The United States Senate voted on Wednesday, February 5th to acquit President Donald Trump on both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The vote, which needed 67 senators in order for Trump to be removed from office, fell far short of that tally, with only the 47 Democrats in the Senate voting for both counts. In an act of defiance, Mitt Romney the Senator from Utah and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, voted for removal on the charge of abuse of power. This vote marks the anticlimactic, but widely expected, end of Trump’s impeachment trial, only the third one in U.S. history.
Although the original impeachment inquiry from the U.S. House of Representatives regarded a phone call Trump made to the President of Ukraine Volodomyr Zelensky, where he allegedly used American military aid as a bargaining chip for his own political goals, the number of issues in question quickly expanded. The prosecution led by Representative Adam Schiff attempted to prove that Trump used his public office for personal gain, while painting a broader picture of Trump as an irresponsible and pathologically criminal President. On the other hand, Trump’s defense led by his personal lawyer Jay Sekulow argued that even if the claims about the Ukraine call were true, Trump never explicitly violated the law. Additionally, Harvard Law professor, Alan Dershowitz, made a controversial argument that President Trump could not be impeached for abuse of power if he believed that his reelection was in the best interests of the country. The trial was capped off by a contentious vote on whether or not to allow new witness testimony, which narrowly failed in the Senate on Friday, January 31st. In the days leading up to that vote, it was unclear if Democrats would be able to convince enough Republicans to break ranks in order to get the simple majority they needed. If they had succeeded, the trial would have been greatly extended and the new evidence brought forth may have made Trump’s removal from office a real possibility. Instead, the vote failed by a tally of 49-51. Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine crossed the aisle to continue the trial, but potential swing votes Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska ended up siding with their party’s establishment in its unwavering support for Trump and his administration.
The main witness who Democrats hoped to call was former national security advisor, John Bolton, who had recently had an excerpt leaked from his upcoming book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir. In this excerpt, he claimed that President Trump had explicitly told the Ukrainian government that he would withhold aid until they investigated Joe and Hunter Biden, a key claim in the abuse of power charge of the impeachment. John Bolton, who has served in the cabinets of four Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan, was fired by Trump back in September over fundamental differences in their approach to foreign policy, especially with regards to Iran and North Korea. Five months later, Bolton has fully turned on his former boss by releasing this book which the publisher claims contains damning evidence, and saying that if he had been subpoenaed, he would have testified against Trump at the impeachment trial. Because of the failure of the witness vote, however, this evidence will probably not be uncovered until May 17 when the book is set for publication. Furthermore, it is very possible that the book will not be published altogether as Bolton followed normal procedure for government officials by sending a draft to the White House which could theoretically kill the entire project. Even still, The Room Where It Happened, its title being a reference to a song in the musical Hamilton, has reached the top of the Amazon book charts and had a clear impact on the Trump administration.
Although Trump was not removed from office as a result of the impeachment trial, it has still left a mark on the American political landscape. As the 2020 election quickly approaches, it is unclear whether this whole ordeal will help or hurt Trump’s reelection chances. On the one hand, very few presidents have ever come as close as he has to being removed from office, but Trump has tried to spin the process as just another example of the “evil” and “corrupt” Democrats embarking on a witch hunt in their own politically motivated attempt to remove Trump from office. Additionally, because of its collision with the first voting in the Democratic primary in Iowa, three of the major Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, had to put their campaigns on hold to fulfill their constitutionally required duties as Senators. Clearly, both bases have been impassioned by this trial with both sides viewing the other’s actions as clear examples of disregard for the Constitution. This has only further divided the nation in such a contentious time in American politics. But even after all of the political drama of the impeachment trial, life goes on in Washington DC and the rest of America, pretty much as usual. There will be no President Mike Pence or great political upheaval anytime soon. Now, the only thing capable of removing Trump from office is the American people, as they prepare to cast their ballots in the 2020 presidential election.
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