US Senate Acquits President Trump

Miles Christopher, staff writer

President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial has ended with little more than a whimper. After two Articles of Impeachment passed through the House of Representatives on December 18, 2019, a result long sought after by Democrats in the House, the Senate normally would have begun the process of the trial itself, acting as the jury for the crimes of which President Trump was accused: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Both charges needed to be considered carefully to assess whether they were of high enough caliber to require the removal of a sitting president. It should be noted that by the power vested to the House of Representatives over matters of impeachment, impeachable offenses and criminal offenses can, but do not need to, overlap. This means that the Article of Impeachment for Abuse of Power was not relying on any specific criminal law, instead focusing on the underlying conduct of President Trump in the failure to properly release 391 million dollars that had been appropriated by Congress for use to assist Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression.

However, statements made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell (R-KY) raised doubts about his commitment to a fair and full trial. The handoff between the House of Representatives and the Senate took nearly a month, with the Articles of Impeachment formally sent to the Senate on January 16, 2020. From there, things quickly began to shape up into partisan voting blocks, with the trial proceeding with days of accusations and rebuttals. The prosecution was led by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), and White House counsel Pat Cipollone led the defense. The crux of their debate centered on the question of whether witnesses should be called to the stand trial, something that could occur, but was not necessary for an impeachment trial.

After another two weeks of statements and arguments, on January 31, the Senate voted 51-49 against calling witnesses during the trial, with Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Susan Collins (R-ME) breaking from party lines to vote in favor. The decision was widely decried by Democrats, and welcomed by Republicans, and was followed on February 5 by votes on both Articles of Impeachment. The vote on the Article of Impeachment of Abuse of Power failed with a vote of 48-52, with Mitt Romney (R-UT) being the only Senator to break rank with their party. The vote on the article of impeachment of obstruction of Congress failed 47-53, falling precisely along party lines.

For many on campus, the vote to acquit was a betrayal of the founding principles of the United States, where those in power are meant to be able to be held accountable for their actions, rather than being shielded. Freshman Moe Antar, when asked his reaction to the dismissal of the Articles of Impeachment, responded, “I was distressed, but also not surprised. It was disheartening knowing that what little ability we had to make some difference was really for nothing.” Whether the dismissal will lead to a demotivated Democratic base in the 2020 Presidential Election or will be a rallying event hasn’t been decided yet. Still, in either case, the effects it will have will undoubtedly resound through the next seven months of political discourse.