End of the Impeachment: Acquitted but not Vindicated
Even though the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate voted against the articles of impeachment, declaring the president not guilty is a different matter.
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The White House has declared a "full vindication and exoneration" of President Donald J. Trump after the Senate voted in a partisan manner to acquit him of two House-sanctioned charges.
In a majority vote, the lower house of Congress passed the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress articles only a few weeks ago, after a committee investigation determined that Trump had in fact withheld economic aid to Ukraine in exchange for personal favors.
Once sent to the Republican-majority Senate, and after its leader, Mitch McConnell, announced he was working "hand in hand with the White House" to stipulate the rules of the trial, many of us anticipated that the Republican Party would vote against the articles.
This is, in fact, what happened.
As NBC News explained, all Democrats and independents approved the first article, including Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, "the only Republican who voted to convict Trump.”
The GOP unanimously rejected the second article.
Although the 48 Democratic senators –who represent 18 million more Americans than the remaining 52 Republican senators– voted to condemn the president, Republican tribalism was stronger.
With sufficient evidence, and considering the obstructionism of the White House and the GOP in allowing witnesses and classified documents, the undeniable conclusion of Donald Trump's impeachment is that he did, in fact, abuse his office and put his personal interests before the constitution.
In the words of Senator Romney, "the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.”
In his pre-voting speech, the Republican senator put his oath ahead of his decision and stressed his commitment to "exercise impartial justice.”
"What (Trump) did was not 'perfect,'" Romney said. " No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one's oath of office that I can imagine."
The senator also explained the pressure on his party members to support the president, no matter the cost.
"In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts,” he said. “Many demand that, in their words, 'I stand with the team.’”
For Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, the decision by his Republican colleagues to acquit the president was simply a reaction to fear.
In an opinion column in the New York Times, Brown recalled the CBS News report in which the administration warned senators that if they voted against the president "their heads would be on a pike.”
“For the stay-in-office-at-all-cost representatives and senators, fear is the motivator,” he wrote. “They are afraid that Mr. Trump might give them a nickname like “Low Energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted,” or that he might tweet about their disloyalty. Or — worst of all — that he might come to their state to campaign against them in the Republican primary.”
For their part, the Democratic managers in charge of presenting the House case to the Senate also resorted to the written word to ensure that "Trump won’t be vindicated. The Senate won’t be either.”
Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Hakeen Jeffries, Val Demings, Sylvia Garcia and Jason Crow wrote in a column for the Washington Post their response to the Republicans' decision, as well as their deep criticism and denunciation of the "unprecedented" decisions made by the GOP leadership.
“The president’s defenders resorted to a radical theory that would validate his worst, most authoritarian instincts,” the Democrats wrote. “They argued that a president cannot abuse his power no matter how corrupt his conduct, if he believes it will benefit his reelection. The Founders would have been aghast at such a sweeping assertion of absolute power, completely at odds with our system of checks and balances.”
“By denying the American people a fair trial, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also deprived the president of something that he desperately sought — exoneration,” they concluded. “There can be no exoneration without a legitimate trial. Out of fear of what they would learn, the Senate refused to hold one. The president will not be vindicated, and neither will the Senate, certainly not by history.”