US President Donald Trump drew on staunch Republican support Wednesday, February 5, 2020 to defeat the gravest threat yet to his three-year-old presidency, winning acquittal in the Senate on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
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Only the third US leader ever placed on trial, Trump readily defeated the effort to expel him from office for having illicitly sought help from Ukraine to bolster his 2020 re-election effort.
Despite being confronted with strong evidence, Republicans stayed loyal and mustered a majority of votes to clear the president of both charges - by 52 to 48 on the first, 53 to 47 on the second - falling far short of the two-thirds supermajority required for conviction.
“Two-thirds of the senators present not having pronounced him guilty, the Senate adjudges that respondent Donald John Trump, President of the United States, is not guilty as charged,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over the trial.
One Republican, Senator Mitt Romney, a longtime Trump foe, risked White House wrath to vote alongside Democrats on the first count, saying Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.” He voted not guilty for the second.
The verdict, never truly in question since the House of Representatives formally impeached Trump in December, cleared out a major hurdle for the president to fully plunge into his campaign for re-election in November.
Trump had repeatedly dismissed the probe as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” but argued he had the right as president to pressure Ukraine, while refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas for testimony and documents.
Democrats were dejected but not surprised, after an intense 78-day House investigation that faced public doubts and high-pressure stonewalling from the White House.
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