Impeachment of Donald Trump

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Template:Infobox impeachment process

The impeachment of Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, was initiated on December 18, 2019, when the House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump was acquitted by the Senate on these two counts of impeachment on February 5, 2020.[1]

Trump's impeachment came after a formal House inquiry alleged that he had solicited foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election to help his re-election bid, and then obstructed the inquiry itself by telling his administration officials to ignore subpoenas for documents and testimony. The inquiry reported that Trump withheld military aid[lower-alpha 1] and an invitation to the White House to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in order to influence Ukraine to announce an investigation into one of Trump's political opponents, Joe Biden, and to promote a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The inquiry stage of Trump's impeachment lasted from September to November 2019, in the wake of an August 2019 whistleblower complaint alleging Trump's abuse of power. In October, three congressional committees (Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs) deposed witnesses. In November, the House Intelligence Committee held a number of public hearings in which witnesses testified publicly; on December 3, the committee voted 13–9 along party lines to adopt a final report. A set of impeachment hearings before the House Judiciary Committee began on December 4; on December 13, it voted 23–17 along party lines to recommend two articles of impeachment, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The committee released a lengthy report on the impeachment articles on December 16. Two days later, the full House approved both articles in a mostly party-line vote, with all Republicans opposing along with three Democrats. This made Trump the third U.S. president in history to be impeached and marked the first fully partisan impeachment where a U.S. president was impeached without support from the President's own party (though independent representative Justin Amash, who voted in favor of impeachment on both articles, had previously been a Republican until July 2019).

The articles were submitted to the Senate on January 16, 2020, initiating the trial. The trial saw no witnesses or documents being subpoenaed, as Republican senators rejected attempts to introduce subpoenas on January 21 while arranging for trial procedures, and then on January 31 after a debate. On February 5, Trump was acquitted on both counts by the Senate as neither count received 67 votes to convict. On Article I, abuse of power, 48 senators voted for conviction, while 52 senators voted for acquittal. On Article II, obstruction of Congress, 47 senators voted for conviction, while 53 senators voted to acquit. Republican Mitt Romney, the only senator to break party lines, became the first U.S. senator to vote to convict a president of his own party in an impeachment trial, as he voted for conviction on abuse of power.[3]

Two days after the acquittal, Trump fired two witnesses, Gordon Sondland and Alexander Vindman, who had in the impeachment inquiry testified about his conduct. Vindman's brother was also fired.

Background

Donald Trump is the third U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999.[4][5] Before Trump, Johnson was the only president to be impeached in his first term.[lower-alpha 2] The House Judiciary Committee also voted to adopt three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, but he resigned prior to the full House vote.[6][lower-alpha 3] The Senate voted to acquit both Johnson and Clinton in their trials.[7][lower-alpha 4]

File:2017 July - Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.pdf
"Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors" by Congressman Brad Sherman

Congress' first efforts to impeach Trump were initiated by Democratic representatives Al Green and Brad Sherman in 2017.[10] In December 2017, an impeachment resolution failed in the House with a 58–364 vote margin. Following the 2018 elections, the Democrats gained a majority in the House and launched multiple investigations into Trump's actions and finances.[11] Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi initially resisted calls for impeachment. In May 2019, however, she indicated that Trump's continued actions, which she characterized as obstruction of justice and refusal to honor congressional subpoenas, might make an impeachment inquiry necessary.[12][13]

Investigations into various scandals in the Trump administration, which might lead to articles of impeachment, were initiated by various house congressional committees, led by Nancy Pelosi, and began in February 2019. A formal impeachment investigation began in July 2019,[14] and several subpoenas were issued; while most were honored, several were not. The Trump administration asserted executive privilege, and this led to several lawsuits, including In re: Don McGahn.[15]

Trump–Ukraine scandal

Whistleblower complaint dated August 12, 2019, regarding a July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky
Memorandum of the call between Trump and Zelensky released by the White House on September 25, 2019
File:President Trump Participates in a Bilateral Meeting with the President of Ukraine Sept 25 2019.webm
Volodymyr Zelensky with Donald Trump in New York City on September 25, 2019

