U.S. Senate acquits Trump in historic vote as re-election battle looms – Reuters

The businessman-turned-politician, 73, survived only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history – just like the two other impeached presidents – in his turbulent presidency’s darkest chapter. Trump now plunges into an election season that promises to further polarize the country.
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Trump was acquitted largely along party lines on two articles of impeachment approved by the Democratic-led House of Representatives on Dec. 18, with the votes falling far short of the two-thirds majority required in the 100-seat Senate to remove him under the U.S. Constitution.         

The Senate voted 52-48 to acquit him of abuse of power stemming from his request that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden, a contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the Nov. 3 election. Republican Senator Mitt Romney joined the Democrats in voting to convict. No Democrat voted to acquit.

The Senate then voted 53-47 to acquit him of obstruction of Congress by blocking witnesses and documents sought by the House. A conviction on either count would have elevated Vice President Mike Pence, another Republican, into the presidency. Romney joined the rest of the Republican senators in voting to acquit on the obstruction charge. No Democrat voted to acquit.

On each of the two charges, the senators voted one by one on the Senate floor with U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.

“President Trump has been totally vindicated and it’s now time to get back to the business of the American people,” Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans engineered a stripped-down trial with no witnesses or new evidence. Democrats called the trial a sham and a cover-up. Trump called the impeachment an attempted coup and a Democratic attempt to annul his 2016 election victory.

Throughout the impeachment drama, Trump and his Republican allies kept up their attacks on Biden’s integrity. It remains to be seen how much political damage that inflicted. In the first of the state-by-state contests to determine the Democratic challenger to Trump, Biden placed a disappointing fourth in Iowa, according to incomplete results from Monday’s voting. Biden has accused Trump of “lies, smears, distortions and name-calling.”

‘APPALLING ABUSE’

Trump faces no serious challengers for his party’s presidential nomination. He is poised to claim the nomination at the party’s convention in August and previewed in his State of the Union address on Tuesday campaign themes such as American renewal, economic vitality and hardline immigration policies.

Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, broke with his party to vote to convict Trump on the abuse-of-power charge. Romney called the president’s actions in pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden “grievously wrong” and said Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”

“What he did was not ‘perfect,’” Romney said on the Senate floor, as Trump has described his call with Ukraine’s president that was at the heart of the scandal. “No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep one’s self in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”

Romney, a moderate and elder statesman in his party, paused during his speech as he became choked with emotion after mentioning the importance of his religious faith.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham lashed out at Democrats, saying: “What you have done is unleash the partisan forces of hell.”

Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, said Trump’s acquittal in an unfair trial was worth nothing.

“No doubt, the president will boast he received total exoneration. But we know better. We know this wasn’t a trial by any stretch of the definition.”

In his speech, McConnell said: “The architects of this impeachment claimed they were defending norms and traditions. In reality, it was an assault on both.”

BIGGEST VICTORY YET

Democrats expressed concern that an acquittal would further embolden a president who already challenges political norms. They have painted him as threat to U.S. democracy and a demagogue who has acted lawlessly and exhibited a contempt for the powers of Congress and other institutions. They also have voiced concern over Russia interfering in another American election.

Trump’s legal team offered a vision of nearly unlimited presidential powers, a view Democrats said placed any president above the law.

The acquittal handed Trump his biggest victory yet over his Democratic adversaries in Congress. Democrats vowed to press ahead with investigations – they are fighting in court for access to his financial records – and voiced hope that the facts unearthed during the impeachment process about his conduct would help persuade voters to make him a one-term president.

Trump’s job approval ratings have remained fairly consistent throughout his presidency and the impeachment process as his core conservative supporters – especially white men, rural Americans, evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics – stick with him.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, showed 42% of American adults approved of his performance, while 54% disapproved. That is nearly the same as when the House launched its impeachment inquiry in September, when his approval stood at 43% and disapproval at 53%.

The trial formally began on Jan. 16. The Senate voted 51-49 last Friday to defeat the Democrats’ bid to call witnesses such as Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, with only two Republicans joining them.

