Washington: The Republican-controlled Senate has acquitted Donald Trump in his high-profile impeachment trial, giving the US President a major political victory in an election year but not before bitterly dividing the country and costing millions of dollars to the tax payers.
The Senate voted on Wednesday 52-48 to acquit Trump of abuse of power and 53-47 to absolve him of obstruction of Congress, the two charges he faced. The vote along party lines foiled the Democratic Party's determined bid to overthrow Trump from the White House ahead of the November 3 presidential election.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives approved the articles of impeachment on December 18 after charging Trump with pressuring Ukraine to smear former US vice president Joe Biden, a potential Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential election, using nearly USD 400 million in military aid as leverage.
Though Trump, 73, has been acquitted, he will become the first impeached president to seek re-election.
A two-thirds majority vote was needed to remove Trump, which was always going to be a long shot in a 100-member Senate controlled by his Republican Party with 53 seats.
"For now, the impeachment of Mr. Trump appears to have evenly divided the nation," The New York Times reported.
"The outcome represented a political triumph for the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell...," The Washington Post noted.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, a bitter critic of Trump and the party's presidential nominee in 2012, voted against the president on the first charge, but followed the party line on the second article of impeachment. Rest of the members voted on party lines.
"The President is pleased to put this latest chapter of shameful behaviour by the Democrats in the past, and looks forward to continuing his work on behalf of the American people in 2020 and beyond," a much-relieved White House said soon after Trump's acquittal.
Trump announced on Twitter that he will make a public statement on Thursday from the White House "to discuss our Country's VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!" White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham slammed the Opposition Democrats.
"Today, the sham impeachment attempt concocted by Democrats ended in the full vindication and exoneration of President Donald J. Trump. As we have said all along, he is not guilty," she said.
"The Senate voted to reject the baseless articles of impeachment, and only the President's political opponents – all Democrats, and one failed Republican presidential candidate – voted for the manufactured impeachment articles," Grisham said.
Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said, "The do-nothing Democrats know they can't beat him, so they had to impeach him. This terrible ordeal was always a campaign tactic to invalidate the 2016 votes of 63 million Americans and was a transparent effort to interfere with the 2020 election, only nine months away." Democratic Party accused the Republican-dominated Senate of ignoring the facts, "the will of the American people and their duty to the Constitution".
"Today, the President and Senate Republicans have normalized lawlessness and rejected the system of checks and balances of our Constitution," said Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
"The President will boast that he has been acquitted. There can be no acquittal without a trial, and there is no trial without witnesses, documents and evidence," she said, a day after the powerful Democrat tore her copy of Trump's State of the Union address to Congress.
"By suppressing the evidence and rejecting the most basic elements of a fair judicial process, the Republican Senate made themselves willing accomplices to the President's cover-up," Pelosi said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer described it as a sad day for the country.
"The US Senate, acting as a court of impeachment under our Constitution, did not remove a president who abused his power and invited foreign interference in the upcoming election to benefit himself personally," he said.
"The bipartisan vote in favour of holding him accountable and preserving, protecting, and defending our Constitution against a clear, impeachable offense was, unfortunately, not enough to overcome a partisan firewall of senators who chose loyalty to President Trump over loyalty to their oaths," Hoyer said.
In her statement, White House Press Secretary Grisham said it was yet another witch-hunt that deprived the President of his due process and rights and was based on a series of lies.
"Representative Adam Schiff lied to Congress and the American people with a totally made up statement about the President's phone call.
"Will there be no retribution? Speaker Nancy Pelosi also lied to the American people about the need to swiftly pass impeachment articles they dreamt up, only to sit on them for a month before sending over to the Senate," she said.
"In the Senate, the Democrats continued to make their political motivations clear – Rep. Schiff proclaimed the issues 'cannot be decided at the ballot box' – proving once again they think they know better than the voters of this country.
This entire effort by the Democrats was aimed at overturning the results of the 2016 election and interfering with the 2020 election," Grisham said.
According to an estimate from the Heritage Foundation, the House of Representatives inquiry, cost taxpayers an estimated USD 3.06 million. PTI