Only three presidents in history have faced impeachment, and Wednesday President Donald Trump became the third acquitted by the Senate on the articles presented against him.
The vote on article one, abuse of power, was 52-48 in favor of not guilty. Forty-five Democrats, one Republican and two independents who caucus with the Democrats voted guilty, while 52 Republicans voted not guilty.
The vote for article two, obstruction of Congress, was 53-47 for not guilty. Fourty-five Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats voted guilty, while all 53 Republicans voted not guilty.
The only Republican to cross party lines and vote guilty for article one was Sen. Mitt Romney.
“The Constitution is at the foundation of our Republic’s success, and we each strive not to lose sight of our promise to defend it,” Romney said on the Senate floor. “The Constitution established the vehicle of impeachment that has occupied both houses of Congress for these many days. We have labored to faithfully execute our responsibilities to it. We have arrived at different judgments, but I hope we respect each other’s good faith.”
Iowa's U.S. senators, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst, voted not guilty on both articles.
While the impeachment trial is over, the House Judiciary Committee "will likely" subpoena former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify, according to NPR.
After the House of Representatives impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the Senate scheduled a trial to determine Trump’s fate. After a 51-49 vote against having witnesses appear at the impeachment trial following days of arguments for and against conviction, the trial finally ended with the acquittal votes Wednesday, leaving Trump remaining in office as president.
Susan Laehn, a lecturer of political science, said acquittal is different from impeachment but that Trump will still go down in history.
“Acquittal means that the president was not removed from office,” Laehn said. “The House votes to impeach and the Senate votes to remove or not to remove. Although President Trump will now go down in history as one of only three presidents to have been impeached, like the other two scenarios, he will not be removed.”
Ryan Hurley, a sophomore in pre-business and president of the College Republicans, said this acquittal came due to Trump’s “innocence.”
“We believe Trump was acquitted due to not actually committing crimes, having looked into it, we can’t see any guilty behavior,” Hurley said.
Tate Rasmussen, a senior in political science and treasurer of the College Democrats, said the acquittal is not a "huge surprise."
“It makes sense given the ‘imperial presidency,’” Rasmussen said. “The presidency has been getting more and more powerful for the last 100 years, enough so that 20 years ago, Congress decided that only serious crimes are worth removing a president. Fast forward to today, and the president can get away with even worse crimes. But also, his acquittal is because of the recent polarization and blatant corruption in our politics. ‘Party over country’ sums this up perfectly.”
Laehn said there are two potential interpretations for why President Trump was acquitted.
“First, as judges in the trial, the Senate may have believed that the decision to impeach was unfounded to begin with,” Laehn said. “As such, they may not have seen the need for witnesses, and they may have felt the charges against him were frivolous. The second interpretation of why they acquitted him is a simple and political one. The Senate is controlled by a Republican majority, and almost all Republican senators would want to protect a member of their party. I think the second interpretation is more likely.”
Laehn added this process is more “political” than legal.
“The standards for impeachment listed in the Constitution of treason, bribery, high crimes or misdemeanors are not necessarily the criminal categories we think of but are largely political terms,” Laehn said. “Thus, the decision to impeach and then remove, or not, is more of a political decision than a legal one. Moreover, the standards for evidence aren't the same as they are in criminal proceedings in a courtroom.”
Zack Bonner, a lecturer of political science, said he doesn’t think the impeachment process in general will have a negative impact.
“Overall, I don’t think it will have much of an effect on his own campaign at all, especially for members of the Republican Party,” Bonner said. “His approval rating by his base never really moves at all, and they have been shown to stick with him no matter what throughout his tenure as president.”
If anything, Hurley said this decision could potentially help Trump in the upcoming election.
“I believe this will help Trump’s reelection efforts; many Republicans saw through the impeachment ruse, but this should bring the small contingent of ‘Never Trumpers’ back to the party,” Hurley said.
Laehn said due to Trump’s legal team’s suggestions, the president may be allowed to engage in actions “in the public interest,” whether they are legal or not.
"By choosing to impeach when acquittal was almost always guaranteed to be the outcome in the Senate, this probably further empowers Trump,” Laehn said. “The bigger danger, however, is the precedent it sets. The president is already not subject to criminal indictment, and this acquittal only contributes to the near immunity of the office of the presidency. As executive power continues to increase, Congressional power continues to decline. People already look to the executive to ‘legislate’ in the place of Congress, which they believe to be slow and ineffective. This is likely to accelerate that trend, which will further erode the separation of powers so important to the longevity of our republic.”
Bonner spoke of the potential changes this impeachment could bring to the American political system.
“I think that this has a huge impact for the future of the political system in our country and with traditional Constitutional norms,” Bonner said. “As the parties seem to drift further apart and see this entire process as partisan, they may be setting unintended precedents and consequences for the future.”
Rasumussen said it’s important for Iowa State students to be informed on what this means.
“The most important thing to remember is that Iowa is a swing state,” Rasmussen said. “We're some of the few who are lucky enough to have our votes really count, and we need to consider the impeachment trial when we vote in November. If you feel like Trump's been acting above the law so far, wait until term two.”