WASHINGTON (CN) — Save for one astonishing defection, Republicans cemented what Democrats long suspected would be the preordained conclusion of the Senate proceedings on Thursday: a speedy acquittal without witness testimony to further stain President Donald Trump’s legacy as the third impeached commander-in-chief in U.S. history.
A solemn proceeding, with a consensus reached within about 30 minutes, the 48-52 vote on the abuse-of-power article of impeachment marks the GOP-dominated Senate’s fatal blow to charges sent by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. The Senate killed the other article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, with a 47-53 vote.
Before a final verdict was rendered, Senator Mitt Romney roiled Republican expectations when he announced his decision to acquit Trump on the first article of impeachment: abuse of power.
“I will tell my children that I did my duty to the best of my ability,” Romney said. “I will only be one name among many. No more, no less to future generations who look to the record of this trial. They will note I was among the senators who determined what the president did was wrong, grievously wrong.”
Romney's was the lone change between the votes on the two articles.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., also announced ahead of the final verdict Wednesday she would vote to convict Trump, saying the facts in the case were clear and that the administration’s refusal to provide Congress with documents investigatory committees subpoenaed set a precedent, “upending the balance of power.”
“Future presidents — of both parties — will use this case as a guide to avoid transparency and accountability to the American people," she said. "That should be gravely concerning to all of us."
Just before Chief Justice Roberts entered the Senate chamber, Simena received a bit of encouragement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The New York Democrat extended his arm around her shoulder as they spoke among themselves for a brief moment.
The White House released a statement shortly after Trump’s acquittal saying the “sham impeachment attempt concocted by Democrats,” ended in the president’s vindication.
Labeling the impeachment inquiry a “witch-hunt that deprived the president of his due process rights,” the statement says the entire impeachment effort was aimed to overturn the results of the 2016 election — an argument House impeachment managers specifically rejected and addressed during their presentations.
“The president is pleased to put this latest chapter of shameful behavior by the Democrats in the past and looks forward to continuing his work on behalf of the American people in 2020 and beyond,” the White House added.
Trump's monthslong impeachment began in earnest when a whistleblower, who would later be vilified by the White House, filed a complaint last year to Inspector General Joseph Maguire with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The complaint asserted that on a July 25 call, Trump solicited Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, Biden’s son Hunter and Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian-owned energy conglomerate that counted Hunter as board member. A rough transcript of that conversation would later bear out the whistleblower’s story that Trump sought an investigation of his anticipated 2020 election rival.