After five months of hearings, investigations and revelations about his dealings with Ukraine, United States President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election.
Given the Republican majority (53 to 47 Democrats), the Senate fell well short of the two-thirds margin that would have been needed to remove the 45th president.
The verdicts after three weeks of debate, were almost entirely along party lines, with every Democrat voting “guilty” on both charges and Republicans uniformly voting “not guilty” on the obstruction of Congress charge.
Only Senator Mitt Romney of Utah broke with his party to judge Trump guilty of abuse of power, becoming the first Senator in US history to vote against his party in an impeachment trial.
In an emotional speech on the Senate floor hours before the vote, Romney declared that Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”
“Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me, for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience. 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 misdemeanour. Yes, he did,” Romney said in a statement to his colleagues.
The first charge of abuse of power, accusing Trump of a scheme to use the levers of government to coerce Ukraine to do his political bidding, failed 48 to 52, with Romney voting with the Democrats. The second article, charging Trump with obstruction of Congress for an across-the-board blockade of House subpoenas and oversight requests, failed 47 to 53 strictly on party lines.
The President himself, reportedly on the advice of his staff, did not directly address his acquittal, but announced on Twitter that he would make a public statement on Thursday at the White House about what he called “our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax.” He then tweeted an attack ad against Romney that called the senator a “Democrat secret asset.”