By Ken Bredemeier
U.S. President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Wednesday night, accused of abusing the power of the presidency to benefit himself politically and then obstructing congressional efforts to investigate his actions.
On a near 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 House debated the merits of Trump’s impeachment for six hours before voting. Democratic lawmakers pointedly advanced the case for Trump’s impeachment. They alternated with Republicans, who said Trump had done nothing wrong in his monthslong push to get Ukraine to investigate one of Trump’s chief 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden‘s lucrative work for a Ukrainian natural gas company and a debunked theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election that Trump won to undermine his campaign.
Call to Ukrainian president
Trump made the appeal for the Biden investigations directly to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a late July phone call at a time when he was temporarily withholding $391 million in military aid Kyiv wanted help in fighting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Trump eventually released the money in September without Zelenskiy’s launching of the Biden investigations. That proved, Republicans said during the House floor debate, that Trump had not engaged in a quid pro quo deal — the military aid in exchange for the Biden investigations.
One of the articles of impeachment approved by the House accused Trump of abusing the power of the presidency by soliciting a foreign government, Ukraine, to undertake the investigations to help him run against Biden, who is leading national polls of Democrats in the race for the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump next year.
In the 230-197 vote on Article I, all but two Democrats voted for approval, and all Republicans voted against it.
The second impeachment allegation said Trump obstructed Congress by withholding thousands of Ukraine-related documents from House impeachment investigators and then blocking key officials in his administration from testifying during weeks of hearings that Democrat-controlled committees conducted into Trump’s actions related to Ukraine.
In the 229-198 vote on Article II, all but three Democrats voted for approval, and all Republicans voted against it.
The House meets again Thursday morning.
Earlier Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the debate, telling lawmakers that Trump “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 Representative 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.
Trump, hours after he sent a scathing six-page letter to Pelosi deriding the Democrats’ impeachment effort against him, took to Twitter early Wednesday to continue to attack his political opponents.
The impeachment votes were held about the same time Trump began to speak at a campaign rally in the Midwestern state of Michigan, one of the pivotal states he won in the 2016 election that made him the 45th U.S. president.
Trump blasted the Democratic-led effort to impeach him, telling supporters Wednesday night, “We did nothing wrong, and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we’ve never had before.”
Trump has on countless occasions described his late July call with Zelenskiy as “perfect,” when he asked him to “do us a favor,” to investigate the Bidens and Ukraine’s purported role in the 2016 election. As the impeachment controversy mounted, Trump has subsequently claimed the “us” in his request to Zelenskiy referred not to him personally but to the United States.
In his ranting letter to Pelosi on Tuesday, Trump accused Democrats of engaging in a “perversion of justice” and an “attempted coup,” claiming his opponents had declared “open war on American Democracy.”
Among other vitriolic adjectives, Trump called the impeachment process “invalid,” “spiteful,” “meritless,” “disingenuous,” “baseless” and “preposterous.”
Pelosi called the letter “really sick.”
She wrote to House members, saying that in considering whether to impeach a president, they would be exercising “one of the most solemn powers granted to us by the Constitution.”
Pelosi, for months reluctant to pursue Trump’s impeachment, concluded, “Very sadly, the facts have made clear that the President abused his power for his own personal, political benefit and that he obstructed Congress as he demanded that he is above accountability, above the Constitution and above the American people. In America, no one is above the law.”