President Trump Acquitted on Both Articles of Impeachment


Photo provided by: United States Senate

Chief Justice John Roberts presides over the impeachment trial of Donald Trump

Porter Huyck, Staff Reporter

On Feb. 5, after hearing arguments from House impeachment managers and the president’s defense team, as well as a vote along party lines to not introduce new witnesses or evidence, the Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump of both articles of impeachment against him. This officially ended the long process of impeachment that had dominated Capitol Hill since October. The vote on obstruction of Congress fell along party lines, with all of the 53 Republicans voting to acquit and all 47 Democrats voting to convict. In a surprising break from his party, one Republican, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, voted to convict Trump on the charge of abuse of power. 

 To convict a president in an impeachment trial requires a 67 vote super-majority. With a 5347 Republican majority20 Republicans would have needed to take two votes against a president of their own party who holds very high approval ratings among their core base of support. With such a strong threat to their reelections, many observers were not surprised by the almost unanimous adherence to the party line. Senator Romney’s divergence from the party was surprising but not completely unexpected. 

There’s nothing for [Romney] to lose because he is very popular within his state given the heavy Mormon constituency, US History and AP Comparative Government and Politics teacher Vita Simmons said. “The only ones who feel like they can speak out against Trump are those who feel some sense of job security.” 

Like the final vote to acquit, the vote on whether or not to bring in witnesses and evidence fell primarily along party lines, but Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah joined Democrats to vote in favor of providing more witnesses, bringing the vote to 51-49. Failing to reach a majority of 51 affirmative votes, the motion to bring witnesses failed. The vote would have given each side the opportunity to bring in new witnesses in hopes that they would provide additional information about Trump’s actions. Proposed witnesses included John Bolton, former national security advisor to Trump, and Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the subject of the pressure campaign by the President that began the impeachment inquiry in October. 

“The trial was not fair by any means,” senior Ben Evelev said. “It is a trial and witnesses should be called.  

The arguments presented by the House impeachment managers in favor of conviction and Trump’s defense team against conviction centered around ideas of power and accountability, with one particular argument from Alan Dershowitz, one of the defense lawyers, standing out. 

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Dershowitz said during a question and answer phase of the trial. 

This interpretation of presidential power is expansive and has generated heated debate among constitutional scholars. Many see such a broad interpretation of presidential power as dangerous to the system of checks and balances that the American government relies on. 

“It expands the executive power beyond the intention of what the founders and framers ever envisioned,” Simmons said. “What is the point of impeachment, what is the point of an impeachment trial, if we are going to allow the president to do anything within his means, and he has enormous means, for his own private purposes? 

The aftermath of impeachment and the president’s acquittal will continue to be a part of campaign speeches and a permanent part of Trump’s historical legacy. For the president and his supporters, the acquittal can be seen as a victory, while for others, the trial and its outcome are a reminder of some of the less pleasant aspects of politics. 

“Trump objectively broke the law,” senior Ryan Nolan said. “But partisan pettiness did not punish him.”