An Update on the Impeachment Trial: What Happened Before, While and After the Senate Voted to Acquit President Trump

The Senate voted to acquit President Trump 52-48 on the abuse of power article and 53-47 on the obstruction of Congress charge Feb. 6. 

Before the Senate even received the articles of impeachment, the impeachment trial was immersed in controversy. Constituents Republican senators and alike criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for withholding the physical articles from the Senate. AP US Government and Politics teacher Mary Wagner says that though Speaker Pelosi never publicly offered a definite explanation for why she delayed sending the articles, multiple theories circulated. One theory proposes that Speaker Pelosi wanted guarantees that the Senate would carry out a fair trial, including calling additional witnesses, which the Senate never did. Another explanation suggests that Speaker Pelosi knew more information was going to be revealed about the president’s conduct pertaining to Ukraine, putting pressure on senators to demand the presence of additional witnesses at the trial. Still others claim that Speaker Pelosi was simply stalling to give the House Managers, acting as prosecutors, more time to prepare their cases in favor of the president’s removal from office. 

There was such reluctance on the part of the Republican senators to call forth more witnesses because, as Ms. Wagner explains, any subsequent witnesses called would have only harmed the president’s case. The Republicans felt calling more witnesses would have taken too much time, and they were prepared to acquit the president. 

Most senators were either for the president’s removal or against it with clear divisions parallel to party lines. As such, many were wondering why House Democrats even bothered to charge President Trump with the articles of impeachment. Ms. Wagner believes that the Democrats took action out of principle, concerned the president felt he was above the law and was setting a dangerous precedent for the conduct of future presidents. Yet others say Democrats decided to charge the president for their own political gains given the upcoming elections. Separating himself from the party was Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who advocated for censuring the president.

Another outlier in this process was Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), who cited his oath to God to be honest and protect the Constitution as his rationale for voting to convict the president. That decision so blatantly broke party line and defied the direction of the president. President Trump has criticized Senator Romney for doing so, and it is unclear how this decision will affect Senator Romney politically. He will not be up for reelection until 2024. 

Looking forward to this year’s elections, many political analysts have been discussing how both the Democratic hopefuls and President Trump will use impeachment to their respective advantages as November approaches. Ms. Wagner forecasts that the Democratic presidential candidates will point to impeachment as a major motivating factor to vote for them over President Trump. President Trump, on the other hand, has continually denounced the impeachment process as nonsense and can now point to the fact that, despite all the evidence, of which many dispute the validity, the Democrats could not remove him from office. According to the BBC, after the vote was announced, President Trump’s approval rating hit a record high of 49%. The president is continuing his campaign for another term, and campaigned all throughout the impeachment process. 

What remains to be seen is whether or not impeachment will remain as relevant at the end of the year. Many believe President Trump is simply trying to move past impeachment considering he did not mention the trial or the vote in his State of the Union address. 

After the vote, President Trump removed Gordon Sondland from his post as ambassador to the European Union and dismissed war veteran Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindland from military service Friday in response to their testimonies against President Trump during the House hearings. 

The investigations into the Ukraine scandal are continuing, and the House has vowed to try the president again should new evidence come to light.