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Romney provokes Republican wrath by voting to convict Trump

The U.S. Senate has spoken, and President Trump will remain in office. On Wednesday, he was acquitted of both impeachment counts, almost entirely down party lines. Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney was the only senator to break ranks, prompting criticism from his party and praise from Senate Democrats. Amna Nawaz reports, and Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The United States Senate has spoken, and President Trump will remain in office. He was acquitted today on both impeachment counts, almost entirely down party lines.

    Republican Mitt Romney was the sole senator to break ranks.

    Amna Nawaz begins our coverage.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    The president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    It was five months ago that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered these lines:

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

    Today, I'm announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lines that opened an historic chapter in American history, the third presidential impeachment ever in the United States.

    And, today, the final lines of that chapter were written.

  • Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.:

    I will vote against both articles of impeachment.

  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.:

    I will do my part by voting to convict this lawless president.

  • Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah:

    I will be voting to defend this president's actions.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A conviction would've required 67 votes, but the majority of the 100 U.S. senators voted to acquit President Trump on both charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

  • Chief Justice John Roberts:

    Pronounced him not guilty as charged.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    For most, this was no surprise ending.

    During the Senate trial, Democratic House managers spent days arguing for the conviction and removal of Mr. Trump, claiming his pressure campaign on Ukraine for political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter posed a national security risk.

    But Republicans came to agree with the president's attorneys, who argued that Mr. Trump's actions were inappropriate, but not impeachable, that additional testimony from witnesses with firsthand information, like John Bolton, wasn't necessary, and that to remove a president in an election year was undemocratic.

    Today's vote in the Senate to convict or acquit was expected to fall along party lines. But, still, all eyes were on a few moderate senators who had held their cards close until the last moment, among them, Doug Jones, a Democrat running for reelection in deep red Alabama, who, today, stuck with Democrats, voting — quote — "reluctantly" to convict the president.

  • Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.:

    The evidence clearly proves that the president used the weight of his office and the weight of the United States government to seek to coerce a foreign government to interfere in our election for his personal political benefit.

    His actions were more than simply inappropriate. They were an abuse of power.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    West Virginia West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin also sided with his fellow Democrats, saying in a statement that the evidence — quote — "clearly supports" the charges against the president.

    And Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced she too would vote to convict, writing that her highest duty and — quote — "greatest love" is to the Constitution.

    But it was Utah Republican Mitt Romney, who'd already sided with Democrats in their call for witnesses, who became the first in his party to call for Mr. Trump's removal, voting to acquit the president on obstruction of Congress, but to convict him on abuse of power.

  • Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah:

    The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.

    Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office in perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one's oath of office that I can imagine.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In a tweet responding to the senator, Ronna McDaniel, Republican National Committee chair and Romney's niece, said — quote — "This is not the first time I have disagreed with Mitt, and I imagine it will not be the last. I, along with the GOP, stand with President Trump."

    Back on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized his colleagues across the aisle, accusing them of supporting the president over the truth.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    The verdict of this kangaroo court will be meaningless. By refusing the facts, by refusing witnesses and documents, the Republican majority has placed a giant asterisk, the asterisk of a sham trial, next to the acquittal of President Trump written in permanent ink.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hailed the Senate for tamping down what he called the partisan fire.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    Whatever policy differences we may have, we should all agree this is precisely the kind of recklessness, the kind of recklessness the Senate was created to stop.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    With the verdict now behind him, President Trump begins this post-impeachment chapter with an approval rating of 49 percent in the latest Gallup poll, his highest rating since taking office.

  • Chief Justice John Roberts:

    The Senate, sitting as a court of impeachment, stands adjourned sine die.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we again turn to our Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor.

    Hello to both of you.

    Yamiche at the White House, tell us how the president, the people around him are responding to these not guilty verdicts, and also to Mitt Romney being the one Republican to vote against the president.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president has weathered all sorts of scandal and controversy, but impeachment was the biggest challenge yet.

