Just like that, the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump is over. As you probably already know by now, he was not removed from office. This isn’t surprising: the other two presidents who have been impeached in the past were acquitted as well. But several of the elements of the trial were at least unusual. Here, Election Central takes a look at some of the key takeaways.
One of the major points of contention during the impeachment trial was whether or not the Senate should hear from key witnesses. In most trials, witnesses are a critical part of the proceedings. But Republicans argued that the case against the president was weak and that additional witnesses and documents (beyond the evidence already presented in the House inquiry) were unnecessary. Democrats, on the other hand, insisted that they couldn’t possibly have a fair trial without hearing testimony from key firsthand witnesses, such as former national security adviser John R. Bolton, who claimed that Trump had indeed directly pressured the Ukrainian leaders and that White House higher-ups knew all about it.
Ultimately, after ten days of deliberation, the vote in the Senate was 51-49 against hearing new witnesses, with Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah the only Republicans to vote in favor.
Many Republican senators indicated that they thought that what Trump did–using military aid dollars as a way to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden–was inappropriate. Some even said flat-out that it was wrong. But they argue that even though what he did may have been wrong, it did not constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors” and was not an impeachable offense. Many claimed that the Democrats were only motivated by partisanship and that giving in to them and voting to remove Trump from office would further deepen the political divide in the nation. A better approach, they suggested, would be to work harder to come together as a country and to put partisan bickering behind us.
Last Wednesday, the Senate voted to acquit Trump on both of the articles of impeachment–meaning that it found him not guilty. On the first article of impeachment, which was for Trump’s abuse of power in the Ukraine scandal, every Democrat voted guilty. Every Republican voted not guilty, except for one: Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.
On the second article of impeachment, which was for obstruction of Congress (for failing to cooperate with the investigation), every Democrat voted guilty and every Republican voted not guilty, with the Republicans winning 53 to 47. For either vote, a two-thirds majority–or 67 votes–would have been required to remove Trump from office.