In the previous presidential impeachment trials, Andrew Johnson was acquitted in 1868 in the aftermath of the American Civil War and Bill Clinton was acquitted in 1999 of charges stemming from a sex scandal.

In the hours before the vote, numerous senators gave speeches on the Senate floor explaining their vote.

SHADOW OF INVESTIGATION

Trump, now seeking a second four-year term, has been under the shadow of some sort of investigation for most of his presidency. The acquittal marked the second time in 10 months that he withstood an existential threat to his presidency.

In March 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller found insufficient evidence that Trump engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia in its interference on his behalf in the 2016 election. Mueller did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice in seeking to impede the investigation but stopped short of concluding the president acted unlawfully. Trump declared full vindication.

Last July 25, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a phone call to “do us a favor” and open an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter Biden and into a discredited theory beneficial to Russia that Ukraine colluded with Democrats to meddle in the 2016 election to harm Trump.

Hunter Biden had joined the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma while his father was U.S. vice president. Trump accused the Bidens of corruption without offering substantiation. The Bidens denied wrongdoing.

Democrats said Trump further abused his power by withholding $391 million in security aid approved by Congress to help Ukraine battle Russia-backed separatists and by dangling a coveted White House meeting as leverage to pressure Zelenskiy to announce the investigations.

Under the Constitution, impeachment is the mechanism for removing a president or certain other federal officials for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

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  • Clyde Duncan  On February 6, 2020 at 12:32 am

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 6, 2020 at 12:37 am

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 6, 2020 at 1:20 am

    Trump’s Acquittal in Impeachment ‘Trial’ is a Glimpse of America’s Imploding Empire

    In a hyper-partisan era, Republicans cast Trump as a victim while Democrats lamented his ‘normalisation of lawlessness’

    David Smith in Washington | The Guardian UK

    DONALD TRUMP’S SHORT BUT INDELIBLE POLITICAL CAREER HAS BEEN BASED AROUND THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVIDE-AND-FOOL.

    His acquittal in the impeachment trial by the US Senate will further fan the flames of the most profound national split since the Vietnam war, perhaps even the civil war.

    FIRST, EXPECT TRUMP TO BE COCKY AND TAKE A VICTORY LAP, FALSELY CLAIMING “EXONERATION” just as he did after special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation left him BRUISED BUT UNBOWED.

    A day after Mueller’s leaden testimony to Congress, the president felt able to act with such impunity that he made his bullying phone call to the leader of Ukraine.

    NOW, WE MUST ASK YOU, WHO WILL HE CALL THE DAY AFTER BEING CLEARED BY THE SENATE?

    ADMIRERS OF THE US PRESIDENT WILL TAKE HEART THAT A MAN MANY IMBUE WITH FOLK-HERO STATUS, WHO GIVES THEM LONG YEARNED-FOR “PAYBACK” AGAINST A PERCEIVED CULTURAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ELITE, HAS SURVIVED YET AGAIN.

    They share his view that he was the victim of “a coup” and embrace his sense of grievance and resentment. Trump supporters interviewed by the Guardian at his recent campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, put it down to the latest machinations of corrupt politicians in Washington.

    ON THE OTHER SIDE, FEELINGS RUN EQUALLY HIGH. Democrats and other critics of the president argue, CORRECTLY, that in strong-arming Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Trump abused his office for personal political gain and HAS BEEN ALLOWED TO GET AWAY WITH IT THROUGH A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE.

    THEY CONTINUED, TRUMP IS A PRESIDENT WHO WOULD BE KING, UNDERMINING RULE OF LAW AND THREATENING THE VERY FABRIC OF DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA – AND AROUND THE WORLD.

    Adam Schiff, the House impeachment manager who led the case against Trump in the Senate, spoke last week of A DESCENT INTO “CONSTITUTIONAL MADNESS” as spineless Republican senators huddle behind Richard Nixon’s notorious defence of his conduct in the Watergate scandal:

    “WHEN THE PRESIDENT DOES IT, THAT MEANS THAT IT IS NOT ILLEGAL.”

    Schiff told the chamber: “WATERGATE IS NOW 40, 50 YEARS BEHIND US. HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING IN THE LAST HALF-CENTURY?

    HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING AT ALL?

    WE ARE RIGHT BACK TO WHERE WE WERE A HALF-CENTURY AGO, AND WE MAY EVEN BE IN A WORSE PLACE BECAUSE THIS TIME THAT ARGUMENT MAY SUCCEED.”

    “THAT IS THE NORMALISATION OF LAWLESSNESS.”

    COMPARISONS TO WATERGATE ARE ILLUSTRATIVE. The House of Representatives voted 410-to-4 to authorise a formal impeachment inquiry against Richard Nixon in 1974, whereas no House Republicans voted for the Trump impeachment inquiry or for his actual impeachment — EXCEPT WILLARD MITT ROMNEY – Nixon resigned before the sanction could be applied.

    [PRESIDENT OBAMA ALWAYS SAID ABOUT ROMNEY: “I WISH I COULD USE MY MIDDLE NAME!]

    John Zogby, a political pollster, noted recently: “The key reason why Nixon resigned was that his polls were at 23%. And there was a famous walk from the Capitol to the White House, where three Republican congressional leaders walked to the White House and said to Mr Nixon, ‘You’re hurting the political party. You’re hurting the Republicans. You have to go.’ …”

    TRUMP’S APPROVAL RATING, BY CONTRAST, NOW STANDS AT 49% IN THE LATEST GALLUP POLL – the highest since he took office and better than Bill Clinton or Barack Obama at this stage in their re-election years.

    SOMEHOW, TRUMP IS BECOMING STRONGER RATHER THAN WEAKER.

    A WASHINGTON POST COLUMN NOTED FIVE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN NIXON AND TRUMP: the current president has a stronger economy, a more loyal Senate, does not face the kind of “smoking gun” tapes that Nixon did, a White House willing to stonewall on his behalf and, perhaps most importantly, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News is on his side.

    FOX’S CHIEF PRO-TRUMP TRIBUNE, SEAN HANNITY, HAS BEEN SAVAGING THE TRIAL NIGHTLY.

    The articles of impeachment “are an affront to our entire constitutional system”, he raged. “No Republican senator – listen, voters out there, you elect these people – should give this one iota of legitimacy.”

    SUPPOSEDLY A 24-HOUR NEWS NETWORK, FOX NEWS HAS NOT EVEN SHOWN IMPORTANT CHUNKS OF THE PROCEEDINGS:

    It did not broadcast Schiff’s closing argument. Meanwhile, over on the MSNBC network, there is constant analysis of how a dangerous demagogue poses an existential threat to the constitution.

    A report by the Pew Research Center found that among Democrats and those sympathetic to the party, 67% trust CNN, 61% trust NBC and 60% trust ABC, WHEREAS 65% OF REPUBLICANS AND THOSE LEANING TOWARD IT TRUST FOX NEWS.

    “It would be hard to overstate FOX’s connection as a trusted go-to source of political news for Republicans,” Pew said.

    And it warned: “As the US enters a heated 2020 presidential election year … Republicans and Democrats place their trust in two nearly inverse news media environments.”

    Indeed, with social media exacerbating the trends, this is going to get worse before it gets better. POLARISATION IS BOTH SYMPTOM AND CAUSE, the condition that made Trump’s ascent possible, but which he then exploits and entrenches in an endless and increasingly unbreakable cycle.

    CHRIS MURPHY, A DEMOCRATIC SENATOR FROM CONNECTICUT, OFFERED A BRILLIANT SUMMARY. “This trial in so many ways crystallised the completely diametrically opposed threats that Democrats and Republicans see to the country,” he told the New York Times.

    “WE PERCEIVE DONALD TRUMP AND HIS CORRUPTION TO BE AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO THE COUNTRY.

    THEY PERCEIVE THE DEEP STATE AND THE LIBERAL MEDIA TO BE AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO THE COUNTRY.”

