- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday ruled President Trump not guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, rejecting Democrats’ five-month impeachment crusade as weak and saying the president’s fate is better decided at the ballot box.

Though the outcome was never much in doubt, Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, did make history by becoming the first senator ever to vote to convict a president in his own party.

He joined Democrats in condemning Mr. Trump for abuse of power, but they were in the minority, and Mr. Trump was acquitted on a 52-48 vote. Mr. Romney did side with Mr. Trump and fellow Republicans for the obstruction vote, which was defeated by 53-47. Both were well shy of the two-thirds needed to convict and oust the president.

“The U.S. Senate was made for moments like this,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who worked closely with the White House to orchestrate the president’s acquittal.

Mr. Trump went to Twitter to say he would make a public statement at noon Thursday to “discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the vote was full vindication and exoneration of the president.

“As we have said all along, he is not guilty. The Senate voted to reject the baseless articles of impeachment, and only the president’s political opponents — all Democrats, and one failed Republican presidential candidate — voted for the manufactured impeachment articles,” she said, referencing Mr. Romney’s unsuccessful 2012 bid for president.

Mr. Trump was only the third president to be impeached. No president has been convicted and removed, though President Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.

Throughout Mr. Trump’s trial, some Democrats said his behavior was worse than Nixon’s.

They said Wednesday that the acquittal was meaningless because the Senate voted last week to reject proposals to call new witnesses or subpoena documents. Democrats said witnesses would have proved their case.

Republicans countered that House Democrats, who led the impeachment push, had a chance to pursue witnesses but rushed their process to meet a political deadline. Republican senators said they wouldn’t rescue the House from its own failings.

The vote, while clearing the president, did little to ease the deep divisions in Congress that have persisted since before Mr. Trump took office.

House Democrats said they will continue to investigate Mr. Trump. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said some committee is likely to subpoena former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, who has written a book that reportedly backs much of the impeachment case against Mr. Trump.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, say they too will investigate — though their focus is on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter, whose position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company is at the crux of the impeachment saga.

After Mr. Biden expressed an interest in running for the Democratic nomination to battle Mr. Trump in the election this November, the president asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. He also wanted President Volodymyr Zelensky to turn over any documents that would back up a theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 elections. At the same time, the White House put a hold on almost $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

House Democrats said that was an abuse of power, and they voted Dec. 18 to impeach him. They added a second article accusing Mr. Trump of obstruction of Congress after he blocked documents and witnesses they had subpoenaed in their investigation. No Republicans joined the Democrats in impeaching the president.

Senate Democrats said the case was obvious and rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors — the standard the Constitution sets for impeachment. But the impeachment push was also freighted with years of frustration with Mr. Trump’s behavior, starting with the 2016 presidential campaign.

“You cannot be on the side of this president and be on the side of truth. And if we are to survive as a nation, we must choose the truth,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

“If the truth doesn’t matter, if the news you don’t like is ‘fake,’ if cheating in an election is acceptable, if everyone is as wicked as the wickedest among us, then hope for the future is lost,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who reversed herself to back impeachment last year, pointed to Mr. Romney’s defection and said Wednesday’s vote was still a victory of sorts.

“He is the first president in history to face a bipartisan vote to convict him in the Senate,” she said. “A full 75% of Americans and many members of the GOP Senate believe the president’s behavior is wrong. But the Senate chose instead to ignore the facts, the will of the American people and their duty to the Constitution.”

Some prominent Republican senators said Mr. Trump’s demand for investigations of political rivals was “inappropriate,” though none of them other than Mr. Romney thought his actions merited impeachment.

Mr. Romney called it “an appalling abuse of public trust.”

“What he did was not perfect. No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values,” he said.

Donald Trump Jr. said Senate Republicans should expel Mr. Romney from their ranks for his apostasy.

Mr. McConnell downplayed the idea, though he acknowledged he was “disappointed” with Mr. Romney’s defection.

Mr. Romney became the first senator ever to vote to convict a president in his own party. All 12 Democrats in the chamber voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson in 1868, and all Democrats voted to acquit President Clinton in 1999.

Democrats were unified again Wednesday.

Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Doug Jones of Alabama, all of whom had been eyed as potential acquittal votes, backed conviction on both articles of impeachment.

Analysts said Mr. Jones likely sealed his doom in Alabama, a deep-red state where he is running for reelection this year.

Mr. Jones fired off a fundraising email Wednesday touting his vote.

“I didn’t consult my party or polling. I took my constitutional oaths seriously,” he told supporters. “That isn’t going to make Mitch McConnell or the extremists he supports in Washington happy, but it was the right thing to do.”

The politics of impeachment appear to be tilting against Democrats.

Mr. Trump’s job approval rating has soared 9 percentage points in Gallup’s polling since late September, when Mrs. Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry.

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden’s political fortunes have sunk as his son’s dealings in Ukraine have drawn scrutiny.

Mr. McConnell said impeachment also has dented Democrats in the most contested Senate races this year.

“This was a political loser for them. They initiated it. They thought this was a great idea, and at least for the short term it has been a colossal political mistake,” the Kentucky Republican said.

• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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