The Trump–Ukraine scandal revolves around alleged efforts by U.S. president Donald Trump to illegally coerce Ukraine and other foreign countries into providing damaging narratives about 2020 Democratic Party presidential primary candidate Joe Biden as well as information relating to Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. Trump allegedly enlisted surrogates within and outside his official administration, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr, to pressure Ukraine and other foreign governments to cooperate in investigating conspiracy theories concerning American politics.[16][17][18][19][20] Trump blocked but later released payment of a congressionally mandated $400 million military aid package to allegedly obtain quid pro quo cooperation from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. A number of contacts were established between the White House and the government of Ukraine, culminating in a phone call between Trump and Zelensky on July 25, 2019.[16][17][18][21] Less than two hours later, on behalf of the president, senior executive budget official Michael Duffey discreetly instructed the Pentagon to continue withholding military aid to Ukraine.[22][23][24][lower-alpha 5]

The scandal reached public attention in mid-September 2019 due to a whistleblower complaint made in August 2019.[25] The complaint raised concerns about Trump using presidential powers to solicit foreign electoral intervention in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.[26] The Trump White House has corroborated several allegations raised by the whistleblower. A non-verbatim transcript of the Trump–Zelensky call confirmed that Trump requested investigations into Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as a discredited conspiracy theory involving a Democratic National Committee server,[27][28] while repeatedly urging Zelensky to work with Giuliani and Barr on these matters.[29][30] The White House also confirmed that a record of the call had been stored in a highly restricted system.[31][32] White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said one reason why Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine was Ukrainian "corruption related to the DNC server", referring to a debunked theory that Ukrainians framed Russia for hacking into the DNC computer system.[33] After the impeachment inquiry began, Trump publicly urged Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens.[34] The Trump administration's top diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, testified that he was told U.S. military aid to Ukraine and a Trump–Zelensky White House meeting were conditioned on Zelensky publicly announcing investigations into the Bidens and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.[35] United States Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified that he worked with Giuliani at Trump's "express direction" to arrange a quid pro quo with the Ukraine government.[36]

Inquiry

On the evening of September 24, 2019, Pelosi announced that six committees of the House of Representatives would begin a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Pelosi accused Trump of betraying his oath of office, U.S. national security, and the integrity of the country's elections.[37][38][39] The six committees charged with the task were those on Financial Services, the Judiciary, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Reform, and Ways and Means.[40]

In October 2019, three congressional committees (Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs) deposed witnesses including Ambassador Taylor,[41] Laura Cooper (the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs),[42] and former White House official Fiona Hill.[43] Witnesses testified that they believed that President Trump wanted Zelensky to publicly announce investigations into the Bidens and Burisma (a Ukrainian natural gas company on whose board Hunter Biden had served)[2][44] and 2016 election interference.[35] On October 8, in a letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone to House speaker Pelosi, the White House officially responded that it would not cooperate with the investigation due to concerns including that there had not yet been a vote of the full House and that interviews of witnesses were being conducted behind closed doors.[45][46] On October 17, Mulvaney said, in response to a reporter's allegation of quid pro quo: "We do that all the time with foreign policy. Get over it." He walked back his comments later in the day, asserting that there had been "absolutely no quid pro quo" and that Trump had withheld military aid to Ukraine over concerns of the country's corruption.[33][47]

On October 29, 2019, Massachusetts representative Jim McGovern introduced a resolution, referred to House Rules Committee, which set forth the "format of open hearings in the House Intelligence Committee, including staff-led questioning of witnesses, and [authorization for] the public release of deposition transcripts".[48][49] This resolution, formally authorizing the impeachment inquiry, was approved by the House on October 31, 2019, by a vote of 232 to 196.[50] In November 2019, the House Intelligence Committee held a number of public hearings in which witnesses testified publicly. On November 13, Taylor and Kent testified publicly.[51] Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified before the committee on November 15, 2019.[52] Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's head of European affairs, and Jennifer Williams, Vice President Mike Pence's chief European security adviser, testified together on the morning of November 19, 2019.[53] Later the same day, Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special representative for Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, the former national security presidential adviser on Europe and Russia, gave public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.[54]

File:Open Hearing with Dr. Fiona Hill and David Holmes.jpg
Open hearing testimony of Fiona Hill and David Holmes on November 21, 2019

