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Senate Votes to Acquit the President

Amelia (second from right) and fellow Kid Reporters Marley Alburez and Siroos Pasdar talked about the impeachment process with NY1 news anchor Pat Kiernan in New York City.

On February 5, the United States Senate voted to acquit Republican President Donald Trump. He can stay in office even though the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, impeached him. 

Last December, the House passed two articles of impeachment against the President. The first article said that he had abused his power. The second found him guilty of obstructing Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to possible wrongdoing. It is only the third time in U.S. history that a president has been impeached. 

Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, led the House members who argued the case in front of the Republican-controlled Senate. 

The House said that Trump had pressured a foreign leader to help him in his own bid for re-election. In a phone conversation last July, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, while Trump hopes to win a second term in office.

Trump also withheld military assistance from Ukraine in exchange for his “favor.” The aid had been approved by Congress because the Eastern European country is under attack from neighboring Russia. 



Many lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, criticized Trump’s actions. “I think he shouldn’t have done it,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee. “I think it was wrong, [but] what he did is a long way from treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors.”

According to the Constitution, the “President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

All of the Democratic Senators voted to remove Trump from office. But they did not have enough votes to find Trump guilty. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah is the only Republican who agreed that Trump should be removed because of his abuse of power. 

“I believe that the act [Trump] took, an effort to corrupt an election, is as destructive an attack on the oath of office and our Constitution as I can imagine,” Romney said. “It is a high crime and misdemeanor within the meaning of the Constitution, and that is not a decision I take lightly. It is the last decision I want to take.”



Now that the Senators have cast their votes, how will they fare in the November elections?  

“Very few of the Democrats are facing re-election in divided states, and very few face serious primary challenges,” lawyer David Goldberg, who is an expert on the Constitution, told me via email. “I think all of them will say to their constituents some version of ‘I did what I thought was right, but the Republicans completely controlled the process.’ Republicans in swing states face tougher political pressures.”

Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, is among those up for re-election this year. Her decision that Trump should stay in office, she said, was based on the evidence. 

“I do not believe that the House has met its burden of showing that the President’s conduct, however flawed, warrants the extreme step of immediate removal from office,” Collins said. The Senate did not allow individuals with direct knowledge of the President’s actions to testify.



Goldberg also noted that Senator Doug Jones, a Democat from Alabama, faces a tough re-election battle because President Trump is extremely popular in his state. Nonetheless, Jones found the President guilty.

“After many sleepless nights, I have reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the President for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress,” Jones said in a written statement.

Romney agreed. He is now the only Senator in U.S. history to vote to remove a President from his own party from office. His decision, he said, was about more than winning or losing the next election. 

“I will tell my children and their children,” Romney said, “that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me.”

Voters will make their own decision about Trump when they go to the polls on November 3.

Photo courtesy of NY1