    “THAT DICHOTOMY, THAT CONTRAST, HAS BEEN GROWING OVER THE LAST THREE YEARS, BUT THIS TRIAL REALLY CRYSTALLISED THAT DIFFERENCE.

    We were just speaking different languages, fundamentally different languages when it came to what this trial was about.

    THEY THOUGHT IT WAS ABOUT THE DEEP STATE AND THE MEDIA CONSPIRACY.

    WE THOUGHT IT WAS ABOUT THE PRESIDENT’S CRIMES.”

    TRUMP’S ACQUITTAL WILL BECOME THE LATEST TOOL IN HIS KIT FOR POLARISING THE COUNTRY AND FIRING UP HIS BASE, joining race, abortion rights, the climate crisis, supreme court justices, dark warnings against “socialism” and a host of other wedge issues.

    EACH SIDE, THEREFORE, REGARDS NOVEMBER’S ELECTION AS A STRUGGLE BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG WITH THE PROSPECT OF DEFEAT A CAUSE FOR PANIC.

    That instinct was on full display in Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, where the emboldened president goaded his opponents with flourishes worthy of reality TV as Republicans chanted “Four more years!”

    AS THE HOUSE SPEAKER, NANCY PELOSI, THEATRICALLY TORE UP TRUMP’S SPEECH, IT WAS A REMINDER THAT DEMOCRATS WILL FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE AND HAVE A BASE OF THEIR OWN TO ENERGISE.

    Even supposed moderate candidates such as former vice-president Joe Biden and former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg are significantly to the left of Barack Obama on issues such as climate and immigration. These are dark days for technocratic centrism and the “third way”.

    IF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WERE DECIDED BY SIMPLE POPULAR VOTE TOTALS, IT WOULD BE ALL OVER, BAR THE SHOUTING.

    Indeed, Trump would have been beaten soundly by Hillary Clinton in 2016. But the quirks of the electoral college mean that many observers have a gut feeling he can pull it off again in key midwestern states.

    IF HE DOES NOT, THERE ARE SOME WHO WORRY THAT HE WILL SIMPLY REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE RESULT, RETURNING TO OLD LIES HE PROPAGATED IN 2016 ABOUT ILLEGAL VOTING.

    Will Republicans dare to slap down this modern Caesar and remind him of the rule of law?

    IN THIS HYPER-PARTISAN ERA, IT NO LONGER SEEMS A SAFE BET.

    A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS OVER THE ELECTION RESULT WOULD MAKE EVEN THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL LOOK LIKE CHILD’S PLAY.

    Historian Niall Ferguson wrote the book Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire in 2004. The American empire, economically and militarily powerful and newly strong, rich in oil and gas, is far from fallen.

    But to future historians, THE IMPEACHMENT “TRIAL” OFFERS A GLIMPSE OF WHAT AN IMPLODING EMPIRE MIGHT LOOK LIKE.

  • Ken Persaud  On February 6, 2020 at 1:42 am

    The American Empire, like the Titanic, has hit a sharp object below. Soon, the ship will sink to the ocean floor and most onboard will perish.

    Donald Trump is symptomatic of the worm that’s eating the beast from within. The empire has failed, the Constitution has failed, the Senate has failed.

    The world is watching, attentively and curiously,
    to see what comes next. It is time to reach for the nearest life craft.

  • wally n  On February 6, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    BATTLE????? The democrats will probably be eliminated (hopefully) as a failed socialist attempt to destroy all that AMERICA stood for. BTW “upper case” can’t help make your argument, buckle up I see jail time for a few of those criminals.

    • Emanuel  On February 6, 2020 at 7:05 pm

      Referring to the Democrats Guyana man
      Wally warns- “l see jail time for those criminals.”

      The real criminals are your idol and his slimy republican party.

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 7, 2020 at 7:17 am

    OPINION: IN 2020 AMERICA, HITLER IS WINNING

    Donald Trump is NOT Hitler, but his words and actions encourage and embolden those who yearn for an Adolf of their own

    Bradley Burston | Haaretz

    THIS IS AMERICA, 2020. AND HITLER IS WINNING.

