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Trump acquitted in historic Senate vote

World

President Donald Trump has been acquitted in his US Senate impeachment trial, saved by fellow Republicans who rallied to protect him nine months before he asks voters in a deeply divided America to give him a second White House term.

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The businessman-turned-politician, 73, survived only the third presidential impeachment trial in US history on Wednesday – just like the two other impeached presidents – in his turbulent presidency’s darkest chapter.

Trump now plunges into an election season that promises to further polarise the country.

Trump was acquitted largely along party lines on two articles of impeachment approved by the Democratic-led House of Representatives on December 18, with the votes falling far short of the two-thirds majority required in the 100-seat Senate to remove him under the US Constitution.

The Senate voted 52-48 to acquit him of abuse of power stemming from his request that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden, a contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the November 3 election.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney joined the Democrats in voting to convict. No Democrat voted to acquit.

Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, called the president’s actions in pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden “grievously wrong” and said Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust”.

The Senate then voted 53-47 to acquit him of obstruction of Congress by blocking witnesses and documents sought by the House.

A conviction on either count would have elevated Vice President Mike Pence, another Republican, into the presidency.

Romney joined the rest of the Republican senators in voting to acquit on the obstruction charge. No Democrat voted to acquit.

On each of the two charges, the senators voted one by one on the Senate floor with US Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.

“President Trump has been totally vindicated and it’s now time to get back to the business of the American people,” Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans engineered a stripped-down trial with no witnesses or new evidence, with Democrats calling the trial a sham and a cover-up.

Trump called the impeachment an attempted coup and a Democratic attempt to annul his 2016 election victory.

Throughout the impeachment drama, Trump and his Republican allies kept up their attacks on Biden’s integrity.

It remains to be seen how much political damage that inflicted.

In the first of the state-by-state contests to determine the Democratic challenger to Trump, Biden placed a disappointing fourth in Iowa, according to incomplete results from Monday’s voting.

Biden has accused Trump of “lies, smears, distortions and name-calling.”

Trump faces no serious challengers for his party’s presidential nomination.

He is poised to claim the nomination at the party’s convention in August and previewed in his State of the Union address on Tuesday campaign themes such as American renewal, economic vitality and hardline immigration policies.

In the previous presidential impeachment trials, Andrew Johnson was acquitted in 1868 in the aftermath of the American Civil War and Bill Clinton was acquitted in 1999 of charges stemming from a sex scandal.

– Reuters

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