Romney vote on ‘abuse’ spares Democrats an embarrassing party-line vote in both chambers…
(Liberty Headlines) President Donald Trump was absolved of both impeachment charges Wednesday, an outcome that was widely anticipated, with the only divergence from purely party-line votes being the decision by Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to charge Trump with abuse of office.
The roll-call tallies were 52–48 opposed to the abuse of power charge and 53–47 opposed to the charge of obstruction of Congress, with Romney returning to his official side of the aisle. Neither vote came close to the constitutionally mandated 67 votes needed to convict—and possibly remove—the president.
Despite speculation that three Democratic senators—Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—might deliver a bipartisan outcome in Republicans’ favor, all sided with their party in the symbolic impeachment vote.
“Senators are elected to make tough choices,” said Jones, widely considered to be the most politically vulnerable member of the Senate, who faces a possible re-election fight against former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom he was elected to replace.
Manchin, who claimed in several press conferences to be conflicted about his decision, led calls earlier in the week for the Senate to support censure of the president, but with the House impeachment and trial already on the books, that struck Trump supporters as too little, too late.
A Done Deal
The outcome was widely seen as a done deal after a majority of senators—including all GOP senators except for Romney and Susan Collins of Maine—voted not to hear additional witnesses that House Democrats had failed to subpoena in their investigation.
While previous Senate impeachment trials—including that of former President Bill Clinton in 1999—had allowed witness testimony, Republicans widely rejected the notion this time on the basis that the politically motivated impeachment articles did not, themselves, meet the standard of impeachment since no crime was alleged.
That left the decision to hinge on the highly subjective question of how the founding fathers might have construed “high crimes and misdemeanors” in the Constitution after expressly debating and rejecting possible impeachable offenses such as mismanagement that did not constitute violations of the law.
Another mitigating factor was Democrats’ refusal to acknowledge the parallel abuse of power by Vice President Joe Biden during the Obama administration. Biden pressured Ukrainian officials to fire the prosecutor overseeing investigations into a corrupt energy company that was paying his son millions of dollars in “consulting” fees.
Trump’s request that the newly elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, reopen those investigations was central to the accusations by an anonymous whistleblower that prompted the latest House impeachment effort.
However, it was later revealed that the s-called whistleblower was a partisan operative—likely CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella—who had coordinated with staff members from the office of House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
The July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy came only a day after House testimony by former special prosecutor Robert Mueller dashed all hopes that House Democrats had of impeaching Trump in the two-year investigation into Russian collusion.
The Wednesday afternoon 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.”
Ahead of voting, some of the most closely watched senators took to the Senate floor to tell their constituents, and the nation, what they had decided.
Influential GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring, worried that a guilty verdict would “pour gasoline on the fire” of the nation’s culture wars over Trump. He said the House proved its case but it just didn’t rise to the level of impeachment.
“It would rip the country apart,” Alexander said before his vote.
Romney choked up as said drew on his faith and “oath before God” to announce he would vote guilty on the first charge.
Other Republicans siding with Trump said it was time to end what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the “circus” and to move on.
Trump ally GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it was a “sham” designed to destroy a presidency.
Graham has pledged to investigate both the allegations that Biden abused his power and the origins of the whistleblower complain in the powerful Senate committees that he belongs to.
Roberts, who was presented by McConnell with a golden gavel in commemoration and gratitude of his “forbearance” invited the senators to join him in his “day job” presiding over the Supreme Court
“We keep the front row open for members of congress who might want to drop by to see an argument—or escape one,” said the chief justice, whose quick-witted levity became one of the trial’s familiar hallmarks.
“You have been generous hosts, and I look forward to seeing you again under happier circumstances,” Roberts said in a statement before gaveling the trial to adjournment.
A Footnote to the ‘Era of Impeachment’
The legacy of the effort—only the third presidential impeachment in the country’s history, but also the third attempt to impeach within the last 50 years alone—will likely continue to be debated.
For the time being, it will go down as the quickest, most partisan and most divisive impeachment in U.S. history.
No Republicans joined the House Democrats to advance the two articles. However, two Democrats broke ranks to oppose both charges, and two others sought to hedge their support.
One former Democratic congressman, Jeff Van Drew, R-NJ, left his former party in opposition to the impeachment, while one NeverTrump independent, Justin Amash of Michigan, had previously abandoned the Republicans after saying the Mueller Report warranted the president’s impeachment.
The Senate trial lacked the novelty of former President Richard Nixon‘s Watergate proceedings and the salacious sexual innuendo of the Clinton trial.
But although it was decried as dull and belabored by many—including the senators themselves—it was not without its star power, delving into previously unexplored territory in constitutional law.
Harvard professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, a longtime Democrat, joined Trump’s legal defense, arguing that even if the president engaged in the quid pro quo as described, it is not impeachable, because politicians often view their own political interest with the national interest.
Kenneth Starr, the former special prosecutor who led the investigation into Clinton’s sexual misconduct (resulting in charges of perjury and obstruction of justice), also delivered a high-powered argument calling on the senate to end the “Era of Impeachment.”
Trump’s approval rating on Tuesday hit a new high of 49% in the latest Gallup polling, which was conducted as the Senate trial was drawing to a close.
The poll found that 51% of the public views the Republican Party favorably, the first time the GOP’s number has exceeded 50% since 2005.
The acquittal also capped off an intense few days that included a prime-time interview between Trump and Fox News host Sean Hannity prior to the Super Bowl; a disastrous Democratic primary in Iowa to kick off the election season; and a stirring, poignant State of the Union address from Trump, after which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., controversially ripped up a copy of the speech.
Democrats have vowed to continue their investigations and efforts to impeach Trump, with one possible avenue being a subpoena for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton.
Bolton claimed, according to the leaked manuscript of a book awaiting publication, that Trump directly asked him to solicit the investigation into Biden and explicitly linked it to the withholding of foreign military aid.
Trump’s defense maintained that the aid and other conditions supporting the NATO ally were met, albeit delayed, but that it was consistent with Trump’s foreign policy and that he was justified in pressing for additional assurances about Zelenskiy’s commitment to anti-corruption pledges.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press