President Trump’s Reaction to the Senate Impeachment Vote

by Elizabeth Van Nostrand, JD, and Tina Batra Hershey, JD, MPH

“Our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax.”

On February 5, 2020, the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump ended in acquittal. As mentioned in previous JPHMP Crossroads postings, the impeachment process to remove a president from office is bifurcated. During the first phase, the House investigates whether questionable actions constitute impeachable offences and, if so, formal charges (or “articles of impeachment”) are issued. In President Trump’s proceedings, two impeachable events were identified: abuse of presidential power; and, obstruction of Congress. Once articles of impeachment are issued, the second phase is triggered, which involves a trial in the Senate presided over by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  

“It was all bullshit. It was hell.” ~ President Trump’s celebratory remarks following the Senate’s verdict on the articles of impeachment

The Trump impeachment proceedings were unique in several respects. First, at 20 days, the Senate trial was the quickest in US history for a presidential impeachment proceeding. The two previous impeachments of US Presidents, William J. Clinton (1999) and Andrew Johnson (1868), lasted 5 weeks and almost 3 months, respectively.

Second, it is the only time in US history that a Senate impeachment proceeding was conducted without any testimony. In a significant victory for President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), the Senate rejected motions to call witnesses or introduce other evidence, as they felt such actions would amount to a re-opening of the House investigation. Proponents of the motions asserted that the testimony of former National Security Advisor John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and other senior officials would help inform the claim that President Trump abused the power of his office by improperly withholding US military aid to Ukraine while pressuring an investigation of presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. All 47 Senate Democrats and two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins (R-Me) and Mitt Romney (R-Ut), voted to allow such testimony; however, their efforts fell just short of the 51 votes needed. Had the vote been tied, Chief Justice Roberts would have called upon to cast the deciding vote.

Third, the Trump trial was the most partisan Senatorial impeachment proceeding in the nation’s history. All 47 Democrats voted guilty on both articles of impeachment. Only Senator Mitt Romney broke ranks with his fellow Republicans by voting in favor of removing President Trump for abusing the power of his office. This is the only time that a Senator has voted to remove a President who shares the same party affiliation. In response, President Trump tweeted that Senator Romney was a “Democratic secret asset.” Unlike the impeachment proceedings of Presidents Clinton and Johnson who drew bipartisan support following their exonerations, the partisanship remains.

What’s Next: President Trump’s tweeted video showing him as president “4EVA”

Immediately after his acquittal, President Trump began removing people from his administration, ostensibly because of their cooperation with the House inquiry. These individuals include Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman (White House National Security Council) and his twin brother, Yevgeny Vindman (National Security Council attorney), and Gordon Sondland (US Ambassador to the European Union. Several nominations were also disrupted, including Jessie Lui (Treasury Department nominee who supervised the Justice Department’s prosecution of Trump buddy Roger Stone) and Elaine McCushner (nominee to be the Pentagon’s Comptroller and CFO who raised questions about withholding military aid to the Ukraine) were revoked.

According to a recent Gallop poll, President Trump’s rating has never been higher. Forty-nine percent of Americans give him a positive rating and an astonishing 93% of Republicans approve of his contributions. Assuming that President Trump is not impeached again, it will be up to voters in November to decide whether it is in the nation’s best interest to have the Trump administration control the White House for four more years. Until then, in the President’s own words, “Sorry haters. I’m not going anywhere.”

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Elizabeth Van Nostrand, JD

Elizabeth Van Nostrand, JD, is an Associate Professor and the Director of the MPH and JD/MPH Programs in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Pitt Public Health, an Adjunct Professor in the School of Law, a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellow, Director of Pitt Public Health’s JD/MPH program, and Principal Investigator/Director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Training Center. [Full bio].

(Photo: University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health)




Tina Batra Hershey bio

Tina Batra Hershey, JD, MPH

Tina Batra Hershey, JD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor, Health Policy and Management, at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She is also the Assistant Director for Law and Policy at the Center for Public Health Practice at Pitt Public Health, where she researches legal, policy, and ethical issues related to the delivery of health care and emergency preparedness. [Full bio].                           

(Photo: Univ. of Pittsburgh Center for Teaching and Learning, Photographic Services)