After weeks of investigation, testimony and near wall-to-wall coverage, President Trump was declared not guilty on two articles of impeachment in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. The outcome was all but certain, yet Congress and Americans remain divided. In this historic trial both Democrats and Republicans seemed dug in on their positions regarding the president’s guilt as much as the impeachment process itself.
During the House of Representatives’ weeks-long investigation representatives demonstrated their anger in front of cameras: Democrats complained the president obstructed their investigation by withholding documents and witnesses as Republicans complained Democrats shut them out of closed-door meetings and refused to hear from their witnesses.
Never one to shy away from a fight, President Trump attacked the impeachment as a “witch hunt” and a “sham”. Even when meeting world leaders and signing executive orders and legislation the president confidently attacked the House members conducting the investigation and their democratic colleagues. As if he were emboldened by the whole process, the president characteristically punched back, making his argument Joe Biden–his most-promising opponent for the 2020 election–is corrupt and the one who should be investigated.
Like the two most recent presidential impeachments of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, the impeachment of President Trump was a partisan exercise from the beginning. In Nixon’s case it took the revelation of incriminating tapes of conversations to convince the disgraced president to resign before facing a sure bipartisan vote for impeachment in the House. In Clinton’s case the testimony of Monica Lewinsky convinced enough reluctant Democrats to vote with the majority of House Republicans to impeach the president.
Unlike the Nixon and Clinton impeachments, House Republicans did not break with President Trump. They marched in lock step with the president’s messaging: demand to hear from the whistleblower and Bidens, attack the motives of democrats, undermine the credibility of witnesses. The strategy played out effectively to the president’s audience: Trump voters across the country and questioning republican senators. The clear message: you fight for me, I’ll fight for you. In the end, Mitt Romney of Utah–a sometimes critic of President Trump–was the lone Republican to vote with Democrats, but only on one charge.
House managers never had the two-thirds majority required to remove the president from office. Even as they argued their need for witnesses, the case for abuse of power, and the case for obstruction of congress, only a handful of republican senators seemed remotely convincible. As the president’s team poked holes in their case, House managers sat helpless to counter. Through repetitive question and answer sessions both sides belabored their arguments. In closing arguments the president’s team tried to delegitimize the House managers’ case and the managers pleaded with senators to listen to their conscience.
In a previous article, Angela asked Will This Country Ever Be United Again? As the president’s team argued all along, the American voters will have the final say whether Donald Trump remains president this November. Even the president seemed unfazed by it all as he stood before Congress to deliver a defiantly optimistic State of the Union Address Tuesday night. If the impeachment of Donald John Trump was meant to disgrace him and prevent his reelection, it may prove the opposite and enrage enough supporters to overwhelm any opponent in November.
Note: edited to correct a typo and link regarding Clinton House vote