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Not guilty: Senate acquits Trump of both impeachment charges

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump won impeachment acquittal Wednesday in the U.S. Senate, bringing to a close only the third presidential trial in U.S. history with votes that split the country, tested civic norms and fed the tumultuous 2020 race for the White House.

With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, senators sworn to do “impartial justice” stood and stated their votes for the roll call — “guilty” or “not guilty” — in a swift tally almost exclusively along party lines. Trump, the chief justice then declared, shall “be, and is hereby, acquitted of the charges.”

The outcome followed months of remarkable impeachment proceedings, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate, reflecting the nation’s unrelenting partisan divide three years into the Trump presidency.

What started as Trump’s request for Ukraine to “do us a favor” spun into a far-reaching, 28,000-page report compiled by House investigators accusing an American president of engaging in shadow diplomacy that threatened U.S. foreign relations for personal, political gain as he pressured the ally to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the next presidential election.

No president has ever been removed by the Senate.

A politically emboldened Trump had eagerly predicted vindication, deploying the verdict as a political anthem in his reelection bid. The president claims he did nothing wrong, decrying the “witch hunt” as an extension of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian 2016 campaign interference by those out to get him from the start of his presidency.

Trump’s political campaign tweeted videos, statements and a cartoon dance celebration, while the president himself tweeted that he would speak today, Thursday, from the White House about “our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax.”

However, the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said there will always be “a giant asterisk next to the president’s acquittal” because of the Senate’s quick trial and Republicans’ unprecedented rejection of witnesses.

A majority of senators expressed unease with Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine that resulted in the two articles of impeachment. But two-thirds of them would have had to vote “guilty” to reach the Constitution’s bar of high crimes and misdemeanors to convict and remove Trump from office. The final tallies in the GOP-held Senate fell far short.

On the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, the vote was 52-48 favoring acquittal. The second, obstruction of Congress, also produced a not guilty verdict, 53-47.

Only one Republican, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the GOP’s unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2012, broke with the party.

Romney choked up as he said he drew on his faith and “oath before God” to vote guilty on the first charge, abuse of power. He voted to acquit on the second.

North Carolina’s two Republican senators — Richard Burr and Thom Tills — voted “not guilty” on both charges.

All Democrats found the president guilty on the two charges.

Both President Bill Clinton in 1999 and President Andrew Johnson in 1868 drew cross-party support when they were left in office after impeachment trials. Richard Nixon resigned rather than face sure impeachment, expecting members of his own party to vote to remove him.

Ahead of Wednesday’s voting, some of the most closely watched senators took to the Senate floor to tell their constituents — and the nation — what they had decided.

Influential U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he was worried a guilty verdict would “pour gasoline on the fire” of the nation’s culture wars over Trump and “rip the country apart.’’ He said the House proved its case, but it just didn’t rise to the level of impeachment.

Other Republicans siding with Trump said it was time to end what McConnell called the “circus” and move on.

Most Democrats, though, echoed the House managers’ warnings that Trump, if left unchecked, would continue to abuse the power of his office for personal political gain and try to cheat again ahead of the 2020 election.

Even key Democrats from states where Trump is popular — Doug Jones in Alabama and Joe Manchin in West Virginia — risked backlash and voted to convict.

“Senators are elected to make tough choices,” Jones said.

Several senators trying to win the Democratic Party’s nomination to face Trump — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar — dashed back from early primary state New Hampshire to vote.

During the nearly three-week trial, House Democrats prosecuting the case argued that Trump abused power like no other president in history when he pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, ahead of the 2020 election.

They detailed an extraordinary effort by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani that set off alarms at the highest levels of government. After Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine, the White House temporarily halted U.S. aid to the struggling ally battling hostile Russia at its border. The money was eventually released in September as Congress intervened.

When the House investigated Trump’s actions, the president instructed White House aides to defy congressional subpoenas, leading to the obstruction charge.

Questions from the Ukraine matter continue to swirl. House Democrats may yet summon former national security adviser John Bolton to testify about revelations from his forthcoming book that offer a fresh account of Trump’s actions. Other eyewitnesses and documents are almost sure to surface.