On November 20, 2019, Ambassador Sondland testified that he conducted his work with Giuliani at the "express direction of the president",[55] and that he understood a potential White House invitation for Zelensky to be contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations into the 2016 elections and Burisma.[56][57] Later the same day, Cooper and David Hale, who serves as the under secretary of state for political affairs, testified jointly before the committee.[58] On November 21, 2019, Fiona Hill – who until August 2019 was the top Russia expert on the National Security Council – criticized Republicans for promulgating the "fictional narrative" that Ukraine rather than Russia interfered in the 2016 election, asserting that the theory was planted by Russia and played into its hands.[59][60] Testifying alongside Hill was the current head of political affairs in the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, David Holmes.[61][62][63]

On December 3, the House Intelligence Committee voted 13–9 along party lines to adopt a final report and also send it to the House Judiciary Committee.[64][65][66] The report's preface states:

[T]he impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection. In furtherance of this scheme, President Trump conditioned official acts on a public announcement by the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, of politically-motivated investigations, including one into President Trump's domestic political opponent. In pressuring President Zelensky to carry out his demand, President Trump withheld a White House meeting desperately sought by the Ukrainian President, and critical U.S. military assistance to fight Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.[66]:8–9

The Republicans of the House committees had released a countering report the previous day, saying in part that the evidence does not support accusations. "The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations, and none of the Democrats' witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor," said the draft report.[67][68] This report also painted the push to impeachment as solely politically motivated. "The Democrats are trying to impeach a duly elected President based on the accusations and assumptions of unelected bureaucrats who disagreed with President Trump's policy initiatives and processes," the report's executive summary states.[69] During the inquiry, the Trump administration's public arguments were limited to assertions the president had done nothing wrong and the process was unfair.[70]

Impeachment

Judiciary Committee hearings

File:Impeachment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States — Report of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives.pdf
Impeachment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States—Report of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives

On December 5, Speaker Pelosi authorized the Judiciary Committee to begin drafting articles of impeachment.[71]

A set of impeachment hearings was brought before the Judiciary Committee, with Trump and his lawyers being invited to attend.[72][73] The administration declined, as the president was scheduled to attend a NATO summit in London.[74] In a second letter on December 6, Cipollone again said the White House will not offer a defense or otherwise participate in the impeachment inquiry, writing to chairman Jerry Nadler, "As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness."[75] Nadler responded in a statement, "We gave President Trump a fair opportunity to question witnesses and present his own to address the overwhelming evidence before us. After listening to him complain about the impeachment process, we had hoped that he might accept our invitation."[76]

The first hearing, held on December 4, 2019, was an academic discussion on the definition of an impeachable offense. The witnesses invited by Democrats were law professors Noah Feldman from Harvard, Pamela S. Karlan from Stanford, and Michael Gerhardt from the University of North Carolina. Republicans invited Jonathan Turley, a constitutional scholar at George Washington University;[77][78] Turley, who had testified in favor of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1999,[79][80] testified against impeaching Trump, citing a lack of evidence.[81] It was observed that he contradicted his own opinion on impeachment from when Clinton was on trial.[82][83][84]

Potential articles of impeachment outlined during the hearing include: abuse of power for arranging a quid pro quo with the president of Ukraine, obstruction of Congress for hindering the House's investigation, and obstruction of justice for attempting to dismiss Robert Mueller during his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.[85] On December 5, Pelosi requested the House Judiciary Committee draft articles of impeachment.[86][87] After the vote, Pelosi said that while this was "a great day for the Constitution" it was "a sad day for America". She also said, "I could not be prouder or more inspired by the moral courage of the House Democrats. We never asked one of them how they were going to vote. We never whipped this vote."[88]

Articles of impeachment

File:House Resolution 755 — Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump.pdf
House Resolution 755—Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump

On December 10, 2019, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee announced that they would levy two articles of impeachment, designated H. Res. 755: (1) abuse of power, and (2) obstruction of Congress,[89][90] in its investigation of the President's conduct regarding Ukraine.[91] Draft text of the articles was released later that day,[92] as well as a report by the judiciary committee outlining the constitutional case for impeachment and asserting that "impeachment is part of democratic governance."[93]:51 The committee planned to vote on the articles on December 12,[94][95] but postponed it to the next day after the 14-hour partisan debate on the final versions of the articles lasted until after 11:00 p.m. EST.[96] On December 13,[96] the Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to pass both articles of impeachment; both articles passed 23–17, with all Democrats present voting in support and all Republicans voting in opposition. Democrat Ted Lieu was ill and not present to vote.[97]

