(CNN) — The deeply divided House of Representatives took the historic step to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday, charging a president with high crimes and misdemeanors for just the third time in American history.
The House voted almost entirely along party lines for two articles of impeachment to remove the President from office — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — sending the case to the Senate for a trial expected to start next month.
The impeachment votes marked the culmination of a sprawling and rapidly moving three-month Democratic investigation into allegations that the President pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals while withholding US security assistance and a White House meeting.
The House voted 230-197 to charge Trump with abuse of power and 229-198 to charge him with obstruction of Congress. The votes were largely split along party lines: just two Democrats voted against both articles, Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who is expected to soon switch parties. A third, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, voted for one impeachment article. Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, voted present for both articles.
Republican-turned independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan voted to impeach Trump on both counts.
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel released the following statement on today’s impeachment vote:
“History was made today, but not in a way Democrats had hoped. With this vote, Nancy Pelosi and her fellow impeachment crusaders have ensured the reelection of President Trump and a return of a Republican majority in the House,” said Chairwoman McDaniel. “The American people have turned on this partisan sham and see Democrats in Congress for what they truly are: politicians whose sole focus is to overturn the result of the 2016 election, not on the real issues they promised to address. In 2020, voters will re-elect President Trump and choose candidates who will truly work on their behalf instead of obsessing over destroying a duly-elected President.”
Trump’s impeachment, which occurred 85 days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the opening of the impeachment inquiry, will have long-lasting ramifications across Washington and beyond. It will undoubtedly shape the legacies of the key players in the midst of it, from Pelosi and her committee chairs who led the impeachment proceedings to Trump and his staunchest defenders in Congress.
It’s a scenario that appeared unlikely just months ago for Pelosi, who had resisted the push for Trump’s impeachment from liberal advocates both inside her caucus and outside Capitol Hill. But then an anonymous whistleblower complaint changed the course of history for both Trump and his chief antagonist at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
“We gather today under the dome of this temple of democracy to exercise one of the most solemn powers that this body can take: The impeachment of the President of the United States,” Pelosi said Wednesday to kick off the impeachment debate on the House floor. “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. He gave us no choice.”
Trump now joins a small club of Presidents who have been impeached by the House for “high crimes and misdemeanors” cited in the Constitution: President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and President Bill Clinton in 1998. President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before impeachment proceedings against him could reach the House floor.
Both Johnson and Clinton were acquitted by the Senate, and there’s effectively zero chance the Republican-controlled Senate will remove Trump from office. But unlike Johnson and Clinton, who were impeached during their second terms, Trump will face reelection less than a year after his impeachment, giving voters the opportunity to have the final word in November 2020.
Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong in his “perfect” July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which formed the basis of the whistleblower complaint. Trump tweeted repeatedly about the impeachment proceedings against him on Wednesday as the House debate unfolded.
“THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!” he said.
Democrats say that Trump was impeached because he abused his office by directing a pressure campaign for Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, conditioning $400 million in US security aid and a one-on-one White House meeting on the investigation. Then Trump covered up his misconduct, Democrats say, obstructing Congress by stonewalling all the subpoenas from Congress trying to investigate his conduct.
“His conduct continues to undermine our Constitution and threaten our next election,” said House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat. “His actions warrant his impeachment and demand his removal from office.”
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who led the impeachment investigation, said that the President “was willing to sacrifice our national security by withholding support for a critical strategic partner at war in order to improve his reelection prospects.”
“But for the courage of someone willing to blow the whistle, he would have gotten away with it,” Schiff said. “Instead, he got caught. He tried to cheat, and he got caught.”
But congressional Republicans condemned Democrats for rushing to impeach the President, charging that Democrats pushed forward with a partisan impeachment intended to beat Trump at the ballot box in 2020.
“The people of America see through this. The people of America understand due process, and they understand when it is being trampled in the people’s House,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
“What we’ve found here today is a president who did not do as being charged,” Collins added. “The call itself, the two parties say no pressure. Nothing was ever done to get the money. In fact, they didn’t even know the money was held.”
The intense partisan debate over impeachment played out for hours on the House floor Wednesday on rapid-fire fashion ahead of the impeachment votes. In one-to-two minute speeches, Democrats and Republicans traded passionate arguments for why they were voting for or against impeachment. Back and forth they went: Democrats explaining the duty to impeach, followed by Republicans declaring that impeachment was a massive mistake.
Lawmakers on both sides referenced back to the Founding Fathers, to the history being made with Wednesday’s votes and to the ramifications they were leaving for their children and grandchildren.
The floor fight is the same war that the two parties have waged for the past three months in the closed-door depositions and committee hearings after Pelosi opened an impeachment inquiry on September 24.
The investigation included testimony from 17 officials, 12 of whom appeared in public hearings. They described a months-long campaign led by the President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to oust former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, followed by a push for Ukraine to announce the investigations that would benefit the President politically.
Several key officials, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, refused to testify. Democrats, however, chalked up the defiance of subpoenas to evidence of congressional obstruction rather than fighting in court to force witnesses to appear — a move that could have prolonged the impeachment inquiry for weeks if not months.
Leading up to Wednesday’s vote, no Republicans signaled they were considering voting to impeach the President. The looming question was whether moderate Democrats — the 31 who represented congressional districts Trump won in 2016 — would support impeachment.
One by one, almost every one of the 31 Democrats said they were compelled to vote for impeachment. Only Peterson, a veteran lawmaker from a deeply red rural Minnesota district, and Van Drew, who signaled he would soon switch parties, said they were opposed to impeachment altogether. Golden split the difference, voting for abuse of power and against obstruction of Congress.
Wednesday’s vote shifts the impeachment proceedings to the Senate, where a trial is expected in January. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republican senators at a policy lunch Tuesday that he will announce by the end of the week the date for the start of the Senate trial, according to sources.
For House Democrats, the next step to prepare for the trial is to name impeachment managers who will prosecute the case in the Senate. Wednesday’s vote also paved the way for the House to approve a resolution announcing the managers.
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) issued the following statement:
“This is the day Democrats have been planning since the American people duly elected President Trump. Over the past few months, the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have neglected legislative work and instead spent taxpayer dollars handpicking witnesses and hearing secondhand testimony. Adam Schiff’s closed-door hearings allowed him to selectively leak information that fit his narrative. Judiciary Committee’s only witnesses were law school professors and congressional staff. Democrats’ original claims of bribery didn’t even make it into the final articles of impeachment.
“Over and over, House Democrats have proved this is a sham process. It’s been an ever-changing narrative, dictated by primetime ratings and whatever happened to be polling well that day. For these and many other reasons, I voted against the articles of impeachment. This is one of the most serious and divisive tools Congress can use, and every other presidential impeachment had bipartisan support throughout. In this case, the only bipartisan votes have been cast against impeachment proceedings.
“Alexander Hamilton said it best in 1788, when writing Federalist No. 65: ‘In many cases it [impeachment] will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.’ We should all be concerned about the damage these antics do to our Republic.
“I hope now that this vote is behind us Congress can focus on working for the people, and take up initiatives like fixing our health care, reforming forest management and lowering prescription drug costs.”
— Rep. Bruce Westerman (@RepWesterman) December 18, 2019
Congressman French Hill released the following statement:
I know that there are some Americans who disagree with the president–some on style, some on substance, and for some, both. With that said, as in any human endeavor, over the course of two centuries a terrific number of American citizens have voiced their vigorous opposition and protested many of our nation’s chief executives.
However, the power of impeachment is a solemn one. This power is vested in the legislative branch to remove the nationally elected leader of our beloved country for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. This power is not to be used simply as a tool to harass a president of the opposite party. Unfortunately, history tells us that down through the years, it has.
New York Times reporter Peter Baker provides an important historical context of the many attempts to impeach past American presidents HERE. Baker documents that one out of every four occupants of the White House has faced formal accusations of high crimes and misdemeanors from lawmakers in Congress.
Today’s impeachment vote in the House is the latest effort to remove President Trump from office and smear his candidacy in 2020. Before the July 25th phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky ever took place, 103 out of 233 House Democrats had already voted to impeach President Trump for everything from criticizing NFL players to criticizing members of “the Squad.”
Likewise, 17 of the 24 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee voted for at least one of three House impeachment Resolutions brought to the floor by Texas Democrat Congressman Al Green, since President Trump was first elected to office.
In the end, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has violated the well-stated criteria she, herself, established this past March for impeachment:
“Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path because it divides the country.”
– Speaker Pelosi, Washington Post, March 11, 2019
The case for impeachment that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has concocted is not overwhelming and not supported by even the selected leaks and one-sided testimony.
Chairman Schiff argues that in the July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian President Zelensky, President Trump abused his power by interfering in the 2020 election and then obstructed Congress during its impeachment inquiry.
As background, I’ve read the public testimony, I’ve read the Schiff report, and I’ve read the Republican minority rebuttal. I’ve also read the “Support the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act” signed into law in 2014 by President Obama, which ordered the Secretary of State and the Attorney General to “identify, secure, and recover assets linked to acts of corruption by Victor Yanukovych, members of his family, or other former or current officials of the government of Ukraine or their accomplices….”
I reviewed the articles of impeachment for both President Nixon and President Clinton and reviewed the Congressional process, under which both inquiries were pursued. In addition to unsubstantiated charges brought by Chairman Schiff and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Speaker Pelosi has presided over an unfair process.
At the conclusion of the House Judiciary Committee’s debate regarding the articles of impeachment, the Congress concluded where we began in September:
1.) The House majority so disagrees with President Trump that they have convinced themselves that only impeachment is the proper punishment–despite failing the “Pelosi Test” she established in March.
2.) The following facts remain regarding the congratulatory phone call between President Trump and the recently elected Ukrainian reformer, President Zelensky, on July 25th:
- The July 25 call summary—the best evidence of the conversation—shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure.
- President Zelensky and President Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call.
- The Ukrainian government was not aware of a hold on U.S. security assistance at the time of the July 25th phone call.
- President Trump met with President Zelensky and U.S. security assistance was delivered to Ukraine in September 2019—without Ukraine investigating President Trump’s political rivals.
I believe that reasonable people can disagree. In my view, Speaker Pelosi should have directed the House Foreign Affairs Committee to conduct vigorous oversight hearings on the Trump Administration’s foreign policy towards Ukraine. This would have been the better course of action to explore partisan policy disagreements as well as those voiced by career State Department officials.
This inquiry was not rooted in fairness or facts – it was driven by politics. The American people deserve better. I regret that these actions have further divided our nation and blocked progress on issues that contribute to the strength of Arkansas and America. pic.twitter.com/uDsZy9JJVt
— Rep. Steve Womack (@rep_stevewomack) December 19, 2019
— Rep Rick Crawford (@RepRickCrawford) December 19, 2019