by Alexandra Huzyk ’20
After a four-month period of impeachment processes, President Donald Trump has officially been acquitted of both articles of impeachment drafted against him, as determined by the trials conducted by the Senate.
In September 2019, a government whistleblower issued a complaint against President Trump. Soon after, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, called for an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, claiming that he had betrayed his Oath of Office and the election process.
The House Intelligence Committee was then tasked with investigation, and the Judiciary Committee drafted two articles of impeachment—one for abuse of power, and the other for obstruction of Congress. The House of Representatives approved both articles, which required a simple majority of votes.
The articles of impeachment were then passed on to the Republican-controlled Senate, which was responsible for conducting President Trump’s trial. The trial included opening and closing remarks from the Democratic House impeachment managers and President Trump’s team of lawyers, plus a 16-hour questioning period by senators. A super majority of 67 votes was needed to convict President Trump for each respective charge.
For the first article of impeachment—abuse of power—all Democrats and Independents voted guilty. All Republicans, with the exception of Utah Senator Mitt Romney, voted not guilty. The final tallies were 52 to 48 to acquit him of this first article.
Romney’s vote to convict President Trump “marked the first time in American history that a senator voted to convict a president of his own party in an impeachment trial,” as stated by NBC News. Romney defended his choice in a speech before the Senate, but continued to receive criticism from both President Trump and other members of the Republican Party.
For the second article of impeachment placed against Trump—obstruction of Congress—all Democrats and Independents voted guilty, while all Republicans voted not guilty. The final tallies were 53 to 47 to acquit Trump of this second article, split along party lines.
After President Trump’s acquittal, he promptly spoke out in a number of tweets. The first was a parody video illustrating his decision to continue running for reelection, ending with the message: “Trump 4EVA.” In a separate tweet, he claimed he would provide more commentary, “our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax.” President Trump will likely use the impeachment trial results to further vilify Democrats during his reelection campaign.
According to Gallup, a recent public opinion poll reported that President Trump’s approval rating hit the highest yet, at 49 percent. The public remains highly divided along partisan lines.
This division was further exacerbated in President Trump’s televised State of the Union speech on Feb. 4. After describing Democrats who support universal health care as socialists, President Trump urged Congress to support legislation to lower prescription drug prices. This was met with dissenting chants from Democrats.
President Trump also continued to emphasize policies aimed at helping black Americans, a group which overwhelmingly disapproves of Trump.
However, in conflict with these efforts, President Trump awarded conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This award is the nation’s highest honor that a civilian can receive. In the past, Limbaugh has made precarious comments on race; particularly in regards to former President Barack Obama.
After President Trump concluded his State of the Union speech, he handed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a copy of his speech. When she reached out to shake his hand, President Trump turned away. As Republicans cheered, Pelosi tore the copy of President Trump’s remarks in half.
Both the impeachment trials and the State of the Union speech are emblematic of continued bipartisan tensions, likely to be echoed in the 2020 presidential campaigns and elections.