The House Judiciary Committee released a 658-page report on the articles of impeachment on December 16. It specifies criminal bribery and wire fraud charges as part of the abuse of power article.[98]

The articles were forwarded to the full House for debate and a vote on whether to impeach the president on December 18.[99]

House Judiciary Committee vote on whether to report House Resolution 755 favorably to the House of Representatives
Party Article I (Abuse of power)[100] Article II (Obstruction of Congress)[101]
Yea Nay Present Not voting Yea Nay Present Not voting
Democratic (24) 23 23
Republican (17) 17 17
Total (41) 23 17 0 1 23 17 0 1
Result Agreed to[lower-alpha 6] Agreed to[lower-alpha 6]

House vote

Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution states that "The House of Representatives ... shall have the sole Power of Impeachment."[102]

The House Rules Committee held a hearing to write the rules governing the debate over impeachment on December 17.[103] The first of three votes was on the rules governing debate: 228 to 197, with all Republicans and two Democrats voting no.[104] This was followed by six hours of debate. One of the highlights of this contentious event was Georgia representative Barry Loudermilk comparing the impeachment inquiry of President Trump to the trial of Jesus Christ, saying that the Christian savior was treated far better by the authorities.[105] Maryland representative Steny Hoyer contributed closing arguments “All of us feel a sense of loyalty to party ... It’s what makes our two-party system function. It’s what helps hold presidents and majorities accountable. But party loyalty must have its limits.”[106]

File:WATCH House votes to impeach Trump Trump impeachment.webm
House votes on Article I and II of House Resolution 755

The formal impeachment vote in the House of Representatives took place on December 18, 2019.[107] Shortly after 8:30 pm EST, both articles of impeachment passed.[108] The votes for the charge of abuse of power were 230 in favor, 197 against, and 1 present: House Democrats all voted in support except Collin Peterson and Jeff Van Drew, who voted against,[109] and Tulsi Gabbard, who voted "present"; all House Republicans voted against, although Justin Amash (an independent who was previously Republican) voted in support of both articles.[110] The votes for the charge of obstruction of Congress were 229 in favor, 198 against, and 1 present: all Democrats voted in support except Peterson, Van Drew, and Jared Golden, who voted against;[109] and Gabbard, who again voted "present";[111] all Republicans voted against.

Three representatives pending retirement did not vote: Duncan D. Hunter, who was banned from voting under the House's rules after pleading guilty to illegally using campaign funds; José E. Serrano, who had a health setback after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease earlier in the year; and John Shimkus, who was visiting his son in Tanzania.[112]

Voting results on House Resolution 798
(Appointing and authorizing managers for the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, President of the United States)
Party Article I (Abuse of power)[100] Article II (Obstruction of Congress)[101]
Yea Nay Present Not voting Yea Nay Present Not voting
Democratic (233) 229 228
Republican (197) 195 195
Independent (1)
Total (435)[lower-alpha 7] 230 197 1 3 229 198 1 3
Result Adopted[lower-alpha 8] Adopted[lower-alpha 8]

Immediate response

The day after Trump's impeachment, the evangelical magazine Christianity Today published an editorial calling for his removal from office, stating that the president "attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president's political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral."[114][115] On December 21, conservative Bill Kristol and a group calling itself "Republicans for the Rule of Law" released an ad encouraging viewers to call their senators to demand top Trump officials be forced to testify in his impeachment trial.[116]

Trump has questioned the validity of the impeachment, citing Harvard law professor Noah Feldman, who argues that the impeachment has technically not taken place until the articles are handed to the Senate.[117] Jonathan Turley later refuted this argument in an op-ed.[118] Trump tweeted or retweeted over 20 messages criticizing Pelosi's handling of the impeachment during the first week of his holiday vacation to Mar-a-Lago.[119] On Christmas Day, he tweeted:

