On Wednesday, in the last part of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, the United States Senate voted that he had not in their opinion abused his presidential power when asking the government of Ukraine to launch an investigation of Hunter Biden while withholding promised military aid and had not in their opinion obstructed Congress.
The official response from the White House, released later that day, called the proceedings a “sham impeachment,” “witch-hunt,” “wholly corrupt process,” and other epithets and claimed that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had both lied at various times during the proceedings.
Trump himself responded via live speech in the White House’s East Room. “We first went through Russia, Russia, Russia. It was all bullshit.” He went on to call Nancy Pelosi a “horrible person,” referred to former FBI director James Comey as a “sleazebag,” and suggested that his 2016 presidential opponent Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention had paid the United Kingdom‘s MI6 to fabricate evidence against him in 2017. Neither Comey nor Clinton was directly involved in his impeachment trial. Trump fired Comey long before the investigation against him began and Clinton has not held public office in years.
Chuck Schumer also gave his view to the public: “Now that our Republican colleagues have rejected a fair trial — the truth — there’s a giant asterisk right next to the President’s acquittal […] And it means that his acquittal is virtually valueless. […] I believe the American people will realize that this was one of the largest cover ups in the history of our nation.” In previous statements, he had specifically criticized the heavily Republican vote against allowing any witnesses to testify, held the previous Friday.
In the United States, when a sitting president or other high official is suspected of a serious crime or misuse of power, the House of Representatives votes on whether or not to have an impeachment trial and works out the details of the formal accusation, called articles of impeachment. Then, the Senate serves as the jury for that trial, and to remove the official from office, two thirds of them, now 67 senators, must vote guilty. The United States Senate currently has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and 2 independents.
Here, the House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment, one for abuse of power for withholding military aid from Ukraine until the government of that country agreed to investigate Hunter Biden and another for obstruction of Congress. The reasoning in this case is that an investigation of Hunter Biden might have hurt any presidential campaign that his father, former Vice President Joe Biden might run against Trump in the 2020 presidential election. The Senate voted 52–48 not guilty on the first article and 53–47 on the second. The ballots were not secret. Rather, each Senator stood up and said “guilty” or “not guilty” out loud when a clerk called his or her name.
The only guilty vote by a Republican on either count was from the party’s 2012 presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, on the first article. He said, “The president is guilty of a flagrant abuse of public trust. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.” This is the only time any sitting United States president has had a senator of his own party vote to remove him.
In U.S. history, three presidents have been impeached, which means the trial took place, but none have been removed from office.