The Democratic-led House’s passage of two articles of impeachment on a mostly party-line vote sets the stage for a trial next month in the Republican-controlled Senate – friendlier terrain for Trump – on whether to convict and remove him from office.
No president in the 243-year history of the United States has been removed from office by impeachment. That would require a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate, meaning at least 20 Republicans would have to join Democrats in voting against Trump – and none have indicated they will.
The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, has predicted there is “no chance” his chamber will remove Trump when it holds its trial.
“This lawless, partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democrat Party,” Trump told a raucous rally for his re-election campaign in Battle Creek, Michigan, as the vote was under way in the House.
“They’ve been trying to impeach me from day one. They’ve been trying to impeach me from before I ran,” he said.
Trump, who is seeking another four-year term in the November 2020 presidential election, has denied wrongdoing and called the impeachment inquiry, launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in September, a “witch hunt.”
The first of the articles accused Trump, 73, of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, as well as a discredited theory promoted by the president and beneficial to Russia that Democrats conspired with Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 election.
Democrats said Trump held back $391 million in security aid intended to combat Russia-backed separatists and a coveted White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as leverage to coerce Kiev into interfering in the 2020 election by smearing Biden.
“President Trump abused his power, violated his oath of office, and betrayed our nation,” Biden said on Twitter, adding, “In the United States of America, no one is above the law — not even the president.”
The second article accused Trump of obstruction of Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to comply with lawful House subpoenas for testimony and documents related to impeachment.
During a daylong debate before the vote, Pelosi read the US Pledge of Allegiance and said, “We are here to defend democracy for the people.”
“If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary,” Pelosi said.
As the debate unfolded, Republicans accused Democrats of seeking to use an unfair, rigged process to nullify the 2016 election and suggested Democrats would pay a price in the 2020 election.
“The matter before the House today is based solely on a fundamental hatred of our president. It’s a sham, a witch hunt – and it’s tantamount to a coup against the duly elected president of the United States,” Republican Representative Mike Rogers said.
Republican Representative Mike Kelly compared the impeachment to the Japanese attack on Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor in 1941, calling the House proceedings another “date that will live in infamy” – similar to the words Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt used to describe the raid that killed about 2,400 people and led to America’s entry into World War Two.
The abuse of power article was passed on a 230-197 vote and the obstruction article was passed by 229-198. All of the House Republicans opposed the articles, and two Democrats, Collin Peterson and Jeff Van Drew, voted no on both. Democrat Jared Golden voted against the obstruction charge but for abuse of power.
“The only part of the vote that was bipartisan was in opposition. The President is just getting stronger while support for the Democrats’ political theater has faded,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
US Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic presidential candidate, voted present on both articles, declaring in a statement, “I could not in good conscience vote either yes or no.”
Speaking after President Donald Trump was impeached for abuse of power in a historic vote in the US House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls the date, December 18, “a great day for the constitution of the United States,” but a “sad one for America.”