Why should Crazy Nancy Pelosi, just because she has a slight majority in the House, be allowed to Impeach the President of the United States? Got ZERO Republican votes, there was no crime, the call with Ukraine was perfect, with "no pressure." She said it must be "bipartisan & overwhelming," but this Scam Impeachment was neither. Also, very unfair with no Due Process, proper representation, or witnesses. Now Pelosi is demanding everything the Republicans weren't allowed to have in the House. Dems want to run majority Republican Senate. Hypocrites![120]

Attorney George T. Conway III and others have noted that if the relevant witnesses are not allowed to testify, Trump's defenders will be negatively affected by "the very evidence they sought to suppress".[121]

Impasse and final vote

Prior to the House impeachment vote, both McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham expressed their intentions not to be impartial jurors, contrary to the oath they must take.[122][123] McConnell said, "I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision."[124] Graham said, "I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I'm not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here ... I will do everything I can to make [the impeachment trial] die quickly."[125]

On December 15 and with the support of all 47 Senate Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer wrote a letter to McConnell calling for Mick Mulvaney, Robert Blair,[lower-alpha 9] John Bolton,[lower-alpha 10] and Michael Duffey to testify, and suggested that pre-trial proceedings take place on January 6, 2020.[130][131] Two days later, McConnell rejected the call for witnesses to testify, saying that the Senate's role is simply to act as "judge and jury", not to aid the impeachment process.[132][133] He also suggested that witnesses be called during the trial, as happened after Clinton's impeachment.[134][lower-alpha 11][lower-alpha 12] Schumer said that he "did not hear a single sentence, a single argument as to why the witnesses I suggested should not give testimony",[136] citing bipartisan public support for testimony which could fill in gaps caused by Trump having prevented his staff from testifying in the House investigation.[134][137] On January 2, 2020, Schumer called newly unredacted emails from Trump administration officials "a devastating blow to Senator McConnell's push to have a trial without the documents and witnesses we've requested".[138][22][lower-alpha 13] At least four Republican senators needed to vote with Democrats for witnesses to be called.[138][lower-alpha 12] Republicans have suggested calling Joe and Hunter Biden to testify;[140] the former stated his objection to this but said he would obey a subpoena.[141] Rudy Giuliani has stated his willingness to testify or even try the impeachment "as a racketeering case" despite being Trump's personal attorney and allegedly attempting to help him politically while searching for evidence against the Bidens in Ukraine.[142] On January 10, 2020, Trump told Fox News's Laura Ingraham that he would likely invoke executive privilege to keep Bolton from testifying "for the sake of the office".[129]

On December 18, 2019, the day of the impeachment, Pelosi declined to comment on when the impeachment resolution would be transmitted to the Senate, saying, "So far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us."[143][144] The following day, McConnell met with Schumer briefly to discuss the trial.[145] After the Senate reconvened from its holiday break, Lindsey Graham proposed that he and McConnell "change the rules of the Senate so we could start the trial without [Pelosi], if necessary".[135][lower-alpha 11] On January 7, 2020, McConnell announced that he had the caucus backing to pass a blueprint for the trial, which discusses witnesses and evidence after the opening arguments.[146] Pelosi called for the resolution to be published before she could proceed with the next steps,[147][148] but McConnell asserted that the House had no leverage and that there would be no negotiating over the trial.[149] This prompted several Democratic senators to voice their readiness to have the trial begin.[150] On January 9, Pelosi said she would deliver the articles soon, but continued to cite a need for Republican transparency in the Senate;[151] the same day, McConnell informed members of his caucus that he expected the trial to begin next week,[152] and Senator Josh Hawley announced that McConnell had signed on as a co-sponsor to his resolution to dismiss articles of impeachment not sent to the Senate within 25 days.[153] On January 10, Pelosi announced that she had "asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the Floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate".[154]

On January 14, 2020, Pelosi announced the House managers who will prosecute the case in the Senate.[155][156] On January 15, the House voted on Resolution 798, which appointed the impeachment managers and approved the articles of impeachment to be sent to the Senate. Later that afternoon, Pelosi held a rare public engrossment ceremony, followed by a stately procession of the managers and other House officers across the Capitol building where the third impeachment of a US president was announced to the senate.[157] With the exception of the managers, who would conduct the trial, the House's involvement in the impeachment process came to an end.

