Issued on: 05/02/2020 – 22:37Modified: 05/02/2020 – 22:37
The US Senate on Wednesday acquitted President Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges following an historic two-week impeachment trial in the upper house.
The Republican-majority Senate acquitted Trump on both articles of impeachment. For the first charge, abuse of power, they voted 52-48 "not guilty".
Utah Senator Mitt Romney was the only Republican to break ranks, voting "guilty" on the first charge, siding with the Senate's 45 Democrats and two independents. However, he voted "not guilty" on the second charge, obstruction of Congress.
"Corrupting an election to keep one's self in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one's oath of office that I can imagine," Romney said in an emotional speech on the Senate floor.
The "abuse of power" charge refers to allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, in what House Democrats said political quid pro quo for personal political gain.
Senators voted 53-47 to acquit Trump on the second article, obstruction of Congress by blocking witnesses and documents sought by the House.
A conviction on either of the two counts would have elevated Vice President Mike Pence, another Republican, into the presidency. Romney joined the rest of the Republican senators in voting to acquit on the obstruction charge. No Democrat voted to acquit.
The Senate trial spanned 21 days.
Trump has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The verdict cleared out a major hurdle for the president to fully plunge into his campaign for re-election in November.
Democrats were dejected but not surprised, after an intense 78-day House investigation that faced public doubts and high-pressure stonewalling from the White House.
Anticipating the likely party-line vote by the senators, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly said that, whatever happened, Trump would join two previous presidents as being tarred with the "impeached" label, since the House of Representatives formally impeached Trump in December.
The vote closed a political chapter that many Democrats had been reluctant to enter.
Pelosi originally rejected pressure early last year to impeach Trump on evidence compiled by then special counsel Robert Mueller that he had obstructed the Russia election meddling investigation.
But her concerns that it was a hefty political risk for Democrats less than two years before national elections melted after new allegations surfaced in August that Trump had pressured Ukraine for help for his 2020 campaign.
Though doubtful from the outset that they would win support from Senate Republicans, an investigation amassed with surprising speed strong evidence to support the allegations.
The evidence showed that from early in 2019, Trump's private lawyer Rudy Giuliani and a close political ally, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, were scheming to pressure Kiev to help smear Democrats, including Trump's potential 2020 rival Joe Biden, by opening investigations into them.