The Senate voted on Wednesday to acquit President Donald Trump of the two charges against him in his impeachment trial.
The vote came after a bitter fight between House impeachment managers, who acted as prosecutors in the president’s trial, and Trump’s defense team over his dealings with Ukraine.
Wednesday’s vote to clear Trump of abuse of power fell largely along party lines.
Forty-eight senators – every Democratic and independent lawmaker and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney — voted to convict Trump. Fifty-two senators — all Republicans — voted to acquit him.
On the obstruction of Congress charge, Romney sided with Republicans and the final vote was 47 senators in favor of conviction and 53 senators against.
In order to trigger the president’s removal from office, two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 lawmakers, need to vote to convict him.
This is the first time in US history that a member of the president’s own party voted to convict and remove him from office.
It’s also the first time that the entire opposing party voted to convict the president.
Trump was impeached in December. Both articles of impeachment relate to his efforts to strong-arm Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election while withholding $391 million in vital military aid and dangling a White House meeting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky desperately sought and still hasn’t gotten.
At the center of the impeachment inquiry was a July 25 phone call during which Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over the latter’s employment on the board of the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings.
Trump also asked Zelensky to help discredit the Russia probe by investigating a bogus conspiracy theory suggesting Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to help Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Documents and testimony from more than a dozen witnesses eventually revealed that the July phone conversation was just one data point in a months-long effort by Trump and his allies, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to leverage the weight of the US government and foreign policy to force Ukraine into acceding to his political demands.
Wednesday’s vote to acquit the president came after a heated trial in which the Republican-controlled Senate refused to subpoena documents or hear new witness testimony.
The move was unprecendented — the Senate called witnesses in all 15 impeachment trials in US history, including those of former Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.
Senate Republicans’ decision to block witnesses was especially noteworthy given that John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, announced he was willing to testify and had firsthand knowledge of the president’s pressure campaign in Ukraine.
According to The New York Times, Bolton claims in his upcoming book that Trump personally told him he would withhold aid to Ukraine until Zelensky gave in to his demands for politically motivated investigations targeting his rivals. The revelation directly undercuts Trump and his lawyers’ claims that there was no “quid pro quo” with Ukraine.
Bolton also claims that last May, shortly after Zelensky was elected president, Trump asked him Bolton to call Zelensky to ensure he met with Giuliani, who spearheaded Trump’s pressure campaign. Bolton says the acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and the White House counsel Pat Cipollone — who also led Trump’s defense team in the impeachment trial — both witnessed Trump making that demand. Bolton added that he did not call Zelensky.
House impeachment managers argued that the Senate had a constitutional obligation to hear new witness testimony, particularly from someone like Bolton who, as the former national security adviser, was the most high profile individual in Trump’s inner circle to allege wrongdoing on the president’s part.
Trump’s defense lawyers, meanwhile, argued that the Senate already had enough testimony from the 17 witnesses who testified in the House impeachment hearings and didn’t need any more information. This argument was at odds, however, with the defense team’s claim that the House rushed through impeachment proceedings without allowing for more witnesses.
Ultimately, 51 senators, all Republican, voted against calling new witnesses, and 49 senators voted in favor of it. Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, voted with Democrats to call witnesses.