WASHINGTON So much for the impeachment of President Trump.
The Senate voted Wednesday afternoon to acquit Trump for asking a foreign country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, closing a four-month political drama with a stunning display of Trumps dominance over Congressional Republicans.
Only one Republican senator broke from Trump: Utahs Mitt Romney, who hammered Trumps behavior as grievously wrong and said he couldnt acquit Trump in good conscience. The rest flocked to Trumps defense, even the handful who publicly expressed anguish over the substance of the charges leveled against the president.
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The final tally was 52-48 on the first article of impeachment, with the vote on the second to follow in a few moments. A two-thirds majority was needed to kick Trump out of office.
The House impeached Trump in December for pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and for blocking the congressional investigation into what happened. Those accusations were crystalized into two articles: Abuse of power, and obstruction of Congress.
Moments before the vote, Democratic Minority Leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, said the historically unprecedented lack of fresh witnesses or documents in the impeachment trial undermined Trumps acquittal.
The verdict of this kangaroo court will be meaningless, Schumer said, calling the proceeding a sham trial.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia ultimately joined his party and voted to impeach Trump on both articles, announcing his decision less than 10 minutes before the vote was counted. Manchin hails from a state that Trump carried by a double-digit margin in the 2016 election, and his vote was in question until the very end.
Several Republicans said they believed it was inappropriate or wrong for Trump a foreign country to investigate Biden. But they ultimately argued his behavior didnt amount to an impeachable offense.
It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation, GOP Senator Lamar Alexander said in a statement earlier this month. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law.
But Alexander voted to clear Trump anyway, arguing that simply being inappropriate wasnt impeachable.
Trump will now become the first president to ever campaign for reelection after being impeached, and it remains to be seen whether the episode will provide lasting damage to his campaign.
Recent polls indicate that most Americans believe Trump did what Democrats said he did.
More than half of voters (between 52 percent and 54 percent) said Trump abused his power, obstructed Congress, and lied about it, a CNN poll in late January found. A big majority, 75 percent, said that the Senate trial should have featured witnesses, an idea Republicans handily shot down earlier this month.
Trumps approval numbers have stayed within their usual range, however, despite all the drama and damning accusations, as they have throughout his many scandals and otherwise strange and turbulent presidency.
On Tuesday, right before his acquittal, the Gallup polling agency found Trumps personal approval rating at 49 percent, the highest number ever registered by Gallup. Among Republicans, Trumps approval rating remained sky-high, at 94 percent.
Cover: President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)