It seemed like it dragged on, but in reality, the impeachment of President Donald Trump was the fastest impeachment ever. The House voted to impeach Trump a week before Christmas, less than three months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry. February wasn’t even a week old when the Senate voted to acquit Trump last week. It occurred one day after Trump’s State of the Union address.
Here’s looking back at some of the twists and turns of the week that was:
Short and sweet …
“Truth wins.” — U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, using just two words, in giving his reaction to acquittal.
… and a little sour
“Uncertainty is now permanent. … The world is getting worse and worse because of the United States now. He has alienated everybody.” — Jacques Mistral, a former financial affairs adviser at the French Embassy in Washington.
Where’s the jacket?
Taking a victory lap in the White House after his acquittal, Trump ribbed Jordan, a college wrestling champion, for rarely wearing a suit jacket, saying, “He’s obviously very proud of his body.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday defended her speech-ripping performance after Trump’s State of the Union address and took fresh aim at his fitness for office even as he celebrated his impeachment acquittal.
“That was not a State of the Union,” Pelosi said. “That was his state of mind.”
Pelosi said she felt “very vindicated” by her shredding of a paper copy of Trump’s speech.
As Trump spoke, Pelosi said, she quickly read ahead through her copy of the speech. “I saw the compilation of falsehoods.” About one-third of the way through, she said she started to think, “There has to be something that clearly indicates to the American people that this is not the truth.”
And she decided to shred.
“He has shredded the truth in his speech, shredded the Constitution in his conduct. I shredded the address,” she said.
Let voter’s decide
Many senators who voted to acquit Trump said they were disappointed in his conduct or disapproved of it, but that it was up to voters to decide Trump’s fate in November.
“Our country is already too deeply divided and we should be working to heal wounds, not create new ones. It is better to let the people decide,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
Retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said House prosecutors proved the charges against the president, but said they didn’t rise to an impeachable offense.
“The question is not whether the president did it,” but whether the Senate should decide what to do about it, Alexander said last week in becoming the decisive vote against witnesses and documents. “I believe the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called the president’s actions “shameful and wrong.” But she said the proper response to Trump’s behavior was “not to disenfranchise nearly 63 million Americans” — who voted for Trump in 2016 — by removing him from the ballot.
Mitt stands alone
In an unlikely twist, Mitt Romney, the GOP’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential nominee, was the only Republican senator to break ranks in the impeachment trial and favor removing Trump from office.
Romney’s support for removing Trump on a charge of abuse of power denied Trump’s campaign a frequent talking point of asserting that he had full support of Republicans in the House and Senate during a strictly partisan drive to remove him.
Romney voted to acquit Trump on the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, joining his 52 GOP colleagues.
Romney, a Mormon, cited his religious faith and the significance of the impeachment oath taken by senators to render “impartial justice” on impeachment. “The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme, so egregious, that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor,” Romney said in a floor speech. “Yes, he did.”
To which Trump replied: “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when you know that is not so,’” he said, in a reference to Pelosi.
The D’s that didn’t
Throughout the trial, the votes of at least three Democrats were uncertain. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Doug Jones were all considered possible votes to acquit Trump. Manchin even floated censuring Trump instead of removing him from office, though the idea did not gain much traction. In the end, all 47 Democrats voted to find Trump guilty on both articles of impeachment.
Manchin, a former governor and a rare Democrat holding office in the nation’s most pro-Trump state, said he could explain his vote for removal based on the evidence that was presented. “There was no other conclusion that I could come to, as much as I knew how divisive it would be, as difficult as it would be,” Manchin said. “It’s based on, could I go home … and face my family, my friends and the good Lord that I swore to?”
Jones, whose seat in ruby-red Alabama is now in jeopardy, said impeachment has been partisan from the beginning and the country needs to figure out how to move forward together.
Sinema said she was upholding her duty to the Constitution and putting the interests of the country ahead of partisan politics or personal interest. “The facts are clear; security aid was withheld from Ukraine in an attempt to benefit the president’s political campaign.”
An already ill-defined area of law may be even murkier for 2020 campaigns, thanks to an answer on foreign election interference from deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin.
Democrats pressed Trump’s legal team to acknowledge that foreign election interference is not only wrong but also illegal. Asked if Trump agreed that foreign involvement in an American election is against the law, Philbin pointed out that the law only covers foreign campaign contributions or other so-called things of value. The Justice Department concluded for that reason that Trump’s call with Ukraine’s leader didn’t violate campaign finance laws.
Democrats called Philbin’s statement shocking. “The single most important lesson that we learned from 2016 was that nobody should seek or welcome foreign interference in our elections,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., an impeachment manager. “But now we have this president and his counsel essentially saying it is OK.”
Legal arguments political
Trump’s lawyers, including retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and former independent counsel Ken Starr, presented a variety of arguments to senators. They said Trump never made military aid contingent on investigations. They painted him as beset by biased investigators and asserted that even if he did what he was accused of, it still wasn’t impeachable.
In the end, though, the argument that appeared to resonate most with senators was inherently political: impeaching a president in an election year, the argument went, invites chaos and instability, upends the will of the voters and opens the door to future presidents being tossed from office on partisan whims.
“They are asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country, on your own initiative — take that decision away from the American people,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said.