The Senate on Wednesday voted to acquit President Trump on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings with Ukraine, marking the beginning of the end of the months-long saga.
Senators voted 48-52 on abuse of power and 47-53 on obstruction, falling well short of the two-thirds requirement for convicting and removing him office.
But in a blow to Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's efforts to keep Republicans unified, Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the party's 2012 presidential candidate, announced less than two hours before the vote that he would vote to convict Trump on the abuse of power charge, while acquitting him on the second article involving obstruction of Congress.
“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. Yes, he did. ...The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” Romney said during a Senate floor speech.
Refuting months of GOP predictions, no Democratic senators voted to acquit Trump. Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — all seen as potential swing votes — announced earlier Wednesday that they would vote to convict.
When the articles passed in the House in December, two Democrats — Reps. Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Jefferson Van Drew (N.J.) — voted against it while Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) voted present. No House Republicans voted to impeach Trump, and Van Drew announced he was joining the GOP.
The votes cap off a weeks-long impeachment trial where Trump’s legal team and House managers spent hours making their case to the senators, but also the American public.
With the outcome of the trial pre-baked — Republicans have a 53-seat majority and Democrats need 67 votes to convict — the arguments were really meant to sway a handful of undecided senators in both parties.
The trial wasn’t without its drama: Debate raged around the Capitol until late last week about whether or not there would be a tie on a crucial vote on witnesses.
Republicans had faced days of intense scrutiny to call former national security adviser John Bolton after The New York Times reported that he will claim in his forthcoming memoir — entitled “The Room Where It Happened”— that Trump tied Ukraine aid to the country helping with investigations into Democrats including former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Romney noted ahead of the vote that he had hoped to hear from Bolton "because I believed he could add context to the charges but also because I hoped that what he might say could raise reasonable doubt and thus remove me from the awful obligation to vote for impeachment."
The pieces for Trump’s quick acquittal began to fall into place on Thursday night when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he would not vote to hear new witness, a blow to the Democratic effort to get four GOP senators to side with them to compel new testimony.
Alexander, contradicting the Republican talking points, said that Trump engaged in “inappropriate” but impeachable behavior. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) called Trump’s behavior “shameful and wrong,” while Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Trump showed “poor judgement.”
“We expect a bipartisan vote in the United States Senate," Vice President Pence had said earlier on Wednesday in an interview with Fox News. "The only bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives was against the articles of impeachment. And we expect a bipartisan vote in the United States Senate today.”
Trump is expected to address the votes in the Senate later on Wednesday after ignoring impeachment in his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress last night.
The first article of impeachment accused Trump of “using the powers of his high office” to solicit “the interference of a foreign government … in the 2020 United States Presidential election.”
“He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent” and influence the election, the article states.
White House lawyers repeatedly countered during the trial that Trump delayed the Ukraine aid over concerns about corruption and burden sharing with other countries.