On Dec. 18 the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The first article of impeachment, abuse of power, passed by a 230 to 197 margin. Article I accused Trump of pressuring the Ukrainian government into announcing an investigation into the Bidens by withholding both a White House meeting and congressionally authorized military aid. The second article, obstruction of Congress, passed 229 to 198. Article II accused Trump of trying to impede the impeachment inquiry by urging government agencies not to comply with subpoenas and witnesses not to cooperate. The vote was almost completely along party lines, with one Democrat voting “present” for both articles, and two others voting against at least one article. One lone Republican dissenter voted with the Democrats, but became an independent ahead of the vote.
Nancy Pelosi held the articles of impeachment for almost a month before handing them over to the Senate, starting on Dec. 18. At that time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly announced that he had no intention of being impartial in the Senate trial, and that he would coordinate every step with the White House. During Representative Pelosi’s delay, public support for calling witnesses grew, as new evidence surfaced such as emails, texts, and audio/video recordings of President Trump. Nancy Pelosi finally delivered the articles on Jan. 16.
The seven house impeachment managers who were handpicked by Nancy Pelosi included an army ranger, a police chief, a corporate lawyer, three women, two African-Americans, and one Latina, representing the diversity of the party. Representative Adam Schiff was chosen to be the lead impeachment manager.
The president also designated representatives to defend him. White House counsel Pat Cipollone lead the team. It also included Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, as well as Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin from the White House Counsel’s office, as well as Ken Starr (the independent counsel who helped spur Bill Clinton’s impeachment), Robert Ray (who succeeded Starr in that post), and celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in as the presiding officer. 100 Senators (53 Republicans, 47 Democrats) swore an oath to deliver impartial justice.
On Tuesday, Jan. 21, the Senate debated the rules of President Trump’s impeachment trial. The Senate began by voting on McConnell’s plan for structuring the trial, and on a proposed Democratic alternative. After that, opening arguments began, with the House impeachment managers going first, followed by Trump’s defense team. Democrats called immediately for additional witnesses, but Republicans voted to defer the issue until a later time.
The Democrats’ opening arguments focused on how President Trump put his own interests above the country’s by soliciting foreign interference in our upcoming election by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. The Democrats pleaded with Republicans’ moral compasses in hopes that four of them would vote with them in favor of new witnesses.
The Republican arguments were that even if Trump committed these acts, they did not amount to an impeachable offense. They also harkened back to the talking point that Trump did not want dirt on Joe Biden, but was only concerned about corruption in Ukraine.
The Senate met daily. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the schedule at a breakneck pace, with two days lasting over 12 hours. After both sides had equal time to present their arguments, senators were allowed to ask questions of both the prosecution and defense teams. These questions were written down, and Chief Justice John Roberts read them aloud. Five minutes were allotted for each team to answer.
By Jan. 31 the critical vote was at hand, deciding whether the Senate trial would proceed with witnesses called to testify. Democrats were hoping that former National Security Advisor John Bolton could be called to testify in the hopes of bolstering their case. By the end of the day, the vote to call witnesses failed by a vote of 49 to 51, with two Republican senators joining the Democrats in the vote.
Closing arguments began Monday, Feb. 2. On Wednesday, Feb. 5, senators voted to acquit President Trump of both charges. The Senate voted 52 to 48 to acquit Trump of the first article, abuse of power. Republican Senator Mitt Romney joined Democrats in voting to convict. No Democrat or independent voted to acquit Trump on either charge. The Senate then voted 53 to 47 to acquit him of the second article, obstruction of Congress. Romney joined the Republican senators in acquitting Trump of the second article. President Trump has made history as the third president to be impeached by the House of Representatives, while the Senate has repeated history by acquitting an impeached president for the third time.