(CNN) – The Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment Wednesday, marking the inevitable and historic end to a bitterly fought, divisive impeachment trial that will reverberate into the 2020 election and shape Trump’s presidential legacy.
But the final day of the Senate’s impeachment trial was not without suspense: Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, found the President guilty of abuse of power, becoming the first senator in US history to vote to remove from office a president from the same party.
The third Senate impeachment trial of a sitting president in US history concluded Wednesday afternoon with votes finding the President not guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the impeachment articles the House charged Trump with in December. Romney was the sole Republican to vote to convict the President on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, joining with all Senate Democrats in a 52-48 not guilty vote. Romney voted with Republicans against the obstruction of Congress charge, which fell along straight party lines, 53-47 for acquittal.
The acquittal verdict was the final act of a four-month impeachment process that inflamed the partisan tensions simmering throughout the course of the Trump administration, friction that boiled over during the State of the Union even though Trump left impeachment out of his speech. While Wednesday’s vote marks the end of the formal impeachment process, Trump and his Democratic detractors are sure to take up the fight over the ultimate significance of the President’s impeachment as the presidential campaign heats up.
Though Trump is likely to claim victory and vindication with the Senate’s vote — he tweeted he would be speaking “VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax” Thursday, Romney’s vote denies him a purely partisan outcome on impeachment. Every Democrat, including fence-sitters like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted to convict the President, meaning the acquittal vote was not bipartisan like it was in the House.
Press secretary Stephanie Grisham dismissed Romney as “one failed Republican presidential candidate” in the White House statement on the vote.
“Today, the sham impeachment attempt concocted by Democrats ended in the full vindication and exoneration of President Donald J. Trump,” Grisham said.
In his Senate floor speech announcing his vote, Romney choked up while explaining how his faith helped guide him to what he described as “the most difficult decision I have ever faced.”
“Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine,” Romney said in explaining his vote.
After the Senate acquitted Trump of both charges, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not say at a press conference whether he thought what Trump did was wrong, or if he agreed with some Republican colleagues it was inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign power to probe a political rival.
“Listen, we voted,” McConnell said. “it’s time to move on … as far as I’m concerned it’s in the rearview mirror.”