President Donald Trump was acquitted of both counts of impeachment in a vote by members of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
In impeachment articles presented by the U.S. House of Representatives, the president was accused of abuse of power and withholding military aid from Ukraine in order to investigate political opponent and former Vice President Joe Biden. He was also accused of obstruction of Congress and withholding documents and pressuring witnesses not to testify, which Trump denied.
Both Nebraska Republican Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse voted to acquit the president on both charges.
“After presenting an extraordinary amount of information over the past two weeks, the House managers failed to make a compelling case that the president should be removed from office,” Fischer said in a statement on Feb. 5.
Sasse suggested Trump’s removal from office would be “setting the nation on fire,” and the best way for the Senate to move forward is to “get out of the way and allow the American people to render their verdict on Election Day,” according to Lincoln Journal Star reporting.
Nebraska members in the House of Representatives expressed similar sentiments.
Republican Rep. Adrian Smith said that the president did nothing that “rises to the level of an impeachable offense.”
Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry said that he was “concerned since the beginning that this impeachment process has been driven by a predetermined verdict of guilty.”
When the impeachment articles were passed in the House, Republican Rep. Don Bacon voiced his opposition to impeachment when he said, “simply put, there was no quid pro quo. There was no crime. There is only the majority’s disdain for the President, and that is not an impeachable offense.”
In light of the president’s acquittal, there is discussion surrounding the impact the trial will have on the 2020 election and the weight impeachment holds in Congress.
“While the evidence was strong to support the articles of impeachment and the vote to impeach in the House of Representatives, the desire to hurry the process along likely provided some political cover for those who wanted to question the process in the Senate and beyond,” said Richard Witmer, Schlegel Distinguished Professor of Government and Politics in the political science and international relations department.
He added that this round of impeachment will challenge future attempts because it raised the bar of necessary evidence for criminal acts and that Trump’s approval numbers haven’t really moved since the trial and acquittal.
“The public has a pretty set opinion of Trump, and it will be likely be hard to drop or improve these numbers moving forward,” he said.
Graham Ramsden, associate professor in the political science and international relations department, also pointed to the stable poll ratings when discussing the significance of the impeachment trial.
“Most people have made up their minds about this a long time ago,” Ramsden said. He said that seeing this impeachment trial may tempt members of Congress to
use impeachment for political purposes. “It’s possible that we may see extremist politicians on both sides use the impeachment instrument in the House more frequently,” Ramsden said.
He said this is a result of the primary voters, saying they “tend to be more ex- treme ideologically than most people.” Primary voters tend to choose more extreme candidates, leaving the rest of the more moderate voters to choose between these extreme candidates, he said.
However, while Ramsden thinks impeachment may be more sought after for political use, removal from office will still be very difficult because of the 2/3 vote needed in the Senate.