Voting results on House Resolution 798
(Appointing and authorizing managers for the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, President of the United States)
Party Yea Nay Present Not voting
Democratic (232) 227
Republican (197) 192
Independent (1)
Total (435)[lower-alpha 14][158] 228 193 0 9
Result Adopted[lower-alpha 8]

Trial

Preparation

While the impeachment inquiry was underway, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell started planning a possible trial. On October 8, 2019, he led a meeting on the subject, advising his caucus to say that they opposed the House process and as little else as possible.[159] In November, he shot down the idea that the articles of impeachment should be dismissed, saying, "The rules of impeachment are very clear, we'll have to have a trial."[160] On December 12, as the articles were being considered by the House Judiciary Committee, McConnell met with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Ueland.[161] McConnell stated later that day, "Everything I do during this I'm coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and [ours]",[162] and, "I'm going to take my cues from the president's lawyers." McConnell added that the coordination with the White House would also pertain to whether witnesses would be allowed to testify,[161][162] and told Fox News's Sean Hannity that there was no chance that Trump would be convicted, expressing his hope that all Senate Republicans would acquit the president of both charges.[163] Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, criticized McConnell's comments regarding coordinating with the White House.[164] Collins has been critical of Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren for prejudging the trial.[165]

Officers

The U.S. Constitution stipulated that the Supreme Court's chief justice presides over impeachment proceedings.[166][167][lower-alpha 15] The current chief justice was John Roberts, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2005. The House managers, acting as prosecutors for the case, were several Democratic representatives, which consisted of: Adam Schiff as lead manager, Jerry Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Hakeem Jeffries, Val Demings, Jason Crow, and Sylvia Garcia.[155][156] Trump named a defense team led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his private attorney Jay Sekulow. Sekulow previously represented Trump in the Russia investigation.[169]

Process and schedule

Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution stated that "[t]he Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments."[102] Per the Senate's impeachment rules adopted in 1986, the submission of the articles to the Senate initiated the trial.[170][145] The articles were formally delivered on January 15, 2020, and were presented on the following day.[171]

At the end of the January 21 session, the Senate voted along party lines to pass McConnell's proposed trial rules and reject 11 amendments proposed by Democrats.[172] McConnell has stated that he wants to follow the rules laid down in 1999, which had the morning reserved for Senate business and the afternoon hours reserved for the trial,[173] but his resolution increased the hours spent per day on opening arguments from 6 to 8 hours.[174] The resolution also includes provisions for a vote on whether to subpoena witnesses or documents after opening arguments.[172][175][176]

The prosecution's opening arguments and presentation of evidence took place between January 22–24.[177][178][179] On the first day, Schumer called the previous evening a "dark night for the Senate", when the White House, in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, released new evidence including a string of heavily redacted emails revealing details about how the Office of Management and Budget froze aid to Ukraine.[177][178][179][lower-alpha 16] Trump's defense presentation began on January 25. The primary arguments were a lack of direct evidence of wrongdoing, and that Democrats were attempting to use the impeachment to steal the 2020 election.[181][lower-alpha 17] Professor Alan Dershowitz argued that while a president can be impeached for committing a criminal act, irrespective of motive, the idea of a 'quid pro quo' being a basis for removal from office requires that the 'quo' be something illegal, and that simply having mixed motives for requesting a legal act (an investigation into alleged corruption) would not be sufficient grounds for impeachment. He observed that all politicians act with an eye and motive toward re-election and that such motive neither makes illegal acts lawful, nor unlawful act legal.[183] This position was criticized by Democratic political consultant and commentator, Paul Begala in an editorial that did not address the legality/illegality aspect of the analysis.[184]

On January 31, after a planned debate session, the Senate voted against allowing subpoenas to call witnesses, including former national security advisor John Bolton who wrote in his forthcoming book mentioning Ukraine aid freezing,[185] or documents with a 51–49 vote.[186] 51 Republican senators voted against calling witnesses, while 45 Democratic senators, two independents who typically vote Democratic, and two Republicans (Mitt Romney and Susan Collins) voted for witnesses.[187]

Acquittal

Under the U.S. Constitution, a two-thirds majority of the Senate was required to convict the president. The possible penalties were the removal from office and disqualification from holding office in the future.[188][189][181] On February 5, 2020, the Senate acquitted Trump on both counts. The votes were 52–48 to acquit on the first count and 53–47 to acquit on the second count. The votes were sharply divided along party lines.[190] Mitt Romney became the first senator in history from an impeached president's party to vote to convict, voting 'guilty' on the first count.