In closing arguments for the trial, the lead prosecutor, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., appealed to senators’ sense of decency, insisting “right matters” and “truth matters” and Trump “is not who you are.’’

Schiff said he hoped the votes to convict “will serve as a constraint on the president’s wrongdoing. But we’re going to have to be vigilant.”

Greensboro arts organizations, artists, teachers receive $324,000 from ArtsGreensboro

GREENSBORO — Thanks to a successful annual fundraising campaign, ArtsGreensboro has awarded larger grants this year to several major arts organizations.

The $250,000 allotted to seven nonprofit groups were among grants totaling $324,000 announced Wednesday by ArtsGreensboro.

The remaining $74,000 will go to projects by smaller nonprofit organizations, as well as to regional artists and teachers.

Twelve teachers received grants totaling $13,000, and 15 artists received grants ranging from $900 to $1,900, totaling $18,000.

Laura Way, ArtsGreensboro president and chief executive officer, credited the 9 percent increase in grants to larger organizations to its last ArtsFund drive.

In the fiscal year ending June 30, it surpassed its $850,000 goal and raised $883,000.

The year before, the campaign had fallen $140,000 shy of its $1 million goal. ArtsGreensboro grants declined for 2019.

“Our goal is to expand our ability to support arts organizations across the community,” said Way, who has led ArtsGreensboro since April. “This was the first step in that process.”

The ArtsFund represents Guilford County’s largest comprehensive annual fundraising effort to support arts organizations, initiatives and infrastructure.

It supports ArtsGreensboro’s grants, and its efforts to market and promote the arts and culture community.

Its mission-support grants go to organizations with annual operating budgets exceeding $500,000.

Greensboro Symphony Orchestra received the largest grant of $52,150, followed by the Eastern Music Festival with $51,574 and Triad Stage with $50,854.

The Music Academy of North Carolina received $12,793, slightly less than the $15,000 awarded the year before.

The Music Academy runs on a $750,000 annual budget. “Every dollar is critical to our success,” Executive Director Kellie Burgess said. “Our strong educational programs support developing artists, which are vital to sustaining the arts in Greensboro.”

Eleven small organizations received grants for specific projects, totaling $43,000. These are six-month grants for projects that will happen between January and June, Way said.

They range from $1,000 for the Center for Visual Artists and for spoken word artist Josephus Thompson III to $7,750 for Greensboro Opera.

More project-support grants will be awarded for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Nonprofit performing and visual arts organizations rely on ticket sales, grants and donations to present shows and pay their bills. But that’s often not enough.

Triad Stage, the downtown professional theater, operates on a $2.5 million budget this fiscal year. Its ArtsGreensboro grant increased by 13 percent from 2019.

Preston Lane, its producing artistic director, said Triad Stage is honored and encouraged by the increase.

“Our local arts environment is incredibly fragile, and the support of organizations like ArtsGreensboro is essential to maintaining a creative economy in our city,” Lane said.

Lisa Crawford, president and CEO of the Greensboro Symphony, expressed gratitude for its grant, which increased from $48,000 last year.

The symphony operates on a $2.2 million budget this year. It will use the grant to provide work for professional musicians and education programs for the community.

In March, the symphony will move its concerts to the new Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts.

“This year will be one of many transitions,” Crawford said. “Starting it on a positive note is key to a transformative year for the arts in Greensboro.”

Royal Expressions Contemporary Ballet did not receive a project support grant in 2019.

This year, it received $3,000, and Founding Director Princess Johnson was pleased.

The $3,000 is the largest ArtsGreensboro grant that Royal Expressions has received in 10 years of existence, Johnson said.

Royal Expressions plans to use the grant to host a Juneteenth Festival on June 20. It will highlight local African American artists and celebrate freedom through performances and a marketplace.

“We are still pushing for more black arts organizations receiving equitable grant funding amounts across the board,” Johnson said. “We truly believe with the new leadership and changes happening in the arts landscape of Greensboro that we will see change sooner than later.”

Way said that she is glad that ArtsGreensboro could give grants to organizations that hadn’t received them the year before.

Darlene McClinton, ArtsGreensboro’s new grants manager, is talking to organizations that may not have sought grants in the past. Way predicted that more will apply in the next round.

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