Trump impeachment: US Senate acquits president of both charges

Republican Mitt Romney voted against his party for conviction

U.S.  President Donald Trump gestures to gathered news media as he welcomes Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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US President Donald Trump on Wednesday night was cleared from impeachment, after a historic vote in the Senate that concluded he was not guilty on both charges.

The result was a major blow to House Democrats, who on December 18 voted to impeach Mr Trump for abuse of power and obstructing Congress, making him only the third US leader in history to receive such a rebuke.

Mr Trump joined Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 as the only American leaders to face impeachment.

Fifty-two US senators voted to find Mr Trump not guilty of abusing his powers as had been charged in articles of impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Forty-eight voted "guilty", which was not enough to impeach the president. It would take 67 votes in the 100-seat Senate to convict Mr Trump on the charge and remove him from office.

Republican Senator for Utah, Mitt Romney, voted against his party, seeking to convict Mr Trump of abuse of power.

Several senators trying to win the Democratic Party’s nomination to challenge Mr Trump in the November election — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar — returned from early primary state New Hampshire to vote.

The Senate also voted that Mr Trump was not guilty of obstructing Congress's investigation into whether he acted improperly in withholding US military aid to Ukraine.

Wednesday evening saw the end of a nearly three-week impeachment trial, where House Democrats argued that Mr Trump abused power when he pressured Ukraine to investigate his political Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, ahead of the 2020 election.

epa08195942 US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate chamber for the vote to acquit or convict US President Donald J. Trump, in the US Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, 05 February 2020. The Senate will conclude the impeachment trial by holding a vote to acquit or convict US President Donald J. Trump on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, 05 February.  EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Mr Trump is due to give a public address on the failed impeachment attempt at noon in Washington on Thursday.

In a speech before the vote, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, who voted "not guilty", gave a scathing assessment of the Democrat-led impeachment trial.

“This is the kind of recklessness the Senate was created to stop," Mr McConnell said. "The response to losing more elections can’t be to attack the office of the presidency.

“We cannot let factional fever break our institutions. The institutions should break the fever, rather than the other way round.

“The framers [of the American Constitution] built the Senate for keeping temporary rage from creating permanent damage to our republic."

Mr Trump has his highest approval rating since taking office, and Senate Republicans who face tough re-election races are in “better shape” than when the trial started, Mr McConnell said.

After the acquittal vote, Mr Trump tweeted a campaign video, showing a mocked-up copy of Time Magazine with the headline "How Trumpism Outlasted Trump".

The president also tweeted a video attacking Mr Romney for choosing to vote to convict him.

Mr Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, welcomed the news, saying the acquittal “totally vindicated” the president.

Mr Parscale said the impeachment had been a “terrible ordeal” and would go down as "the worst miscalculation in American political history".

On the eve of the vote, Mr Trump gave a jubilant State of the Union speech that did not mention the impeachment. It seemed more like a 2020 election campaign speech.

He spoke of the country's economy, calling it a “great American comeback”, and boasted about economic growth and job gains that were a result of initiatives by former president Barack Obama.

Mr Trump also used the speech to brag about the US operations that killed the commander of Iran's Quds Force, Maj Gen Qassem Suleimani, and ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

Meanwhile, more results from the Democratic caucus of Iowa trickled in on Wednesday, with 86 per cent of the votes counted, after a delay in reporting the results that was blamed on "technical inconsistencies".

Democratic presidential candidate front-runner Joe Biden was behind Pete Buttigieg and US senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the first nominating contest of the 2020 campaign.

Mr Biden led many national polls in the run-up to Iowa and has a host of high-profile endorsements, but his campaign is now in trouble and is reportedly running out of funding.