Voting results[191][192]
Party Article I (Abuse of power) Article II (Obstruction of Congress)
Guilty Not guilty Guilty Not guilty
Democratic (45) 45 45
Republican (53) 52 53
Independent (2)
Total (100) 48 52 47 53
Result Not guilty[lower-alpha 18] Not guilty[lower-alpha 18]

Public opinion

Before the trial, in mid-January 2020, Americans were sharply divided on whether Trump should be removed from office, with Democrats largely supporting removal, Republicans largely opposing, and independents divided.[193] A USA Today/Suffolk University poll conducted on December 10–14, 2019, found that 45% of respondents supported the impeachment and removal of Trump from office, while 51% opposed it.[194] A CNN poll conducted on December 12–15 also found 45% supported impeachment and removal, compared to 47% who opposed the idea.[195] A Gallup poll released on the day of Trump's impeachment found that Trump's approval rating increased by 6 points during the impeachment process, while support for the impeachment fell.[196] Another CNN poll conducted on January 16–19, 2020, found that 51% supported Trump's removal from office, compared to 45% who opposed the idea.[197] An NBC/The Wall Street Journal poll released on January 2, 2020 showed 46% favored removal from office and 49% opposed, with the in favor/opposed being almost exclusively along party lines.[198]

Polling of Americans on the impeachment and removal from office of Trump
Poll source Date(s) conducted Sample size Margin of error Support[lower-alpha 19] Oppose[lower-alpha 19] Undecided
Yahoo! News / YouGov[199][200] December 4–6, 2019 1500 ± 2.8% 47% 39% 14%
Monmouth University[201] December 4–8, 2019 903 ± 3.3% 45% 50% 5%
Fox News[202] December 8–11, 2019 1000 RV ± 3% 50% 41% 5%
NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist[203][204] December 9–11, 2019 1744 ± 3.5% 46% 49% 5%
USA Today / Suffolk[194][205] December 10–14, 2019 1000 RV ± 3% 45.2% 50.5% 4.3%
Quinnipiac University[206] December 11–15, 2019 1390 RV ± 4.1% 45% 51% 4%
CNN / SSRS[195] December 12–15, 2019 888 RV ± 3.7% 45% 47% 9%
December 18, 2019 Donald Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives
Politico / Morning Consult[207][208] December 19–20, 2019 1387 RV ± 3.0% 51% 42% 6%
The Economist / YouGov[209][210] December 22–24, 2019 1500 ± 2.9% 44% 41% 14%
CNN / SSRS[197] January 16–19, 2020 1156 ± 3.4% 51% 45% 4%
NBC / The Wall Street Journal[citation needed] January 26–29, 2020 1000 RV ± 3.1% 46% 49% 5%

Aftermath

Two days after Trump was acquitted by the Senate in the impeachment trial, he fired two witnesses who testified in the impeachment inquiry about his conduct.[211][212] On February 7, Gordon Sondland's ambassadorship was terminated, while Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted from the White House after a dismissal from his job on the National Security Council. At the same time, Vindman's twin brother, Yevgeny, likewise an Army Lieutenant Colonel on the National Security Council, was also dismissed.[211] Shortly before the firings, Trump stated that he was "not happy" with Alexander Vindman; after the firings, Trump stated that he "didn't know" Alexander Vindman but "he was very insubordinate".[212] Alexander Vindman's lawyer responded that his client "was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful." Sondland reacted by stating that he was "grateful to President Trump" for the "opportunity to serve".[211]

In April 2020, Trump fired Michael K. Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community.[213] When Trump was asked about the firing the next day, he criticized Atkinson as having done a "terrible job": "took a fake report and he brought it to Congress", in reference to the whistleblower complaint of the Trump–Ukraine scandal, which was actually largely verified by other testimony and evidence. Trump further complained that Atkinson "never even came in to see me. How can you [forward the complaint] without seeing the person?" Trump concluded that Atkinson was "not a big Trump fan".[214][215] Atkinson responded that he believed Trump had fired him for "having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General, and from my commitment to continue to do so".[216]

