Trump impeached by US House on 2 charges

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Michigan on Wednesday. TNS photo

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday night, becoming only the third American chief executive to be formally charged under the Constitution’s ultimate remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors.

The historic vote split along party lines, much the way it has divided the nation, over a charge that the 45th president abused the power of his office by enlisting a foreign government to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election. The House then approved a second charge, that he obstructed Congress in its investigation.

The articles of impeachment, the political equivalent of an indictment, now go to the Senate for trial. If Trump is acquitted by the Republican-led chamber, as expected, he still would have to run for reelection carrying the enduring stain of impeachment on his purposely disruptive presidency.

“The president is impeached,” Pelosi declared after the vote. She called it “great day for the Constitution of the United States, a sad one for America that the president’s reckless activities necessitated us having to introduce articles of impeachment.”

Trump, who began Wednesday tweeting his anger at the proceedings, pumped his fist before an evening rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, boasting of “tremendous support” in the Republican Party and saying, “By the way it doesn’t feel like I’m being impeached.”

The votes for impeachment were 230-197-1 on the first charge, 229-198-1 on the second.

Democrats led Wednesday night’s voting, framed in what many said was their duty to protect the Constitution and uphold the nation’s system of checks and balances. Republicans stood by their party’s leader, who has frequently tested the bounds of civic norms. Trump called the whole affair a “witch hunt,” a “hoax” and a “sham,” and sometimes all three.

The trial is expected to begin in January in the Senate, where a vote of two-thirds is necessary for conviction. While Democrats had the majority in the House to impeach Trump, Republicans control the Senate and few if any are expected to diverge from plans to acquit the president ahead of early state election-year primary voting.

Pelosi, once reluctant to lead Democrats into a partisan impeachment, gaveled both votes closed, risking her majority and speakership to follow the effort to its House conclusion.

No Republicans voted for impeachment, and Democrats had only slight defections on their side. Voting was conducted manually with ballots, to mark the moment.

On the first article, abuse of power, two Democrats, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who is considering switching parties to become a Republican, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota voted against impeaching Trump. On the second article, obstruction, those two and freshman Rep. Jared Golden of Maine voted against. Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is running for president, voted “present” on both.

What Pelosi called a sad and solemn moment for the country, coming in the first year after Democrats swept control of the House, unfolded in a caustic daylong session that showcased the nation’s divisions.

The House impeachment resolution laid out in stark terms the articles of impeachment against Trump stemming from his July phone call when he asked the Ukrainian president for a “favor” — to announce he was investigating Democrats including potential 2020 rival Joe Biden.

At the time, Zelenskiy, new to politics and government, was seeking a coveted White House visit to show backing from the U.S. as he confronted a hostile Russia at his border. He was also counting on $391 million in military aid already approved by Congress. The White House delayed the funds, but Trump eventually released the money once Congress intervened.

Narrow in scope but broad in its charges, the impeachment resolution said the president “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections,” and then obstructing Congress’ oversight like “no president” in U.S. history.
“President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” it said.

Republicans argued that Democrats were impeaching Trump because they can’t beat him in 2020.

Said Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah: “They want to take away my vote and throw it in the trash.”

But Democrats warned the country cannot wait for the next election to decide whether Trump should remain in office because he has shown a pattern of behavior, particularly toward Russia, and will try to corrupt U.S. elections again.

“The president and his men plot on,” said Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of the Intelligence Committee that led the inquiry. “The danger persists. The risk is real.”

The outcome brings the Trump presidency to a milestone moment that has been building almost from the time the New York
businessman-turned-reality-TV host unexpectedly won the White House in 2016 amid questions about Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Democrats drew from history, the founders and their own experiences, as minorities, women and some immigrants to the U.S. spoke of seeking to honor their oath of office to uphold the Constitution. Rep. Lou Correa of California spoke in Spanish asking God to unite the nation. “In America,” said Hakeem Jeffries of New York, “no one is above the law.”

Republicans aired Trump-style grievances about what Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko called a “rigged” process.

“We face this horror because of this map,” said Rep. Clay Higgins of Alabama before a poster of red and blue states. “They call this Republican map flyover country, they call us deplorables, they fear our faith, they fear our strength, they fear our unity, they fear our vote, and they fear our president.”

The political fallout from the vote will reverberate across an already polarized country with divergent views of Trump’s July phone call when he asked Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats in the 2016 election, Biden and Biden’s son Hunter, who worked on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was the vice president.

Trump has repeatedly implored Americans to read the transcript of the call he said was “perfect.” But the facts it revealed, and those in an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that sparked the probe, are largely undisputed.

More than a dozen current and former White House officials and diplomats testified for hours in impeachment hearings. The open and closed sessions under oath revealed what one called the “irregular channel” of foreign policy run by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, which focused on investigating the Bidens and alternative theories of 2016 election interference.

The question for lawmakers was whether the revelations amounted to impeachable offenses.

Few lawmakers crossed party lines.

Van Drew, who is considering changing parties over his opposition to impeachment, sat with Republicans. Rep. Justin Amash, the Michigan conservative who left the Republican party and became an independent over impeachment, said: “I come to this floor, not as a Republican, not as a Democrat, but as an American.”

Beyond the impeachments of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, this first impeachment of the 21st century is as much about what the president might do in the future as what he did in the past. The investigation of Richard Nixon ended when he resigned rather than face the House vote over Watergate.

Rank and file Democrats said they were willing to lose their jobs to protect the democracy from Trump. Some newly elected freshmen remained in the chamber for hours during the debate.

Top Republicans, including Rep. Devin Nunes on the Intelligence Committee, called the Ukraine probe little more than a poor sequel to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mueller spent two years investigating the potential links between Moscow and the Trump campaign but testified in July that his team could not establish that Trump conspired or coordinated with Russia to throw the election. Mueller did say he could not exonerate Trump of trying to obstruct the investigation, but he left that for Congress to decide.

The next day, Trump called Ukraine. Not quite four months later, a week before Christmas, Trump was impeached.

Delaware reaction

Here’s what some Delaware political leaders had to say about the vote.

From Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester’s campaign before the vote:

“Team,

“The vote we will take later today will be one of the most important votes I cast as a Member of Congress. So, I want you to hear this directly from me before we move forward:

“The president, when taking their oath of office, is entrusted with powers granted by the American people. Those powers are given with the understanding and promise that they will be exercised in the national interest rather than any personal or political agenda.

“When President Trump strong-armed one of our allies by conditioning official acts in a way that benefitted his personal political agenda, ahead of the national interest, he abused that power.

“Then, he obstructed Congress in a failed attempt to cover it up. The White House, at President Trump’s direction, withheld both testimony and documents from Congress’ lawful subpoenas. We also witnessed his real-time attempts to intimidate current and prospective witnesses.

“For the reasons outlined above, I will be voting for both of articles of impeachment today.

“I also want to be clear on this: I do not celebrate this vote. This is a solemn and defining moment in our history, and a fundamental test of our system of checks and balances.

“If Congress fails to act definitively in response to Trump’s abuses and obstruction, we risk creating a new normal that’s fundamentally antithetical to our founding ideals and values.

“That’s why this is also about so much more than one man, one presidency, or one election cycle.

“It is about putting into practice the ideals that we teach our children to hold in such high regard.

“It is about proving — to ourselves, to the world at large, and to the future generations who will observe and judge our actions today — that indeed we are still the nation we proclaim to be.

“It is about making clear that no one is above the law — not even the president of the United States.”

A more full statement from her is available at https://bluntrochester.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=2288

From state Democratic Party Chairman Erik Raser-Schramm:

“The facts are beyond dispute, despite the White House’s efforts to cover them up. President Trump attempted to use the power of the presidency for personal political gain. In doing so, he jeopardized our national security and the security of one of our most important allies. Inviting foreign interference into our elections threatens the very foundation of our Republic, and when a President does it, Congress has a solemn duty to impeach.”

From state Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Brady:

“Well, I believe that there was no misconduct that would warrant the impeachment. I think that the transcript speaks for itself, and I know people on the other side of this issue have said the same thing, but it’s pretty clear to me there’s no misconduct that would warrant impeachment.”

Ms. Brady also said she believes it will ultimately benefit the GOP come the elections.

“When an impeachment effort is purely partisan it divides the country and hurts the process, and this has been clearly a purely partisan effort. It’s been an impeachment looking for something to hang its hat on since practically his election. What I have observed is Republicans seem more energized and united than they did prior to this impeachment process.”

From Sen. Tom Carper:

“I first swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States at the age of 17 when I became a Navy ROTC midshipman at Ohio State. Since then, I have taken that same oath many times over – when I was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy during the Vietnam War, when I was elected and re-elected to Congress, and, most recently, when Vice President Pence administered the oath this past January to the newly elected and re-elected senators on the floor of the United States Senate. 

“It is an oath that I take seriously. It is a solemn promise to every Delawarean and every American that I will do everything I can to make sure the longest running experiment in democracy continues to serve as an example for the rest of the world and that the rights enshrined in our Constitution continue to be protected for each and every one of us. 

“Last night, the House has voted to approve serious charges brought against President Trump. Now, those charges will be sent to the Senate for a trial. As part of an impeachment trial, my Senate colleagues and I will be asked to take an additional oath – one that asks us, as jurors in that impeachment trial, to swear to ‘do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.’ I intend to uphold that oath. I intend to listen to all of the evidence presented, and I intend to render a fair verdict based upon all available facts and evidence. I hope that all my Senate colleagues will do the same. 

“The oath we all take is not to a political party. It is not to a President. It is to the Constitution of the United States. The Senate, and those who serve in this body, must meet this moment with the seriousness it deserves.”