The Republican-controlled Senate acquitted President Donald Trump on two impeachment charges Wednesday amid Republican complaints about what they called a rushed process and Democratic claims that Trump is a threat to democracy. The historic, three-week trial proceeded largely along partisan lines, with just one senator — Republican Mitt Romney of Utah — breaking with his party.
Takeaways from just the third impeachment trial of a president in U.S. history:
Some Republican senators expressed reservations about Trump’s conduct; some even went so far as to say that House Democrats successfully made their case against him. Nonetheless, Trump’s acquittal was never truly in doubt in the Senate.
Even Republicans who disapproved of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine — the heart of the House impeachment charges — said his conduct did not merit making him the first president ever removed from office.
In ways unimaginable when he was first elected as a political newcomer, Trump has come to utterly dominate the GOP. Republican lawmakers bow to his overwhelming popularity with the party’s base. “It’s not a party of ideas or ideology anymore. It’s a cult of personality,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Republicans insisted they were acting in the interests of their constituents and their conscience, and they reacted with outrage when Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, cited a media report claiming that a person close to Trump had warned Republicans their “head will be on a pike” if they voted against the president.
Trump has already shown his power to cast out dissident Republicans. Besides Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who voted for the impeachment articles and is now an independent, former Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona decided not to run for reelection rather than face voters after clashing with Trump.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. R-Ky., again proved himself Trump’s most important ally. He led a drive to deny Democrats any opportunity to call witnesses before the Senate and worked closely with the White House in shepherding the case to acquittal, fulfilling a pledge he made before the trial to “take my cues from the president’s lawyers.”
McConnell slammed House Democrats’ drive to impeach Trump as “the most rushed, least fair and least thorough” in history. He said the two impeachment charges against Trump — that he abused his power and obstructed Congress’ ensuing investigation — are “constitutionally incoherent” and don’t “even approach a case for the first presidential removal in American history.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York accused McConnell and his GOP colleagues of sweeping Trump’s misconduct under the rug. “The administration, its top people and Senate Republicans are all hiding the truth,” Schumer said, adding that Trump tried to “blackmail a foreign country to interfere in our elections.”
Republicans voted t o acquit Trump, but many wanted to be on record as frowning on his conduct. Perhaps the most prominent example was retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who voted against hearing from witnesses but called out Trump’s actions as “inappropriate.”
Other Republicans followed suit, insisting that their votes against witnesses or in favour of acquittal should not be interpreted as approval of his actions.