Update, 5:15 — I would have assumed that Trump would have been prepared for an immediate reaction, but he’s putting it off until tomorrow:
I will be making a public statement tomorrow at 12:00pm from the @WhiteHouse to discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2020
Will Trump keep up his business as usual approach from last night, or attack Democrats in his presser? I’d guess the latter, especially after holding his tongue all night in the State of the Union speech.
4:32 — Trump is now officially acquitted on the second article, 53/47, as expected. The trial will wrap up shortly, and we’ll return to normal business. Well, as normal as it gets these days, anyway.
4:19 — Trump is officially acquitted on the first article, 52/48, as expected. Will any other Democrats rethink their position on the second article? I wouldn’t bet much on that, but it’s still possible.
Update, 4:06 pm ET — John Roberts gavels the court back into session for the last time. The first article of impeachment is being read; the vote will follow shortly.
Original post follows …
Like most events in the Senate, the outcome is not in doubt. After some debate and glowering looks for the cameras, the Senate will acquit Donald Trump on both articles of impeachment by a majority vote. The biggest potential drama today has already been resolved by Mitt Romney, who announced a couple of hours ago that he’d vote to convict on Article I and acquit on Article II. That still leaves 52 and 53 votes for acquittal, respectively — when 67 votes were needed for conviction.
Even the rest of the drama from Senate Democrats has dissipated. Joe Manchin finally confirmed that he would vote to convict on both counts:
Manchin will vote for both counts
This means that the vote will 52-48 with only Mitt Romney breaking ranks
“For the reasons above I must vote yes on the articles of impeachment,” Manchin said in statement
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 5, 2020
Slight correction: It will be 53/47 for acquittal on the second article. Kyrsten Sinema has also announced her position late:
.@kyrstensinema announces she will vote to remove President Trump from office, in favor of both articles.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 5, 2020
Citing her concern for the Constitution as well as the conduct of future presidents, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema will vote Wednesday to convict President Donald Trump on the impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The decision by Sinema, a moderate Arizona Democrat who was seen as a swing vote, was one of the last remaining questions hanging over Trump’s impeachment trial.
On both counts, when asked if the president is guilty or not guilty, Sinema will say, “Guilty.”
All that really leaves is the gnashing of teeth that will follow. Some gnashing began earlier in the day. For instance, Washington Post columnist Harry Litman argued that an acquittal would “kill the impeachment clause” of the Constitution, especially if voters re-elect him in November:
The second pivotal factor is the outcome of November’s election. Republicans have throughout the impeachment argued for letting the people decide, insisting that removal would preempt the popular will. If Trump loses, and particularly if senators who voted to acquit lose with him, it could be taken as a higher, popular judgment of condemnation of his behavior — in effect, reinstating the constitutional norm.
Then again, if Trump is reelected, it will be as if the electorate had voiced its support for the acquittal. In that event, it will be hard to dispute the argument that the impeachment clause has been neutered.
The upshot is that this November, the Constitution itself will be on the ballot. Even another razor-thin Trump victory will validate the abominable judgment that the Senate is poised to deliver Wednesday. Then God help us when the next president decides to follow Trump’s corrupt path, because the Constitution won’t be able to.
Good grief. Did Bill Clinton’s acquittal after having committed actual statutory felonies neuter the impeachment clause? The last five months — and three years, really — make it clear that it didn’t. Neither did Hillary Clinton’s nomination to return the family to the White House eighteen years later, for that matter. As we approach this vote, House Democratic leadership is already hinting at a do-over at some point.
Litman confuses political action with legal precedent, part of a larger ignorance over the nature of impeachment. Impeachment is a political process, and the precedents are entirely political, not legal. The problem with this impeachment and its obvious partisan intent isn’t that we won’t have future impeachments — it’s that we’ve set precedents that will guarantee more of them in the future as partisan mechanisms to cripple presidencies of competing parties.
At any rate, expect few real surprises at this point. We’ll keep track of the vote and live-blog developments in updates at the top of this post in reverse chronological order. And then, after the Kabuki theater packs up for the last time, the sun will set and rise in its proper manner, the business of the country will continue, and voters will indeed get to choose the president — as the Constitution sets out.