    IN A 99 PERCENT WHITE HIGH SCHOOL IN UPSTATE NEW YORK, the school district had to recall its edition of yearbooks in June, after the annual staff had asked history teacher Jeff Acor to name the greatest person in history. His answer, as quoted in the yearbook:

    “ADOLF HITLER, WHO DID MANY GREAT THINGS FOR GERMANY AND THEIR YOUTH BEFORE THE INFAMOUS HOLOCAUST.” Acor added that “ADOLF is arguably the greatest public speaker in the history of the world. Adolf made many strides to make Germany a world super power.”

    In another of many – too many – examples, Morris Berger, a college football coach in Michigan, also praised HITLER in an interview with the school paper, saying “the way he was able to lead was second-to-none. How he rallied a group and a following, I want to know how he did that.”

    When I was small and growing up in California, an aunt, who was from the Old Country, told me, “WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T GIVE HITLER, IN THE GRAVE, A VICTORY.”

    I had no idea what she was talking about.

    Who would have imagined then that in the span of a human lifetime since ADOLF HITLER had killed himself many years before, the horrors he had ordered, the genocide committed at his instruction, would have receded in world consciousness to the extent that large numbers of Americans today know little or nothing about the Holocaust.

    WHO WOULD HAVE BELIEVED THEN THAT AFTER 75 YEARS, THE INSIDIOUS, INESCAPABLE, OVERWHELMING INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE RISE OF AUTHORITARIANS AND EXTREMISTS WOULD BE SUCH THAT FOR SOME, HITLER’S PERVERSE LEGACY WOULD SHAPESHIFT INTO A MODEL FOR LEADERSHIP, PATRIOTISM, GOVERNANCE AND RESOLVE?

    IT IS TIME TO FACE IT. HITLER IS WINNING.

    When I was small, had I seemed more interested, my older relatives probably would have warned me.

    It is something that goes well beyond German Nazism, something which could attract and infect any people, anywhere. Americans, for example.

    I THOUGHT A LOT ABOUT POSTHUMOUS VICTORIES FOR HITLER WHEN I WATCHED DONALD TRUMP SOIL THE ONCE-PRESTIGIOUS STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS, in awarding the nation’s most high-minded of civilian honors to its most vocal, influential, and unashamedly vile of gleefully racist, women-hating, disability-mocking, African-American-cursing, migrant-reviling, LGBTQ-dehumanizing, Hispanic-slandering, Muslim-baiting, Asian-denigrating and, YES, anti-Semitic, broadcasters, Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree RUSH LIMBAUGH.

    DONALD TRUMP IS NOT HITLER. But Trump’s words and actions encourage and embolden those among his supporters who yearn for an Adolf of their own.

    Because when an American president boasts at mass rallies of rounding up and summarily expelling asylum seekers to their perilous home countries – where all too many of them have since met their deaths ……

    – AMERICA LOSES. HITLER WINS.

    When an American president sets up hygiene-compromised caging facilities and concentration camps to hold parents AND, SEPARATELY, THE CHILDREN which officers have taken from their arms of those parents, and then effectively keeps all of them out of the view of the public and beyond scrutiny and supervision – AMERICA LOSES.

    ONLY HITLER WINS.

    TRUMP IS NOT HITLER. But when an American president, addressing those mass rallies, signals that all honest journalists, all Mexican-Americans, all non-Christians, all Californians, and, in fact, all voters for the Democratic Party, are disloyal enemies of the state, TRUMP DOESN’T EVEN HAVE TO SPELL IT OUT, NOR USE THE WORDS IN THE LANGUAGE OF HIS OWN OLD RELATIVES FROM THE OLD COUNTRY, WHEN HE ECHOES THE SENTIMENTS WHICH THOSE WHO HOPE FOR A NEW HITLER ARE WAITING TO HEAR:

    “EIN VOLK. EIN REICH. EIN FÜHRER!” – “The People. The USA. The Leader!”

    When I was small, and my aunt from the Old Country told me to do everything I could to keep Hitler from gaining even one posthumous victory, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT.

    I GUESS I HAD TO BE SHOWN.

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