ Romney said on the Senate floor, as Trump has described his call with Ukraine’s president that was at the heart of the scandal. “No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep one’s self in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”
Romney, a moderate and elder statesman in his party, paused during his speech as he became choked with emotion after mentioning the importance of his religious faith.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham lashed out at Democrats, saying: “What you have done is unleash the partisan forces of hell.”
Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, said Trump’s acquittal in an unfair trial was worth nothing.
“No doubt, the president will boast he received total exoneration. But we know better. We know this wasn’t a trial by any stretch of the definition.”
In his speech, McConnell said: “The architects of this impeachment claimed they were defending norms and traditions. In reality, it was an assault on both.”
Biggest victory yet
The acquittal handed Trump his biggest victory yet over his Democratic adversaries in Congress. Democrats vowed to press ahead with investigations – they are fighting in court for access to his financial records – and voiced hope that the facts unearthed during the impeachment process about his conduct would help persuade voters to make him a one-term president.
Trump’s job approval ratings have remained fairly consistent throughout his presidency and the impeachment process as his core conservative supporters – especially white men, rural Americans, evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics – stick with him.
The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, showed 42 percent of American adults approved of his performance, while 54 percent disapproved. That is nearly the same as when the House launched its impeachment inquiry in September, when his approval stood at 43 percent and disapproval at 53 percent.
The trial formally began on January 16. The Senate voted 51-49 last Friday to defeat the Democrats’ bid to call witnesses such as Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, with only two Republicans joining them.
In the previous presidential impeachment trials, Andrew Johnson was acquitted in 1868 in the aftermath of the American Civil War and Bill Clinton was acquitted in 1999 of charges stemming from a sex scandal.
In the hours before the vote, numerous senators gave speeches on the Senate floor explaining their vote.
Shadow of investigation
In March 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller found insufficient evidence that Trump engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia in its interference on his behalf in the 2016 election.
Last July 25, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a phone call to “do us a favor” and open an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter Biden and into a discredited theory beneficial to Russia that Ukraine colluded with Democrats to meddle in the 2016 election to harm Trump.
Democrats said Trump further abused his power by withholding $391 million in security aid approved by Congress to help Ukraine battle Russia-backed separatists and by dangling a coveted White House meeting as leverage to pressure Zelenskiy to announce the investigations.
Under the Constitution, impeachment is the mechanism for removing a president or certain other federal officials for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”