I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, February 6, 2020. 5 days until the New Hampshire primary. 271 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
Senate acquits Trump on both impeachment charges
Donald J. Trump became the third U.S. president to be impeached by the House and then acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday, as the upper chamber cleared him of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress.
Two-thirds of senators would have been needed to remove Trump from office; instead, senators voted 52 to 48 to acquit the president on abuse of power and 53 to 47 to clear him on the obstruction charge. The two votes were almost entirely along party lines — except for Utah Republican Mitt Romney's vote to convict Trump on abuse of power.
"The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust," Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, declared in a floor speech just before the vote. "What he did was not perfect. No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine."
The Utahn is the first senator in history to vote for the removal of a president of his own political party. Trump derided Romney as a "failed presidential candidate" in an early Thursday morning tweet; the president's eldest son called for Romney's expulsion from the Republican Party he once led.
Trump's acquittal came after a dizzying six-month period of allegations and investigations, which began with an anonymous whistleblower complaint that was filed in mid-August and culminated with the three-week Senate trial.
The president stood accused of waging a campaign to pressure Ukraine's government to launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 presidential campaign and conditioning official acts — such as the release of $391 million in military aid and an Oval Office meeting — on the public announcement of those investigations. He was also impeached for refusing to cooperate with House investigators, ordering his administration not to comply with subpoenas for documents or testimony.
Despite Trump's orders, however, the House investigation did include more than 30 hours of public testimony from 12 current or former administration officials. (Controversially, the Senate trial did not include any additional witnesses.)
Throughout the entire process, President Trump and his allies remained steadfast in his innocence, repeatedly referring to his July phone conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky — in which Trump pressed Zelensky to "look into" Biden and the 2016 election — as a "perfect call." Many Republican senators disputed that characterization in recent days, criticizing Trump's actions with respect to Ukraine; but in the end, all but one voted to clear the president regardless.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham declared the acquittal a "full vindication and exoneration" for the president, while Democrats were quick to dismiss the verdict by the GOP-controlled Senate. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, called it a "meaningless" decision by a "kangaroo court."
Trump has yet to directly respond to the Senate vote himself, although he announced on Twitter that he plans to address the nation at 12 p.m. today to discuss what he called "our Country's VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax."
With the Senate's vote to keep him in office, the final verdict on Trump's presidency will rest with the American voters in November. It is possible that the impeachment trial may have only served to bolster Trump's electoral standing: a Gallup poll released earlier this week showed that 49% of Americans approved of the president's job performance, his highest percentage of support since taking office in January 2017.
Sen. Mitt Romney departs the Capitol after voting on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, via Getty Images)
Sanders gaining on Buttigieg in Iowa caucus results
With 96.9% of precincts now reporting, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's lead in the Iowa caucuses has shrunken to an advantage of just three state delegate equivalents over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Buttigieg currently has 550 delegate equivalents (or 26.2% of the total) to Sanders' 547 (or 26.1%). They are trailed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (18.2%), former Vice President Joe Biden (15.8%), and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (12.2%).
Sanders leads Buttigieg in the raw vote totals from both the first and final caucus night alignment tallies, although most media organizations will declare the candidate with the most state delegate equivalents as the winner of the caucuses. (Each candidate's "state delegate equivalent" total is used to calculate the number of Iowa's national delegates they will receive for the Democratic convention in July. A candidate needs a majority of delegates at the convention to clinch the nomination.)
Buttigieg's slim lead has steadily shrunk as results have dribbled out from Iowa since the reporting delay on Monday night. Many of the latest results have been from the state's new satellite caucuses, which were held at remote locations across the globe; Sanders overwhelmingly outperformed his rivals in these satellite caucuses, allowing him to make gains in his delegate count.
Meanwhile, with the Iowa winner still up in the air, the bulk of the Democratic field — minus Michael Bloomberg, who is hoping to capitalize off of the chaos in the race with a big showing on Super Tuesday — has descended on New Hampshire ahead of the state's first-in-the-nation primary next week.
The Boston Globe/WBZ/Suffolk tracking poll on Wednesday showed Sanders — who won the state by more than 20 percentage points in 2016 — leading the field in New Hampshire with 25%. Buttigieg shot to 19%, an 8-point gain since Iowa, while Biden fell to 11%, a 7-point drop.
Likely fearing a repeat of his disastrous Iowa showing, Biden debuted new lines of attack against his rivals at a New Hampshire event on Wednesday, warning Democrats of the risks of nominating Sanders or Buttigieg. However, as Biden is shedding ad buys in South Carolina, Sanders is flying high: the Vermont senator announced plans this morning to buy $5.5 million in ads across 10 states.
President Donald Trump will attend the 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast at 8 a.m., participate in a credentialing ceremony for newly appointed ambssadors to the United States at 11 a.m., deliver remarks on the Senate impeachment vote at 12 p.m., meet with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya at 2 p.m., and receive an update from his Cornovairus Task Force at 4:30 p.m.
The Senate is on recess.
The House is scheduled to consider two pieces of legislation: H.Res. 826, a resolution "expressing disapproval of the Trump administration’s harmful actions towards Medicaid," and H.R. 2474, the "Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019."
Presidential candidates Michael Bennet, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Joe Walsh, Elizabeth Warren, Bill Weld, and Andrew Yang will campaign in New Hampshire.
Sanders (8 p.m.), Buttigieg (9 p.m.), Klobuchar (10 p.m.), and Patrick (11 p.m.) will participate in CNN town halls tonight.
*All times Eastern
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