The Slatest

The Last Impeach-O-Meter: Senate Acquits Trump, Ending Impeachment

Collins and Murkowski flank Trump, who raising his hands and speaking into a microphone. All three are seated at a table.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, President Donald Trump, and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski are seen on Capitol Hill on Jan. 15. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The re-relaunched Impeach-O-Meter has been a wildly subjective and speculative estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump would be removed from office by an impeachment trial before the end of his first term.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump on both articles of impeachment presented by the House, voting 52–48 against the charge of abuse of office and 53–47 against the charge of obstruction of Congress. The difference between the two was Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who announced earlier that he would vote to convict the president on the count of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to smear his political rivals.

Romney’s move was a rare moment of genuinely surprising political news, and it meant that members of both parties supported Trump’s impeachment and conviction—a rebuke to the excuse, used often in recent days by Republican senators such as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, that the president should be let off the hook for his behavior because the case against him had become partisan theater. (Independent conservative Rep. Justin Amash voted to impeach Trump the House; Amash was a careerlong Republican who left the party in July 2019 in part because of the backlash against his support for impeachment.) It was the first vote to remove a U.S. president from office that has ever been cast by a member of Congress from that president’s party.

The bipartisan nature of the vote darkens the historical “stain” on Trump’s record, and perhaps it certifies the egregiousness of his behavior in a way that will cause marginal but decisive problems for the president—and other members of his party—with independent voters in November. But it wasn’t nearly enough to give the impeachment effort the 67 votes it needed to remove Trump. Romney may have done the honest thing, but other Republicans who like to self-present as reasonable and conscientious—Collins, Murkowski, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse—did not. (Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrats whose decisions had been in question, all voted to convict.)

Thus has Trump got away with withholding funding appropriated by Congress in order to gain leverage on a foreign government that he was pushing to announce bogus but politically beneficial investigations into the Biden family and the 2016 Democratic email hack. And got away with it by a 19-senator margin.

So now the real party starts. There are nine more months before the election, and the world of dirty tricks is his crime oyster. What kind of fake documentation can the Russian GRU draw up connecting Pete Buttigieg’s work at McKinsey to the distribution of opioids? Which other countries could indict Hunter Biden for corruption? How far have Saudi Arabia’s hackers gotten in their research on California’s vote-tallying system? Does the Army need to check IDs at polling stations in New Mexico because of concerns about illegal immigration? And why limit one’s imagination to electoral matters, really? Shouldn’t the Ukraine whistleblower go to jail for disclosing national secrets? Doesn’t Romney’s vote against the country’s chief executive constitute an act of treason? The Trump era has been a long series of transgressions that were previously unimaginable, and the only real surprising thing the fully exonerated president could do now is quit while he’s ahead.

Springs and gears fly out of the Impeach-O-Meter as it points to a smiling Trump and reads "0 percent."
Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis—Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks—Pool/Getty Images.