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US Senate acquits Trump of impeachment charges

AFP, Reuters
Filed on February 6, 2020
Trump, impeachment

The Senate's 53-47 vote on the second article of impeachment brought the proceedings to an end.

The US Senate on Wednesday acquitted President Donald Trump of both charges in his impeachment trial as it found him not guilty of obstructing Congress, as had been charged by the House of Representatives.

In the second of two impeachment votes, the Republican-controlled Senate cleared the Republican president of Democrats' accusations that he obstructed Congress' investigation into whether he acted improperly in withholding US security aid to Ukraine.

The Senate's 53-47 vote on the second article of impeachment brought the proceedings to an end.

Trump to make statement 

Trump said that he will issue a formal statement on Thursday after his acquittal on two impeachment charges.

"I will be making a public statement tomorrow at 12:00pm from the @WhiteHouse to discuss our Country's VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!" Trump tweeted.

Shortly before, he tweeted a montage depicting a fake cover of Time magazine declaring him president for all eternity.

Trump remains a 'threat to American democracy': Pelosi

Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the Senate's acquittal of Trump and said he remains "an ongoing threat to American democracy."

"Today, the President and Senate Republicans have normalized lawlessness and rejected the system of checks and balances of our Constitution," Pelosi said in a statement issued after the Senate acquitted Trump of both impeachment articles passed by the House.

"The President remains an ongoing threat to American democracy, with his insistence that he is above the law and that he can corrupt the elections if he wants to," Pelosi said.

The Republican-majority Senate voted 52-48 to acquit Trump of abuse of power and 53-47 to acquit him of obstruction of Congress.

Trump got 'full vindication and exoneration'

The White House said that President Donald Trump had got "full vindication and exoneration" in his impeachment trial.

After the Senate acquittal "the President is pleased to put this latest chapter of shameful behavior by the Democrats in the past," spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.

However, she also accused the opposition Democrats of trying to influence the upcoming presidential election and asked: "Will there be no retribution?"

Trump acquittal 'valueless'

Senate Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer that Trump's acquittal by the Senate was "virtually valueless" since Republicans refused witnesses at his impeachment trial.

"Now that Republicans have rejected a fair trial, truth is a giant asterisk next to the president's acquittal," Schumer told reporters.

"The asterisk says he was acquitted without facts. He was acquitted without a fair trial. And it means his acquittal is virtually valueless," the senator from New York said.

"The White House may be cheering this as a win," Schumer said, but "history will view this as a Pyrrhic victory for Senate Republicans, for the Republican Party and for President Trump."

'Trump impeachment a colossal mistake by Democrats'

 The Democratic Party's failed effort to impeach and remove Trump was a major political miscalculation likely to benefit Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"Right now this is a political loser for them. They initiated it. They thought this was a great idea," McConnell told reporters after the Senate voted along party lines to acquit Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

"At least for the short term, it has been a colossal political mistake," McConnell said.

Key dates in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump:

APRIL 21, 2019

Trump speaks with then-President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy to congratulate him on his election victory. The White House says in a readout of the call that the president underscored unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed his commitment to work with Zelenskiy to implement reforms that "strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption."

A rough transcript of the call, released in November, bears little resemblance to that description. The word "corruption" is not mentioned in the rough transcript, nor is there any reference territorial integrity.

JULY 3

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a national security official working at the White House, becomes aware that military aid to Ukraine has been held up. He testified later that he received a notice from the State Department. "That's when I was concretely made aware of the fact there was a hold placed," he said in testimony to lawmakers.

JULY 10

A meeting at the White House with Ukrainian officials is cut short when Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, says he has an agreement with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that Ukraine's president would get a meeting with Trump if Ukraine agreed to open investigations. National security adviser John Bolton "stiffened" and ended the meeting, later telling colleague Fiona Hill to report it to the National Security Council's lawyer, she testified.

"I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this," Hill says Bolton told her.

JULY 18

In a secure call with national security officials, a staff member of the White House Office of Management and Budget announces there's a freeze on Ukraine aid until further notice, based on a presidential order to the budget office.

