Senate acquits Trump of impeachment charges

WASHINGTON (AP) — United States (US) President Donald Trump won impeachment acquittal in the US Senate, bringing to a close only the third presidential trial in American history with votes that split the country, tested civic norms and fed the tumultuous 2020 race for the White House.

With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, senators sworn to do “impartial justice” stood and stated their votes for the roll call — “guilty” or “not guilty” — in a swift tally almost exclusively along party lines. Trump, the chief justice then declared, shall “be, and is hereby, acquitted of the charges”.

The outcome on Wednesday followed months of remarkable impeachment proceedings, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House to Mitch McConnell’s Senate, reflecting the nation’s unrelenting partisan divide three years into the Trump presidency.

What started as Trump’s request for Ukraine to “do us a favour” spun into a far-reaching, 28,000-page report compiled by House investigators accusing the American President of engaging in shadow diplomacy that threatened US foreign relations for personal, political gain as he pressured the ally to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the next election.

No President has ever been removed by the Senate.

A politically emboldened Trump had eagerly predicted vindication, deploying the verdict as a political anthem in his re-election bid. The President claims he did nothing wrong, decrying the “witch hunt” as an extension of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian 2016 campaign interference by those out to get him from the start of his presidency.

However, the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said there will always be “a giant asterisk next to the president’s acquittal” because of the Senate’s quick trial and Republicans’ unprecedented rejection of witnesses.

A majority of senators expressed unease with Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine that resulted in the two articles of impeachment. But two-thirds of them would have had to vote “guilty” to reach the Constitution’s bar of high crimes and misdemeanours to convict and remove Trump from office. The final tallies in the GOP-held Senate fell far short.

On the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, the vote was 52-48 favouring acquittal. The second, obstruction of Congress, also produced a not guilty verdict, 53-47.

Only one Republican, Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s defeated 2012 presidential nominee, broke with the GOP.

Romney choked up as he said he drew on his faith to vote guilty on the first charge, abuse of power. He voted to acquit on the second.