Correspondent in Washington,
Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday by 52 votes to 48 of the abuse of power charge. The senators, by 52 votes to 47, also acquitted him of congressional obstruction, the second count.
On Wednesday afternoon, senators responded to the call for their names in a formal vote, which closed the trial of the President before the upper house. The vote was almost exactly in line with the distribution of seats between Republicans and Democrats. Only Mitt Romney, a Republican senator from Utah, broke his party discipline, and voted for Trump’s guilt on the first count.
“The serious question that the Constitution poses to senators is to determine whether the president has committed such a serious and extreme act that he falls into the category of serious crimes and delicts”said Romney before the vote. “The answer is yes”. “Corrupting an election to stay in office is perhaps the most serious and destructive violation of his oath that I can imagine”, added the senator. The announcement of Romney’s decision sparked criticism and attacks on Romney.
Third president to be acquitted
But apart from this symbolic vote, the long soap opera of Donald Trump’s dismissal ended as planned.
The third president in the history of the United States to be removed from the US House of Representatives, Trump became the third president to be acquitted in the upper house, as were Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999.
The outcome of the dismissal procedure launched by the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has never been in doubt. Charged with “serious crimes and mischief” for attempting to put pressure on the Ukrainian government in order to reach the reputation of his opponent Joe Biden, Donald Trump was the subject of a recall vote on December 18, 2008 Representatives abuse of power and obstruction in Congress.
But he was immediately acquitted by the Senate. Democrats, who hold only 47 of the 100 seats in the Senate, have never had a chance to garner the two-thirds majority, 67 senators, required by the constitution to remove Trump from office. They failed to even convince a handful of elected Republicans to have the Senate vote, by a simple majority, to hear witnesses. Only Romney and Susan Collins, a senator from Maine, had broken with their party to request that witnesses be heard.
So the screenplay unfolded, with a few minor details, as Mitch McConnell had planned. The Republican senator from Kentucky, president of the Senate, and an ally of Donald Trump, announced the acquittal of the president before the trial even started. He kept his word.
Before the vote, McConnell had summed up what he thought of the procedure launched by the Democrats. “It is an insult to the intelligence of the American people to claim that we have been dealing with a solemn process, which has been reluctantly started because of the suspension of aid to a foreign country. The position of the Washington Democrats on this president has been clear for years: they believe that President Donald Trump committed a “serious crime” on the day he defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections. Here is the original sin of this presidency “, quipped McConnell, “He won and they lost”.
“Since then, the nation has suffered from a fierce campaign against our standards and institutions from the same people who keep claiming that our standards and institutions must be defended … We have seen a large American political party adopt the following proposal , absurd, consisting of the fact that the president is an elephant in a porcelain store, and that you therefore have to bulldoze the porcelain store to get rid of him ”. “We did witness an abuse of power, quipped McConnell … the one committed by the majority of the House, against which the drafters of the constitution warned us. ”
“The government, its chief officials, and the Republicans in the Senate are all hiding the truth.”
Charles Schumer, senator from New York
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer accused McConnell of fear that the Senate would have voted to consider a new document and to hear new witnesses. “The very idea that one should not hear witnesses or produce documents during a procedure as important as a dismissal trial is completely laughable”said the New York Senator. “This suggests, and rightly so in my opinion, that the government, its chief officials, and the Republicans in the Senate are all hiding the truth.”
A political victory for Trump
The first assessment of this operation is not very favorable to the Democrats. Legally, they managed to corroborate the elements known since the beginning of the scandal. Politically, Trump has demonstrated his tenacity, and also the sway he exercises over the Republican Party. Three and a half years after his election, Trump is at the head of a solid camp, united around him.
Shortly after the announcement of his acquittal, he announced on twitter that he would speak at noon on Thursday at the White House. “The President is pleased to put this chapter of shameful Democrat behavior behind him, and determined to continue his work on behalf of the American people in 2020 and beyond”said in a statement Stephanie Grisham, spokesman for the US executive.
The first president to be removed from office during his first term, Trump will now seek re-election next November for a second term.