JULY 24

Special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress that Trump was not cleared of obstructing justice, nor was he completely exonerated in the Russia probe, as Trump has contended. Mueller issues a stark warning about the dangers of Russian interference in American elections.

JULY 25

Trump has a second phone call with Zelenskiy, now president, during which he solicits Zelenskiy's help in gathering potentially damaging information about his principal Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

That night, a staff member at the White House Office of Management and Budget signs a document that officially puts military aid for Ukraine on hold.

BETWEEN JULY 25 AND AUG. 12

An unidentified CIA officer files a complaint with the agency alleging misconduct during the president's July 25 call, according to a person familiar with the matter.

JULY 26

US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker visits Kyiv and meets with Zelenskiy and various Ukrainian political officials, according to a whistleblower complaint addressed to Congress and delivered to the intelligence community's inspector general. Sondland also participates, and the two reportedly provide advice on how to "navigate" the president's demands.

Also, Trump speaks by phone with Sondland while the ambassador was in a Kyiv restaurant. William Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, later tells lawmakers that one of his staffers overhead parts of the conversation.

Sondland tells the president that the Ukrainians are ready to move forward, and after the call, one of Taylor's staffers asks Sondland what Trump thought about Ukraine. "Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for," Taylor later testified.

ON OR ABOUT AUG. 2

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani reportedly travels to Madrid to meet with one of Zelenskiy's advisers, Andriy Yermak, according to a whistleblower complaint.

AUG. 12

A whistleblower complaint bearing this date and intended for Congress states: "In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple US Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election."

The complaint is addressed to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. It does not reach them until Sept. 25.

AUG. 14

The whistleblower's original complaint to the CIA is brought up by Courtney Simmons Elwood, general counsel for the CIA, during a call involving U.S. national security officials, including John Eisenberg, a White House lawyer, and John Demers, who leads the Justice Department's national security division, according to a person familiar with the matter.

AUG. 15

Demers goes to the White House to review materials associated with the Zelenskiy call.

AUG. 26

Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, sends a letter to the acting director of national intelligence informing him that the IG's office has received a complaint addressed to Congress of "urgent concern" about a call between Trump and Zelenskiy. The inspector general says he believes the conversation could have amounted to a federal campaign finance crime.

AUG. 28

Politico reports that the military aid to Ukraine is on hold, setting off a scramble among diplomats in Ukraine and the United States.

SEPT. 3

The Justice Department's office of legal counsel sends a memorandum to a lawyer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, finding that the "alleged misconduct does not involve any member of the intelligence community" and concludes that the Aug. 12 complaint does not meet the statutory requirement as a matter of "urgent concern" that would require it to be forwarded to Congress.

SEPT. 9

The inspector general for the intelligence community sends a letter to Schiff and Devin Nunes, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, about the whistleblower's complaint, saying that withholding it "does not appear to be consistent with past practice" because the acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, is not permitting its release to Congress. Atkinson, the inspector general, said in the letter that he is working with Maguire to try to bring the whistleblower's concerns to Congress.

SEPT. 11

The White House informs lawmakers that it is releasing $250 million in military aid to Ukraine. The United States began providing military aid to the government of Ukraine shortly after Russia illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The $250 million in funding had been delayed because "The President has been consulting with his national security leadership team to determine the best use of Ukraine security assistance funds to achieve US national security interests," Office of Management and Budget staff wrote in an email to House Appropriations Committee staff aides.

SEPT. 19

Atkinson testifies behind closed doors to members of the House Intelligence Committee about the whistleblower's complaint. Atkinson does not give details about the substance of the complaint.

Also, the president begins responding to published reports about his phone call, tweeting that he understands many people from various US agencies listened in. "Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially 'heavily populated' call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!"

SEPT. 24

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces that the House is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry, saying, "No one is above the law."

SEPT. 25

The White House releases a rough transcript of the president's July 25 call with Zelenskiy, confirming that Trump has pushed Ukraine's leader to work with Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate Biden and his son. The Justice Department releases a statement saying prosecutors reviewed the inspector general's referral about a possible campaign finance violation and determined that no crime was committed.

