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Senate Votes To Acquit President Trump On Both Articles Of Impeachment

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The U.S. Senate has fulfilled its constitutional duty in the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Mr. Alexander. Mr. Alexander - not guilty. Ms. Baldwin. Ms. Baldwin - guilty. Mr. Barrasso. Mr. Barrasso...

CORNISH: When all was said and done, the president was acquitted on both articles of impeachment - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The vote fell along party lines, with one exception. Utah Republican Mitt Romney voted to convict the president on the charge of abuse of power. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis has been following this story.

Welcome back to the studio.

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SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

CORNISH: In the end, this was almost exactly a party-line vote, with the exception of Mitt Romney.

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MITT ROMNEY: 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 one's self in office is, perhaps, the most abusive and destructive violation of one's oath of office that I can imagine.

CORNISH: Sue, what else do we know about how the senator came to this decision?

DAVIS: Well, he made a rather emotional floor statement in which he appeared to be choked up at times. And he, essentially, said he fell back on his faith. He's, obviously, a very prominent Mormon, and he said he couldn't reconcile his faith in God and what he believed to be right and the oath he took before God to do impartial justice, which is the oath that senators take under impeachment trial. You know, it doesn't come as a surprise, and it's not without political repercussions. Some people in the party, including the president's son, has called for Romney to be expelled from the party. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked about that option today, and he just sort of laughed it off.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: (Laughter) We don't have any dog houses here. The most important vote is the next vote.

DAVIS: So there's no chance that Mitch McConnell wants to lower his Senate majority (laughter).

CORNISH: And despite looking at all the various people who might be sitting on the fence, all Democrats voted to convict the president on both counts. Were there any surprises?

DAVIS: Some Democrats took some tough vote here. You know, every Democrat voted to convict the president, but there are a lot of Democrats in states where the president is very popular and are themselves running for reelection this fall. Two of them - Doug Jones of Alabama - or one of them, Doug Jones of Alabama, is running for reelection this fall in a state that Donald Trump is very popular. Was this a politically risky vote for him? Absolutely. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona - people that may have to pay consequences for this vote as well. And it's something that - Republicans have said, Democrats may pay a political price for this.

CORNISH: The Senate impeachment trial is over. What happens now on Capitol Hill?

DAVIS: You know, Democrats say they're going to keep oversight on the president. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said earlier today that the House is likely to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, who never testified in this process. In the Senate today, it sort of reverted back to form. As soon as the trial gaveled out, Mitch McConnell called up more judges - judicial nominations and is going to get focus back on that. But I think impeachment has taken a toll on the institution and on Congress. And Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, sort of talked about the mood today.

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CHRIS COONS: I think what the country sees is coverage of how bitterly divided we are, and what we need to show them is that we can still do things that actually address their concerns going forward.

CORNISH: This is now - the end of this process ends in 2020, right? Like, in an election year - a bitter one. Is it realistic for there to be any kind of bipartisan cooperation on anything else going forward?

DAVIS: Well, McConnell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi today said they would like there to be. And I do think that one issue we're going to hear a lot about going forward is this issue of prescription drugs. There is a bipartisan bill in the Senate that, actually, divides Republicans. It's a bill that Mitch McConnell doesn't support, but it's one of those issues that President Trump called for in his State of the Union address last night. He put his support behind it. And one thing this process has shown is that Republicans get in line when Donald Trump wants something. So if he wants to use his political will to cut a deal with Democrats on something like that, it could probably get done.

CORNISH: In the meantime, people are talking about the election down ballot. There's members of the House, lots of senators who are up for reelection. Any sense of how impeachment could affect them?

DAVIS: You know, impeachment isn't just about Donald Trump. These votes will matter in the fall. Mitch McConnell, today, said he felt that his Senate majority was secure. But a lot of Republicans today took votes that were smart to get them through their primaries but could be tough in the general election - senators like Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Thom Tillis of North Carolina. I think the Senate is very much in play, and impeachment could play a factor there. Right now Democrats feel that they are in a strong position to hold the House, partly because Republicans haven't been able to recruit enough candidates in those swinging suburban seats they need to hold on to, partly because Donald Trump is not very popular there, nor was his conduct. But a lot of the dynamic in the House will certainly be affected by who the Democratic nominee ultimately is.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Susan Davis. Thanks so much.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.