WASHINGTON: U.S. president Donald Trump drew on staunch
Republican support to defeat the gravest threat yet to his three-year-old
presidency, winning acquittal in the Senate on impeachment charges of abuse of
power and obstruction of Congress.
Only the third U.S. leader ever placed on trial, Trump
readily defeated the Democratic-led effort to expel him from office for having
illicitly sought help from Ukraine to bolster his 2020 re-election effort.
Trump immediately claimed “victory” while the
White House declared it a full “exoneration” for the president —
even as Democrats rejected the acquittal as the “valueless” outcome
of an unfair trial.
Despite being confronted with strong evidence, Republicans
stayed loyal and mustered a majority of votes to clear the president of both
charges — by 52 to 48 on abuse of power and 53 to 47 on obstruction of
Congress — falling far short of the two-thirds supermajority required for
“Two thirds of the senators present not having found
him guilty of the charges contained therein, it is therefore ordered and
adjudged that the said Donald John Trump be, and he is hereby, acquitted,”
said Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts, who presided over the trial.
The months-long impeachment of the 45th US leader shone a
harsh light on America’s political divide, with Trump’s core support base
united behind him in rejecting it as a “hoax.”
One Republican, senator Mitt Romney, a longtime Trump foe,
risked White House wrath to vote alongside Democrats on the first count, saying
Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.” He voted
not guilty on the second charge.
But the verdict was never truly in question since the House
of Representatives formally impeached Trump in December, and has now cleared
out a major hurdle for the president to fully plunge into his campaign for
re-election in November.