News

What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber

The upper chamber was strangely quiet before the Senate began voting Wednesday on whether to convict President Trump on two articles of impeachment, standing in remarkable contrast to the weeks of loud chest-beating over whether he should be removed from office.

The outcome was not in question. Senators had declared their decisions in the three days leading up to the two crucial votes and Trump was all but certain to be acquitted.

Still, the chamber, that for weeks had been defined by partisan acrimony, paused its political war cries and followed Senate decorum by remaining silent as this moment became history. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Most Democrats took their seats so they could hear Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) make his final remarks before the vote. As he spoke, Republicans shuffled into the chamber and took their seats. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had the final say, noting that he hoped this was the end of the effort to remove the president, not the beginning.

During a break shortly before the vote, senators made small talk in the chamber.

Democratic senators greeted the House impeachment managers. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was seen talking to fellow Californian Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) chatted with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager. 

The White House defense team, meanwhile, appeared to largely talk among themselves as they took their seats, awaiting their client’s verdict.

Some reporters excitedly detailed an interaction in which Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), two Democrats who had previously been considered swing votes, embraced one another in a hug. 

ADVERTISEMENT

At the time the reporters, who are prohibited from having their phones in the chamber, didn’t know that Manchin had announced minutes before the 4 p.m. scheduled vote that he intended to vote to convict. 

The Senate was then called to order. While reporters could not see Chief Justice John Roberts from the press seating area in Senate gallery, he could be heard relaying instructions on how the Senate vote would go.

Roberts said he would go down the list of senators’ names, a process done in alphabetical order, at which point they would “stand in his or her place and vote guilty or not guilty.” 

The first vote focused on the charge that Trump abused his power by using $391 million in U.S. military aid to Kyiv to pressure the Ukrainian government to open investigations to benefit his reelection, including into a 2020 political rival.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was the first to stand and announce his vote: “Not guilty.” 

Then, jumping across the aisle, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) rose to cast Democrats’ first formal vote as “guilty.”

The vote followed a similar volleyball-like pattern, with senators going back and forth standing up and announcing their vote.  

When Manchin, who has enjoyed a friendly relationship with the president, stood and announced his vote as “guilty,” Baldwin – sitting next to him – nodded in approval.  

All eyes were Sen. Mitt Romney, who was one of the last senators to enter the chamber for the vote. When his turn came, reporters and the public alike craned their heads to watch. 

He was set to become the first senator in U.S. history to vote in an impeachment trial to remove a president of his own party.

Romney had previously been flushed with emotion, choking up as he announced on the Senate floor that he would vote to convict Trump on one charge, abuse of power, just two hours earlier. But by the time the formal vote arrived, the Utah Republican had regained his composure, maintaining an expressionless face as he rose from his seat – surrounded by allies of the president — and voted “guilty.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican, was among the GOP senators who turned in their seats to look at Romney as he broke with the party line. 

In contrast with the many weeks deliberations and debates, it took roughly 10 minutes for the first vote to finish and the acquittal announcement on the charge of abuse of power to be made.

Roberts read the final tally, with 48 voting to convict and 52 voting to acquit. The Senate did not reach the threshold of a two-thirds majority to remove Trump from office, Roberts said.

Democrats did not stir when the announcement was made, a likely sign that they had long known what the outcome of the vote would be. There was no climax, just closure.

The second vote followed a similar pattern with Roberts going through the roll call on the second impeachment article, obstruction of Congress. House Democrats had accused Trump of obstructing their inquiry into his contacts with Ukraine by blocking the release of documents and witness testimony.

But this vote, unlike the previous one, was strictly along party lines with Romney choosing to vote “not guilty.” The final vote count landed at 47-53.

Roberts again said that the threshold had not been met and announced that Trump was acquitted of the charges laid against him.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The Senate having tried Donald John Trump, President of the United States, upon two articles of impeachment exhibited against him by the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the senators present not having found him guilty of the charges contained therein,” Roberts read in part. “It is therefore ordered and adjudged that the said Donald John Trump be, and he is hereby, acquitted of the charges in the said articles.” 

After a months-long, highly-partisan process, the third impeachment trial in history of a U.S. president concluded with a bipartisan moment — applause for Roberts and others who helped the trial take place.

McConnell offered praise to Roberts, thanking him for the hours he spent overseeing the trial, which often stretched late into the night. McConnell awarded him a golden gavel for his service. 

The Senate pages — who were often seen running back and forth handing out water and slips of paper to restless senators — also received claps from both sides. Both McConnell and Schumer praised them for coming into these high-profile roles in the midst of a hectic, historic event. 

The Senate then adjourned and the chamber started to clear.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) walked beside Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Feinstein following behind them as they escorted Roberts out of the Senate chamber. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The impeachment managers followed as they were led out of the chamber in a single file.

After the House members left the floor, senators and others on the floor began to leave.

White House defense lawyer Jay Sekulow could be seen shaking hands with his team members before they walked off the floor.

Still, some senators hung back.

One of the senators who appeared to linger after the vote was Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who had been considered a swing vote on whether to convict or acquit. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who was one of multiple House members watching the vote from inside the chamber, went up and shook his hand. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) joined them, giving Jones a hug. 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) shook his hand in passing as he left the Senate floor.

Jones then went over to talk to Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), two moderate Republicans who ultimately decided against voting to convict the president, despite describing his conduct as wrong and inappropriate. 

It was unclear what the three talked about, but the discussion appeared friendly. The two female senators, leaning on their desks, nodded emphatically as they spoke to him. And at one point, Murkowski extended her arm and placed it on Jones’s shoulder.

After the floor cleared, many senators reprised one often-seen act by running to the cameras in the Senate basement.  

Manchin, Jones and others stopped to talk to reporters about how they arrived at the decisions they did.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, took a celebratory lap, cheering the results, while also forecasting that House Democrats will keep plowing forward with their investigations into the president they had just impeached.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Pin It on Pinterest