US President Donald Trump drew on staunch Republican support Wednesday to defeat the gravest threat yet to his three-year-old presidency, winning acquittal within the Senate on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Only the third US leader ever placed unproved , Trump readily defeated the trouble to expel him from office for having illicitly sought help from Ukraine to bolster his 2020 re-election effort.
Despite being confronted with strong evidence, Republicans stayed loyal and mustered a majority of votes to clear the president of both charges — by 52 to 48 on the primary , 53 to 47 on the second — falling far in need of the two-thirds supermajority required for conviction.
“Two-thirds of the senators present not having pronounced him guilty, the Senate adjudges that respondent Donald John Trump, President of the us , isn’t guilty as charged,” said Supreme Court judge John Roberts, who presided over the trial.
One Republican, Senator Mitt Romney, a longtime Trump foe, risked White House wrath to vote alongside Democrats on the primary count, saying Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of charitable trust .” He voted acquitted for the second.
The verdict, never truly in question since the House of Representatives formally impeached Trump in December, cleared out a serious hurdle for the president to completely plunge into his campaign for re-election in November.
Trump had repeatedly dismissed the probe as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” but argued he had the proper as president to pressure Ukraine, while refusing to suits Congressional subpoenas for testimony and documents.
Democrats were dejected but unsurprised , 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.
The vote closed a political chapter that a lot of 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 had been a hefty political risk for Democrats but 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 might 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 an in depth political ally, Ambassador to the ecu Union Gordon Sondland, were scheming to pressure Kiev to assist smear Democrats, including Trump’s potential 2020 rival Joe Biden, by opening investigations into them.
Adam Schiff, who led the House investigation, said the very fact that it came after Mueller’s investigation showed that Trump’s 2016 campaign had actively sought help from Russia forced Democrats to act.
“We must say enough — enough! He has betrayed our national security, and he will do so again,” Schiff argued on the Senate floor in the week .
“He has compromised our elections, and he will do so again,” Schiff said.
Driven by hate
Trump’s defenders weren’t seen as having undermined the facts compiled by Schiff’s probe, and a number of other Republican senators acknowledged he did wrong.
But his lawyers and Senate defenders argued, essentially, that Trump’s behavior wasn’t egregious enough for impeachment and removal.
And, pointing to the December House impeachment vote, starkly along party lines, they painted it as a political effort to “destroy the president” in an election year — arguing that voters should be allowed to make a decision Trump’s fate.
“Your hatred of Donald Trump has blinded you to the apparent . this is often not about protecting the country, this is often about destroying the president,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said before the vote.
“The only way for this to finish permanently is for the president to urge reelected.”