The Senate overwhelmingly acquitted President Trump on both articles of impeachment against him Wednesday afternoon following a brief trial, in a historic rejection of Democrats’ claims that the president’s Ukraine dealings and handling of congressional subpoenas merited his immediate removal from office.
Several Congressional Democrats, speaking to Fox News, were dejected on Capitol Hill late Wednesday, even as they said they hoped to weaponize the acquittal votes by several moderate Republicans in swing states.
“We all knew how this was going,” one senior House Democratic source told Fox News. “But everyone’s depressed. Especially because of Iowa,” where the first-in-the-nation caucuses have been plagued by mismanagement.
Another Democratic source also said that impeachment “went as well as it could go.” There was significant consternation among House Democrats about heading down the impeachment road at all over the summer, Fox News is told, but Democratic leaders felt they had to get in front of the impeachment movement and embrace it – or they may have been steamrolled by the progressive wing of the party.
In the final vote, all Democratic senators supported convicting the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, including swing-vote moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Doug Jones, D-Ala.
The only party defection was on the abuse of power charge from Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who declared hours before the final vote that Trump had engaged in as “destructive an attack on the oath of office and our Constitution as I can imagine.” Romney voted not guilty on the obstruction charge.
By a final vote of 52-48 against conviction on the abuse of power charge and 53-47 against conviction on the obstruction charge, the Senate fell far short of the two-thirds, 67-vote supermajority needed to convict and remove the president. Swing-vote Republican senators — including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — voted to acquit on both counts.
The separate obstruction of Congress charge concerned the White House’s assertion of executive privilege and refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas. Romney explained he would acquit on the obstruction count, saying House Democrats had chosen not to respond to the White House’s legal arguments against the subpoenas.
After Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts formally declared Trump acquitted, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., presented him with the “Golden Gavel” award as a thank-you for his service. Former Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist received the same award, which is usually presented to freshmen senators after long hours presiding over the body, for his handling of President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial.
“I look forward to seeing you all again under happier circumstances,” Roberts said as he concluded his remarks and prepared to depart the chamber.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, McConnell noted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had resisted calls for impeachment from the party’s progressive wing before finally caving — and said she should have trusted her “instincts.”
“I’m pretty sure she didn’t want to do this,” McConnell said, referring to Pelosi’s lengthy reluctance to initiate impeachment proceedings. Trump, speaking to Fox News ahead of the Super Bowl, made a similar argument, saying the “radical” wing of the Democratic Party had pushed her into making a grave mistake and realizing her “worst nightmare.”
McConnell also said he was “perplexed” by Democrats’ arguments that the evidence against Trump was overwhelming and obvious, but at the same time, more witnesses and evidence were desperately needed.
He called the proceedings a “thoroughly political exercise,” and added that ironically, Pelosi was right “in the beginning” when she didn’t want to go down this path.
“This was a political loser for them,” McConnell said. “At least in the short-term, this has been a colossal political mistake.”
A Gallup poll released this week showed record-high approval numbers for Trump and the Republican Party in general, suggesting the impeachment proceedings may have backfired politically for Democrats. The Republican Party’s approval numbers were at their highest since 2005, and Trump’s were the highest of his presidency.
Reaction from other Republicans was ebullient. Trump, on Twitter, reposted a mock Time magazine cover implying he would never leave office.
Trump added: “I will be making a public statement tomorrow at 12:00pm from the @WhiteHouse to discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!”
After his acquittal by the Senate in 1999, Clinton came out of the White House alone and apologized for his conduct which led to his impeachment — a scene not expected this time around.
Later in the evening, Trump wrote, “Had failed presidential candidate @MittRomney devoted the same energy and anger to defeating a faltering Barack Obama as he sanctimoniously does to me, he could have won the election. Read the Transcripts!”
The White House asserted that the “sham impeachment attempt concocted by Democrats ended in the full vindication and exoneration of President Donald J. Trump,” and slammed Romney as “one failed Republican presidential candidate.”
“In what has now become a consistent tradition for Democrats, this was yet another witch-hunt that deprived the President of his due process rights and was based on a series of lies,” the White House said. “Rep. Adam Schiff lied to Congress and the American people with a totally made up statement about the President’s phone call. Will there be no retribution?”
The White House continued: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi also lied to the American people about the need to swiftly pass impeachment articles they dreamt up, only to sit on them for a month before sending over to the Senate. In the Senate, the Democrats continued to make their political motivations clear – Rep. Schiff proclaimed the issues ‘cannot be decided at the ballot box’ – proving once again they think they know better than the voters of this country. This entire effort by the Democrats was aimed at overturning the results of the 2016 election and interfering with the 2020 election.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close Trump ally, celebrated the end of the “partisan-driven impeachment” that has “done injury to the office of the presidency and was an injustice to President Trump.”
“As I said after the Clinton impeachment trial, the Senate has spoken and the cloud over the presidency has been removed. I meant it then and mean it now,” Graham said in a statement. “Unfortunately, I doubt my Democratic colleagues, who are being driven by unlimited hatred of President Trump, have the ability to move on. The president was acquitted today by the Senate and will be exonerated by the American people in November when he is reelected to a second term.”
And, National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Emmer quickly issued his own statement saying he was “pleased” by the result.
“This should finally slam the door on the sick obsession these socialist Democrats have with harassing President Trump and his family,” Emmer said. “Nancy Pelosi needs to learn some self-control by suppressing her hatred of President Trump so she can finally start getting things done for the American people.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, meanwhile, told Fox News he was “disappointed” in Romney’s vote against the president. Lott, served in the Senate during Clinton’s impeachment trial, said he had “showed up in case they needed a reserve vote.”
“Was this jealousy? ” Lott asked, concerning Romney’s vote. “He tried to lead the party. Now he can’t even be a part of the party.”
Murkowski, however, said she respected Romney’s decision and that he belonged in the GOP. “I think each of us had to come to our own place and I respect his decision,” she said. “I respect the difficulties that I know he went through as he processed it, but I absolutely respect where he ended up.”