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US Senate votes to acquit Trump on impeachment charges

February 5, 2020

Donald Trump will stay in office after the majority of the US Senate voted "not guilty" at the end of his impeachment trial. Republican lawmaker Mitt Romney broke party ranks to vote against Trump.

Trump gestures at a January 30 rally
Image: Imago Images/Zumapress/B. Cahn

US lawmakers voted in favor of clearing Donald Trump on impeachment charges on Wednesday, concluding the Senate trial over his dealings with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The US president was accused of pressuring Zelenskiy to investigate former US Vice President and potential 2020 election rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and of withholding Congress-approved aid to Ukraine pending an announcement of that probe.

The voting fell largely along party lines. The Republican-majority body voted 52 to 48 to clear Trump of the first charge, abuse of power. Utah senator Mitt Romney voted to convict Trump on this count, becoming the only Republican lawmaker to break party ranks in the final stage of the trial.

The second charge, obstruction of Congress, was also rejected with 53 senators, including Romney, voting "not guilty." The Democrats would have needed a two-thirds majority in the 100-seat chamber to remove Trump from office.

Democrats: Acquittal 'valueless'

Top Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer dismissed Trump's acquittal as "virtually valueless" since Republicans refused to hear new witnesses at the trial.

The Senate chamber votes to acquit Trump
The Senate chamber was transformed into a courtroom for the impeachment trial, with Supreme Court Justice John Roberts overseeing the proceedingsImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Senate Television

The senator from New York told reporters: "Now that Republicans have rejected a fair trial, truth is a giant asterisk next to the president's acquittal."

"The asterisk says he was acquitted without facts. He was acquitted without a fair trial. And it means his acquittal is virtually valueless," Schumer added. The senator also expressed his sentiments in a series of tweets.

In addition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump remains "an ongoing threat to American democracy."

"Today, the President and Senate Republicans have normalized lawlessness and rejected the system of checks and balances of our Constitution," Pelosi said in a statement following the acquittal.

Romney slams Trump in the Senate

Earlier on Wednesday, Republican Romney had slammed Trump from the Senate floor, accusing him of committing a "flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security, and our fundamental values."

Romney, who ran for president against Barack Obama in 2012, was also one of only two Republican senators to vote in favor of hearing new evidence and testimonies at the impeachment trial last Friday.

Trump responded sharply in a video to Romney's actions, denouncing the Republican as "slippery" and "stealthy."

Senator Romney: Yes, Trump did commit a crime

Trump '4EVA'?

Trump has repeatedly denounced the impeachment initiative as a "hoax," a "witch hunt" and a "crusade" against him.  

Minutes after the vote, Trump posted a video starting with his own campaign logo for the years 2024 and ending with Trump 4EVA. Trump is limited by law to two terms, meaning he would not be allowed to run in 2024, should he win re-election this November.

He later added he would make a public statement regarding his acquittal from the White House on Thursday at noon local time (1700 UTC).

Trump is likely to "capitalize" on this acquittal as part of his election campaign, DW's US correspondent in Washington Oliver Sallet said.

Trump will approach the November vote as the first ever president to attempt to win a second term having been impeached by the House of Representatives.

The current US leader is only the third president to be impeached in the nearly two and a half centuries of US history, following Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. No president was ever formally removed from office through a Senate impeachment trial. In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached by the House.

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dj, jsi/cmb (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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