WASHINGTON, D.C. – Vermont’s senators both voted to convict President Donald Trump during Wednesday’s historic impeachment trial that ultimately acquitted the president of all charges.
Both Sen. Patrick Leahy, D – Vt., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I – Vt., joined each Democrat and one Republican in voting to convict Trump of abusing presidential powers when he asked Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Both likewise voted to convict Trump on charges that Trump had attempted to obstruct Congress with his handling of the impeachment investigation.
Ultimately, even as one Republican – Sen. Mitt Romney, R – Utah – joined with Democrats in voting to convict Trump, Democrats fell far short of the 67 votes needed to remove a president, only gathering 48 votes against 52 Republicans who voted to acquit.
In statements issued Wednesday, both Leahy and Sanders warned acquitting Trump for his alleged attempt to leverage military aid to Ukraine in his request to investigate Hunter Biden and his attempt to obstruct Congress set a “dangerous and lawless precedent.”
“A Republican acquittal of Donald Trump won’t just mean that the current president is above the law,” Sanders wrote in a statement. “It will give a green light to all future presidents to disregard the law so long as it benefits their reelection.”
Leahy, in his statement, drew comparisons to the attempted impeachment of President Richard Nixon, who resigned before he could be impeached for complicity with the break-in into the Democratic National Convention’s headquarters.
“In some ways, President Nixon’s misconduct... seems quaint compared to what we face today,” Leahy said. “As charged... President Trump secretly directed a sweeping, illegal scheme to withhold $400 million in military aid from an ally at war in order to extort that ally into announcing investigations of his political opponent to boost his reelection.
“Then, instead of hiding select incriminating records, as President Nixon did, President Trump attempted to hide every single record from the American people,” Leahy continued. “President Trump has the distinction of being the only president in our nation’s history to direct all executive branch officials not to cooperate with a congressional investigation...
“If the Senate does not recognize the gravity of President Trump’s ‘violation of the public trust,’ and hold him accountable, we will have seen but a preview of what is to come,” Leahy concluded. “Foreign interference in our elections, total noncompliance with lawful congressional oversight, disregard of our constitutional power of the purse, open, flagrant corruption – I fear there is no bottom.”
Charges levied against Trump center on a call made by Trump to newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, where Trump mentions U.S. aid to Ukraine before requesting that Ukraine investigate Hunter Biden for corruption for his involvement with a Ukrainian energy company.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either Hunter Biden or his father, presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden, and both U.S. and Ukrainian officials have said Hunter Biden did not break any laws.
In the wake of the U.S. House of Representatives opening an impeachment inquiry, Trump publicly refused to comply with subpoenas issued by the House and taunted witnesses over social media channels.
In a profanity-spiked speech delivered Thursday, the president dismissed the impeachment trial as “evil” and a “witch hunt,” and heralded his acquittal in the Senate as a vindication.
In a statement issued Thursday in response to Trump’s hour-long speech, Leahy wrote, “Today President Trump held a White House campaign rally and was entirely unrepentant.
“Sadly, the only lesson he’s learned is how almost the entire Senate Republican Caucus let him get away with misconduct, even when the evidence overwhelmingly proves that he abused his office and then tried to hide it from the American people,” Leahy said. “I will continue my work to hold him accountable and protect the Constitution.”
Leahy’s and Sanders’s votes Wednesday mean all three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation supported Trump’s impeachment, as Rep. Peter Welch, D – Vt., joined most Democrats in approving articles of impeachment in December.
Wednesday’s vote makes Trump both the third sitting president to ever be impeached and the third president to be acquitted in the Senate.