KETR

Senate Acquits President Trump On Articles Of Impeachment

Feb 5, 2020
Originally published on February 5, 2020 6:53 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump is over.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN ROBERTS: It is, therefore, ordered and adjudged that the said Donald John Trump be and he is hereby acquitted of the charges in said articles.

KELLY: The Senate has voted to acquit Donald Trump. The votes on two articles of impeachment came after days of impassioned speeches from senators from both parties, justifying their decisions, acquit or convict. And while most fell in line with their own party's position, one broke away, creating bipartisan opposition to the president. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell has been following it all from Capitol Hill. She joins me now.

Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: So it has been abundantly clear since before this trial began that Democrats were not going to have the 67 votes they needed to convict President Trump. What struck you as you watched this final historic day play out?

SNELL: Today was very somber, very quiet. The senators and all of their staff are just simply exhausted. You know, it was really interesting to me that the gallery - the public areas where people can come and sit and watch were as full as I have ever seen it in my 10 years up here. And this was nearly a party-line vote, as you said, and we knew what the outcome was. But people are really interested.

And, you know, the person that we watched so closely through all of this was Mitt Romney of Utah. And he went to the Senate floor earlier today and broke with his party on the first article of impeachment - abuse of power. And that really kind of set the energy back in play around here. There were protesters everywhere. And it kind of gave a break to the shuffling through of speeches that kind of brought us to the end of this trial.

KELLY: Senator Romney's decision on that - to vote on that one count against the president - we were all watching for it. It still was quite dramatic to watch him actually vote for it on the Senate floor. Just walk us through how he explained his vote.

SNELL: Well, it was very dramatic because he is the first senator to vote to convict a president of their own party. And he delivered this very emotional speech, where he repeatedly tied his decision back to his religion.

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MITT ROMNEY: I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am.

SNELL: And then he took a very long pause and composed himself. And his voice broke several times when he was explaining that he took an oath before God and knew that making this judgment would be one of the most difficult he had ever faced. But he said he was convinced that the president was guilty of what he was accused of, and he did meet the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors. He says he knows he'll be pilloried for it, and he didn't see any other choice. This is what he said.

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ROMNEY: I'm sure to hear abuse from the president and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe that I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded of me?

KELLY: Kelsey, is he hearing abuse? What's been the reaction to Mitt Romney's decision?

SNELL: Well, Donald Trump Jr. says he should be kicked out of the party, but the Republican senators I talked to basically don't agree with that. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked about this repeatedly after the vote today. And he said he was surprised and disappointed. But he said Romney still worked with the party and there are no dog houses in the Senate. But I will note that Romney was the first senator out of the chamber after he shook hands with his desk mate.

KELLY: What about on the other side of the aisle? There had been some suspense that maybe Democrats would cross party lines, in particular three Democrats who represent states that President Trump won in in 2016. That didn't happen.

SNELL: It didn't happen. They were all united. And Senator Joe Manchin, in particular, of West Virginia was really lauded and celebrated when they came to the Senate floor before the vote. He had basically a receiving line of people coming to give him hugs. It's important because President Trump no longer can claim that there was bipartisan opposition to his impeachment like he could claim in the House.

KELLY: Yeah, so impeachment - the trial is over. But is the Ukraine drama over on Capitol Hill?

SNELL: It doesn't seem like that. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it's all in the rearview mirror, but he doesn't control the House. And over in the House, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said a subpoena could be coming for former national security adviser John Bolton. And there's still that book that Bolton has written and should be coming out shortly, so there is still drama around impeachment, even if the final votes are cast.

KELLY: NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell speaking to us from Capitol Hill.

Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.