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'Not guilty' - President acquitted by Senate in impeachment trial, but Romney breaks ranks

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Controversial: US Senator Mitt Romney walks from the Senate chamber during a break in the impeachment trial. Photo: REUTERS

Controversial: US Senator Mitt Romney walks from the Senate chamber during a break in the impeachment trial. Photo: REUTERS

REUTERS

Controversial: US Senator Mitt Romney walks from the Senate chamber during a break in the impeachment trial. Photo: REUTERS

Donald Trump was acquitted over impeachment by the US Senate last night, ending a historic and turbulent four-month ordeal and freeing him to seek re-election in November.

Republican senators mainly fell in behind the president, with some arguing that even if his conduct in the Ukraine scandal was "shameful" and "inappropriate", it did not warrant removal from office.

The Senate voted 52-48 to acquit Mr Trump of abuse of power. One Republican, Mitt Romney, joined the Democrats in voting for conviction. No Democrats voted for acquittal.

Mr Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and Utah senator, broke with his colleagues, arguing that Mr Trump's actions were so "appalling" and "grievously wrong" that he had no other option but to vote to convict.

The Senate also voted 53-47 to acquit Mr Trump of obstructing Congress. Mr Romney voted to acquit the president on this charge.

Removal had always looked unlikely, with two-thirds of the 100 senators needed to vote for either article for Mr Trump to be removed from office.

There are just 47 Democrats and independents.

For the president, acquittal ends a saga that has left him seething. He has issued more than 700 tweets or retweets criticising impeachment and has expressed no remorse about his actions. He will attempt to portray the decision as an exoneration.

For the Democrats, there will be reflection as they consider the merits of launching an impeachment which drew almost no Republican congressional support, breaking with previous comments acknowledging that only a bipartisan push could work.

There will also be political risk with scores of Democrats who managed to win seats in the 2018 midterms in Trump-supporting areas by talking about policy rather than the president facing tough re-elections in November.

It could put their House majority in doubt.

The pace of Mr Trump's impeachment, from the actions which triggered the Democratic move to his Senate trial, was remarkably rapid, taking place over little more than six months.

Mr Trump's telephone call to the Ukranian president when he urged an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden, the moment most central to the impeachment drive, took place on July 25.

The Senate vote was yesterday.

In the end a string of Republican senators had concluded, after months of denials from the White House, that the facts of the case against Mr Trump as put forward by the Democrats had been established.

The president did try to pressure Ukraine into launching an investigation that would help him in the 2020 election, some concluded, and his decision to hold back almost $400m (€363m) was at least in part connected.

Many Republicans argued the actions did not warrant his removal.

But Mr Romney broke with his colleagues, resulting in the remarkable spectacle of the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nominee announcing he would vote to kick its 2016 nominee from office.

"The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust," Mr Romney said yesterday in a speech heavy with history and religion.

"With my vote I will tell my children, their children, that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent