The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday impeached President Donald Trump after accusing him of abusing the power of the presidency to benefit him politically and then obstructing Congress as it investigated his actions.
On a closely straight party-line vote, the Democrat-controlled House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump, a Republican, making him only the third U.S. president to be impeached in the country’s 243-year history.
Trump, who has scoffed at the impeachment allegations and assailed Democrats for pursuing it, now will likely face a trial in January in the Senate. But the Republican majority in the chamber is highly likely to acquit him, leaving voters to decide Trump’s fate as he seeks a second term in the White House in next November’s national election.
The White House released a statement shortly after the vote, which said, “Today marks the culmination in the House of one of the most shameful political episodes in the history of our Nation.” It called the actions a “sham impeachment.” Adding that the President is confident the Senate will restore regular order, fairness, and due process, all of which were ignored in the House proceedings and is prepared for the next steps and confident that he will be fully exonerated.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened hours of debate, telling lawmakers that Trump, by pressing Ukraine to investigate one of his chief 2020 Democratic rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, and then standing in the way of a congressional investigation, “gave us no choice” but to pursue his impeachment.
“If we do not act,” she said, “we would be derelict in our duty. Today we are here to defend democracy.”
Republican Congressman Doug Collins, one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, dismissed Pelosi’s assessment of Trump, contending Democrats have wanted to impeach Trump since he was elected three years ago. Now, Collins said, rather than the House impeaching Trump less than a year before he seeks re-election in 2020, it should be “a matter for the voters” to decide his fate.
“The president did nothing wrong,” Collins said, in pushing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open the Biden investigation at the same time Trump was withholding $391 million in military aid Kyiv wanted to help pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The Georgia congressman rejected Democratic claims that Trump engaged in a reciprocal quid pro quo — blocking the military assistance until he got the Biden investigation because “nothing was ever done to get the money,” with Trump dispatching the aid in September without Zelenskiy launching a Biden probe.
With Democrats firmly in control of the chamber, the outcome does not appear in doubt: the Republican Trump would become the third U.S. president to be impeached in the country’s 243-year history and he would then face a trial in the Republican-majority Senate next month, although his conviction and removal from office remain highly unlikely. The trial would occur 10 months before Trump is running for re-election to a second term in next November’s national election.
The impeachment votes are scheduled about the same time Trump is set to speak at a campaign rally in the mid-western state of Michigan, one of the pivotal states he won in the 2016 election that made him the 45th U.S. president.
In one article of impeachment, Democrats leading the charge against Trump accuse him of abusing the presidency by orchestrating a months-long effort to get Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, his son Hunter Biden‘s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company and a debunked theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to undermine Trump’s candidacy, with the military aid hanging in the balance at the same time.
The second accusation alleges that Trump obstructed Congress by refusing to turn over thousands of pages of Ukraine-related documents to impeachment investigators and blocking key aides from testifying at weeks of inquiries Democrat-controlled House committees conducted about Trump’s actions.
The nation’s 45th president is on track to become only the third commander in chief to be impeached.