At long last, the most brazenly partisan presidential impeachment in over a century and a half has come to an end. President Trump was formally acquitted on Wednesday by the U.S. Senate on each of the U.S. House’s adopted articles of impeachment: “Abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress.” The president was acquitted on the “abuse of power” article by a count of 52–48, and he was acquitted on the “obstruction of Congress” article by a count of 53–47. That lone vote discrepancy, of course, is due to the fact maverick Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), the Republican Party’s presidential standard-bearer a mere eight years ago, voted to convict on the first article and acquit on the second article.
Romney thus becomes the first senator in the history of the United States to vote to convict an impeached president from his/her own political party. His Senate floor speech explaining his vote made it seem like it was a decision he deeply wrestled with, but the reality is that his vote had — and will have — serious consequences.
First, Romney’s conviction vote — from a senator representing a deep-red state like Utah, no less — will place many moderate Republican senators facing potentially difficult re-election bids later this year (perhaps especially Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Thom Tillis (R-NC)) in a very difficult spot when they are grilled by adversaries as to why they did not join the former Republican presidential nominee in voting to convict Trump. Second, Romney providing nominal Republican cover to vote to convict Trump likely caused at least one — and perhaps more than one — of more moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Kyrsten Sinema to flip their respective votes from acquittal to conviction. Third, because of the second point, Romney thus likely single-handedly transformed a bipartisan acquittal of the president into a bipartisan conviction of the president.
Nonetheless, this impeachment is officially in the books. The outcome was foreordained, of course, from day one, and all signs still point toward the Democrats having overplayed their hand and the electoral politics redounding to Republicans’ interests in November.
From a historical perspective, The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky has a good piece on the eerie similarities between this impeachment and the post-Civil War impeachment of President Andrew Johnson on similarly frivolous grounds. I offered my own final commentary on the serious harm wrought by this lamentable saga in last weekend’s New York Post: “[T]o call it a mere waste of time is likely far too charitable. The Democrats took stock of the decrepit state of our national politics, the bitterly fractious nature of our partisan tribalism, the pathetic regard the American people have for their Congress and took a sledgehammer to it all. The most immediate tangible result of this failed gambit will be to only further coarsen and debase our politics. … Most damaging of all, the Democrats’ pursuit of the draconian remedy of impeachment based on their claims of Trump’s corrupt subjective intentions on a diplomatic phone call has set a truly reckless precedent for the future. … For Democrats to argue that Trump’s purportedly corrupt motive somehow transmogrifies … constitutionally protected conduct into an impeachable offense is nothing short of astonishing.”
History will not judge the Democrats kindly for this stunt. But it’s now time to move on.
This piece will be frequently updated.