    And he is very happy now to put that behind him. He is taking a victory lap, saying that he was fully vindicated. He tweeted out this video — hopefully, we can put it up for people — just moments after the acquittal vote.

    And it shows that President Trump might remain in office well past the constitutional limits. It says Trump 2024, Trump 2100. It also says Trump forever.

    The other thing to note, the president will be speaking at the White House at noon tomorrow. We expect that he is going to say that impeachment was a hoax, that this was a witch-hunt, that Democrats were just after him.

    But, Judy, we have to note that the president can't say this is a partisan vote, because Senator Mitt Romney voted at least with that first impeachment article with Democrats. So he became the first U.S. senator to vote to remove a president of his same party.

    That has President Trump and a lot of his allies very angry. Some are even calling for Mitt Romney to be ousted from the party. President Trump will definitely have a lot to say about that as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, what are you picking up about that, talking to senators and others on the Hill?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There are certainly some arrows within the Republican Party being aimed at Mitt Romney, but not from his fellow senators.

    I have to say, Republican senators speaking to myself, Daniel Bush and Saher Khan, our producer, said they actually respect Mitt Romney, respectfully disagree, is what we heard from them time and again.

    We heard also from Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader that he thinks what Mitt Romney did, and especially his speech, talking about his reasoning, reflects what he believes many Republicans might believe, but actually didn't vote on.

    Now, who says whatever everyone believes? But, in the end, given the speeches, Judy, those who voted to convict the president, like Mitt Romney, of any abuse of power, it seemed their argument was, they feel this president thinks he is above the law.

    Those who voted not guilty, their argument was that the House's case didn't rise to the level of impeachment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, back to you.

    I mean, now that the president has been found not guilty in the Senate on both of these articles, how does the White House see this going forward? Do they have plans for how to deal with it? What is their attitude?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president wants to go forward and feels emboldened by this acquittal.

    He now feels that he can do whatever is needed to win the 2020 election. And he and his lawyers have made it clear that he is fine and feels comfortable reaching out to foreign governments, including Turkey or China or Ukraine, to go and pick and look at political opposition research or political dirt on his opponents, possibly Vice President Biden or Bernie Sanders.

    So, what we will see from the president is a continuation of him calling for other foreign countries to give him information on his political opponents.

    I also want to read a statement the White House put out tonight. I want to read it to you. It says: "Today, the sham impeachment attempt concocted by Democrats ended in the full vindication and exoneration of President Donald J. Trump. One failed Republican presidential candidate" — talking about Senator Mitt Romney of Utah — "voted for the manufactured impeachment articles."

    Now, Democrats, of course, are pushing back on that idea that the president was fully vindicated, because they say, because new witnesses were not called in the Senate trial, and there were no new documents introduced, they say the president actually can't claim that he was fully vindicated.

    But that is not going to stop the president from taking this large victory lap that he has been eager to take ever since word of this whistle-blower was made public. He is now very, very happy to do that, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Lisa, in terms of Congress, where does it go from here?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Let's quickly remember what we have all just been through, Judy, since really the late fall, or the early fall.

    We have had 17 witnesses in this impeachment proceedings, 3,000 pages of their testimony alone, nearly 70 hours of public hearings, largely in October of last year. And, of course, we just finished 12 full days, 13 days of Senate trial.

    Judy, I think that what we're left with is an exhausted set of lawmakers who may have wrestled with principles. But, in the end, politics seems to reign large at the Capitol.

    And we saw this in some of the votes. Those swing senators ended up voting with their party. Some of them, that's a risky move. Some of those Democrats who are vulnerable, like Joe Manchin, voted to convict this president, even though that probably is more risky for him.

    So we saw some examples of moral courage, and, of course, Mitt Romney also doing that. But the rest, we saw sort of political winds perhaps helping philosophy and the divide growing deeper.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot of examination to come over these votes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you both.

    And we will continue with our look at the impeachment trial later in the program.

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