WASHINGTON — So much for the impeachment of President Trump.
The Senate voted Wednesday afternoon to acquit Trump for asking a foreign country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, closing a four-month political drama with a stunning display of Trump’s dominance over congressional Republicans.
Only one Republican senator broke from Trump: Utah’s Mitt Romney, who hammered Trump’s behavior as “grievously wrong” and said he couldn’t acquit Trump in good conscience. The rest flocked to Trump’s defense, even the handful who publicly expressed anguish over the substance of the charges leveled against the president.
The final tally was 52-48 on the first article of impeachment, and 53-47 on the second. Romney voted to convict on the first article and to acquit on the second. A two-thirds majority was needed to kick Trump out of office.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump in December for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden, and for blocking the congressional investigation into what happened. Those accusations were crystalized into two articles: abuse of power, and obstruction of Congress.
Moments before the vote, Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer said the historically unprecedented lack of fresh witnesses or documents in the impeachment trial undermined Trump’s acquittal.
“The verdict of this kangaroo court will be meaningless,” Schumer said, calling the proceeding a “sham trial.”
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia ultimately joined his party and voted to impeach Trump on both articles, announcing his decision less than 10 minutes before the vote was counted. Manchin hails from a state that Trump carried by a double-digit margin in the 2016 election, and his vote was in question until the very end.
Several Republicans said they believed it was “inappropriate” or “wrong” for Trump to ask a foreign country to investigate Biden. But they ultimately argued his behavior didn’t amount to an impeachable offense.
“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander said in a statement Thursday. “When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law.”
But Alexander voted to clear Trump anyway, arguing that simply being “inappropriate” wasn’t impeachable.
Trump will now become the first president to ever run for reelection after being impeached, and it remains to be seen whether the episode will provide lasting damage to his campaign.
Recent polls indicate that most Americans believe Trump did what Democrats said he did.
More than half of voters (between 52% and 54%) said Trump abused his power, obstructed Congress, and lied about it, a CNN poll in late January found. A big majority, 75%, said that the Senate trial should have featured witnesses, an idea Republicans handily shot down earlier this month.
Trump’s approval numbers have stayed within their usual range, however, despite all the drama and damning accusations, as they have throughout his many scandals and otherwise strange and turbulent presidency.
On Tuesday, right before his acquittal, the Gallup polling agency found Trump’s personal approval rating at 49%, the highest number ever registered by Gallup. Among Republicans, Trump’s approval rating remained sky-high, at 94%.
Cover: President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)