The whistleblower's Aug. 12 complaint is also transmitted to Congress.

SEPT. 26

The House Intelligence Committee releases a redacted version of the whistleblower complaint, now at the center of Democrats' impeachment probe. The committee also receives testimony from Maguire, who says the whistleblower "did the right thing" by coming forward to report concerns over the White House's handling of the call between Trump and Ukraine's leader.

OCT. 31

The Democratic-controlled House votes 232-196 to pass a resolution setting procedures for the impeachment inquiry as Democrats try to counter the Trump administration's criticism of the probe. Two Democrats voted against the resolution.

NOV. 13

House Intelligence Committee opens two weeks of public hearings with a dozen current and former career foreign service officials and political appointees who testify about efforts by Trump and others to pressure Ukraine to investigate Trump's political rivals. Career diplomat William Taylor, the charge d'affaires in Kyiv, offered surprising new testimony that Trump was overheard on a telephone call asking about "the investigations" of Democrats he wanted Ukraine to pursue. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch recounted how threatened she felt to learn that Trump had promised Zelenskiy that she was "going to go through some things." Trump tweeted fresh criticism of Yovanovitch as she testified. Sondland testified that a "quid pro quo" existed and that "everyone was in the loop. It was no secret." And Fiona Hill, Trump's former Russia adviser, said Sondland was running a "domestic political errand" and she had warned him it would "blow up."

NOV. 15

Trump releases a rough transcript of the congratulatory phone call he had with Zelinskiy on April 21 and holds it out as evidence that he had done nothing wrong.

NOV. 20

Pence says he has no recollection of a conversation Sondland described having with him about a link between military aid for Ukraine and investigations sought by Trump. Sondland had testified that he spoke with Pence before a Sept. 1 meeting with Ukrainian officials and expressed "concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations." Pence tells a Wisconsin TV station that he did not recall the conversation. A top Pence aide had said the call "never happened."

DEC. 3

A 300-page report prepared by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee finds "serious misconduct" by the president.

DEC. 4

The House Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing in the impeachment inquiry while Trump attends a NATO conference in London.

DEC. 5

Pelosi announces that she has asked the relevant House committee chairs to begin drawing up articles of impeachment against Trump, saying his actions left them "no choice" but to act swiftly. In response, Trump tweets that Democrats have "gone crazy."

DEC. 9

In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Democrats outline their case against Trump by saying his push to get Ukraine to investigate Biden while withholding U.S. military aid ran counter to US policy and benefited Russia as well as himself. Republicans reject the assertions.

DEC. 10

Pelosi and the relevant House committee chairs announce two articles of impeachment against Trump, for abuse of power and for obstruction of justice, over charges that he threatened the integrity of US elections and endangered national security in his dealings with Ukraine. Trump responds by tweeting "WITCH HUNT!"

DEC. 13

House Judiciary Committee approves two articles of impeachment against Trump, sending them to the full House.

DEC. 18

Trump is impeached by the House, becoming only the third American chief executive to be formally charged under the Constitution's ultimate remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors.

JAN. 6

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton says he is "prepared to testify" if he is subpoenaed by the Senate in its impeachment trial.

JAN. 15

The House votes to send two articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate.

JAN. 16

The US Senate opens the impeachment trial with quiet ceremony - senators standing at their desks to swear an oath of "impartial justice" as jurors.

JAN. 23

Schiff, the lead impeachment prosecutor, makes an an impassioned plea for removing Trump from office, framing the choice in moral terms. "If right doesn't matter, we're lost," he said.

JAN. 25

The president's lawyers plunge into his impeachment trial defense by accusing Democrats of striving to overturn the 2016 election, arguing that investigations of Trump's dealings with Ukraine have not been a fact-finding mission but a politically motivated effort to drive him from the White House.

FEB. 5

The Republican-controlled Senate acquits Trump on two impeachment charges amid GOP complaints about what they called a rushed process and Democratic claims that Trump is a threat to democracy. The historic, three-week trial had proceeded largely along partisan lines, with just one senator - Republican Mitt Romney of Utah - breaking with his party.


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