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Impeachment update: Trump acquitted, despite one GOP defector

President Donald Trump (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has survived impeachment, but he didn’t emerge unscathed.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday acquitted Trump on charges that he abused his power by pressuring a foreign government to interfere in a U.S. presidential election and then obstructed a congressional investigation into his actions.

The vote was almost entirely partisan, but Democrats scored a major political coup by winning the support of Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who was the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee. And Democrats will continue to use Trump’s behavior and his status as an impeached president against him heading into the 2020 election. North Carolina senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis voted to acquit.

Both of the impeachment articles fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors and remove him from office.

Article I, charging Trump with abuse of power, failed by a vote of 48-52. Romney was the only Republican to vote “guilty.”

Article II alleging obstruction of Congress was defeated 47-53, with Romney siding with Republicans.

“It is, therefore, ordered and adjudged that the said Donald John Trump be, and he is hereby, acquitted of the charges in said articles,” declared U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.

Trump was the third U.S. president impeached by the House; on Wednesday he also became the third president acquitted by the Senate.

The vote comes after several months of partisan sniping over impeachment has dominated politics in Washington, but the end of the trial isn’t likely to alter the tenor on Capitol Hill. On the eve of the acquittal vote, Trump delivered a divisive State of the Union address. Following his remarks, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) publicly shredded her copy of the speech.

Pelosi has stressed that impeachment will remain a stain on Trump’s tenure. “It is a fact when someone is impeached, they are always impeached. It cannot be erased.”

Democrats and Republicans alike warned of the long-term damage the process has caused, although they each pointed fingers at the other side.

“This partisan impeachment will end today, but I fear the threat to our institutions may not, because this episode is one of a symptom of something much deeper,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), accusing House Democrats of using impeachment power as a political weapon.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), complained that the Senate trial “wasn’t a trial by any stretch of the definition.” He and other Democrats were enraged when GOP senators voted against introducing witness testimony and additional documents into the Senate trial.

“You cannot be on the side of this president and be on the side of truth,” Schumer said on the Senate floor ahead of the acquittal vote.

House Democrats appear certain to continue investigations into the president.

House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) told reporters that he’s likely to subpoena John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. Bolton reportedly wrote in a book manuscript that Trump told him he was withholding aid to Ukraine to force an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, NPR reported.

Lawmakers have also been discussing efforts to censure Trump for his actions toward Ukraine, although it’s unlikely that effort would advance in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“Censure would allow this body to unite across party lines,” Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said this week on the Senate floor. “His behavior cannot go unchecked by the Senate.”

Robin Bravender is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for States Newsroom, a network of state-based news outlets that includes NC Policy Watch.

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