On Wednesday, February 5, President Donald Trump became the third president in US history to be acquitted in an impeachment trial. Trump had been facing two articles of impeachment, but the US Senate’s vote concluded he was not guilty of either charge – largely along party lines.
The one exception was Senator Mitt Romney, a member of Trump’s Republican Party, who claims that the president had abused his power.
Following a three-week trial – the shortest impeachment trial in US history – the Senate voted on the two articles of impeachment the US House of Representatives had adopted against Trump.
On the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, the Senate voted 52-48 for Trump. On the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, the Senate voted 53-47 for Trump.
For a president to be removed from office in an impeachment trial, there must be a two-thirds vote in favor of removal. In the 100-seat Senate, 67 votes are needed to remove a president.
With Trump’s Republican Party holding the majority of seats in the Senate, acquittal was considered a foregone conclusion.
Trump was accused of abusing his presidential power to force Ukraine to investigate a political rival. The president was also charged with obstruction of justice, refusing to provide evidence or witnesses as the House investigated the alleged use of extortion against Ukraine, a US ally. It has been alleged – and supported by outside witnesses – that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine, forcing their government to announce a criminal investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a possible contender for the presidency in 2020.
Prior to the opening arguments of the trial, the Senate voted along party lines to prevent additional witnesses or testimony. For this reason, Democrats have called the trial a cover-up.
Romney’s dissenting vote
Republican Senator Romney of Utah made history when he voted to remove Trump from office. A member of a president’s party had never voted to oust him prior to this Wednesday. Only two other US presidents – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton – had ever faced an impeachment trial.
Romney voted that President Trump had abused his power, but he voted against the article that alleged Trump had obstructed justice.
Romney had been the Republican candidate for president in 2012. He ultimately lost to President Barack Obama – a fact Trump highlighted in a tweet on February 6 after the senator’s vote.
Prior to the vote, Romney delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate in which he called Trump’s actions “a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values.”