See also

Notes

  1. Intended to help Ukraine in its war against Russian-backed separatist forces in Donbass[2]
  2. Johnson sought election to a full term, but failed to gain the nomination of his (Democratic) party, and the election was won by (Republican candidate) Ulysses S. Grant.
  3. Nixon was pardoned for his crimes by his successor, Gerald Ford.
  4. Clinton was found to be guilty of civil contempt of court stemming from the Jones v. Clinton case over his testimony. Clinton ended up agreeing to a five-year suspension from practicing law in Arkansas. The Supreme Court suspended Clinton from the Supreme Court bar for his Arkansas suspension. Clinton would resigning from the bar during the appeal process of disbarment from the court.[8][9]
  5. This remained classified until December 2019.[22][23]
  6. 6.0 6.1 Agreement based on a simple majority. Of the 41 members, Ted Lieu, who represented California's 33rd, was ill and not present to vote, leaving 40 votes. Being an even number, half plus one is needed for a majority, yielding 21 as the number of Aye votes for agreement.
  7. Of the 435 House seats for the 116th Congress' first session, four were vacant: Maryland's 7th, New York's 27th, Wisconsin's 7th, and California's 25th. Three members were not present for the vote: Duncan D. Hunter from California's 50th was banned from voting, José E. Serrano from New York's 15th was prevented from voting due to medical issues; and John Shimkus from Illinois's 15th was on personal trip to Tanzania. This left 428 votes but, being an even number, half plus one is needed for a majority, yielding 215 as the number of yea votes for adoption.[113]
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Adoption based on a simple majority.
  9. One of Mulvaney's top aides until being promoted by Trump on December 23 to a special representative for global telecommunications policy.[126]
  10. The former national security advisor did not attend his scheduled House deposition on November 7, 2019, and threatened to take legal action if he was subpoenaed. According to a House Intelligence Committee official, this is evidence of the president's obstruction of Congress.[127] On January 6, 2020, Bolton said that he would be willing to testify in the Senate trial if subpoenaed.[128] However, Trump has said that he would invoke executive privilege to keep him from testifying.[129]
  11. 11.0 11.1 Graham also proposed that the trial "use the Clinton model, where you ... let the House managers ... make the argument, let the president make his argument why the two articles are flawed, and then we'll decide whether we want witnesses."[135]
  12. 12.0 12.1 Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney expressed their openness to calling witnesses.[139] McConnell, Graham, Murkowski, and Collins suggested that this happen later in the trial,[135][138] with McConnell citing the 100–0 agreement on a similar process following Clinton's impeachment.[139]
  13. A further 20 emails remain fully undisclosed.[24]
  14. Of the 435 House seats for the 116th Congress' 1st Session, five were vacant: Maryland's 7th, New York's 27th, Wisconsin's 7th, California's 25th, and California's 50th. Nine members were not present for the vote, four Democrats and five Republicans: Lacy Clay from Missouri's 1st, Ann Kirkpatrick from Arizona's 2nd, Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii's 2nd, John Lewis from Georgia's 5th, Kenny Marchant from Texas's 24th, Rick Crawford from Arkansas's 2nd, Debbie Lesko from Arizona's 8th, Tom McClintock from California's 4th, and Mike Simpson Idaho's 2nd. This left 421 votes, half of which rounded up yields 211 as the number of yea votes for adoption.
  15. The office of Chief Justice is only mentioned once in the constitution and it is in relation to impeachment trials of the president.[168]
  16. The night after the Senate voted against subpoenaing witnesses in the trial, the Justice Department and a lawyer for the Office of Management and Budget acknowledged that some of the emails which remain undisclosed due to executive privilege contain details about why military aid to Ukraine was frozen.[180]
  17. Trump has also argued that the impeachment's timing was designed to hurt Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign by forcing him to focus on the trial instead.[182]
  18. 18.0 18.1 Guilt based on "the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present" according to the Constitution (Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6). There are 100 Senate seats (two per U.S. state) and all Senators were present at the trial. Two-thirds of 100 is 66.6, so 67 guilty votes are needed for a guilty verdict.
  19. 19.0 19.1 These polls are color-coded relative to the margin of error (×2 for spread). If the poll is within the doubled margin of error, both colors are used. If the margin of error is, for example, 2.5, then the spread would be 5, so a 50% support / 45% oppose would be tied.

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