For just the third time in the nation’s 243-year history and with no Republican support, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday night to impeach the president of the United States.
President Donald Trump stands accused of abusing his power for his own political gain by engaging in an alleged quid pro quo with the Ukrainian government to interfere in the 2020 election, and of obstructing Congress in its efforts to investigate the alleged abuse.
The vote in favor of impeachment on the two articles of impeachment were almost exclusively along partisan lines.
In the first vote on the article alleging abuse of power, two Democrats joined all Republicans against it and another Democrat, presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, voted present. In the second vote on the article alleging obstruction of justice, three Democrats joined all Republicans against it. Gabbard also voted present on the second article. Former Republican U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, I-Michigan, voted for both articles as an Independent.
As the House voted, Trump took the stage in Michigan for a campaign speech.
“With today’s illegal unconstitutional and partisan impeachment, the do-nothing Democrats – and they are do-nothing, all they want to do is focus on this – what they could be doing, are declaring their deep hatred and disdain for the American voter,” Trump said. “This lawless partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democratic Party.”
Trump also touted his record on jobs and the “greatest economy in this country’s history.”
“While we’re creating jobs and fighting for Michigan,” Trump said, “the radical left in Congress is consumed with envy and hatred and rage. You see what’s going on. These people are crazy.”
During more than seven hours of debate before the historic vote, Democratic members of Congress said Trump clearly abused his power to withhold funding from Ukraine in exchange for their investigating a political rival. Republicans said the impeachment process was a political sham and there was no evidence against the president, noting that many Democrats wanted to oust Trump from office the moment he was elected.
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Illinois, took to the House floor Wednesday explaining why he supported impeachment. He acknowledged the partisan cloud over the vote.
“So when you talk about partisanship, I’d remind you of those great words of [Abraham] Lincoln, I’m paraphrasing him slightly, ‘when one party would inflame partisanship rather than let the nation survive, I’m proud to be the party that would accept partisanship than to let the nation perish,’” Casten said.
While impeachment was assured in the Democrat-controlled House, pending the obstruction of justice vote, the matter now moves to trial in the Senate, where Republicans hold a slim majority. To convict Trump of the impeachment charges and remove him from office, a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate is necessary, a threshold that’s unlikely to be met. The House required a simple majority vote to impeach.
U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Pennsylvania, said Democrats provided no evidence Trump abused his power of office.
“Abuse of power? Not according to the Ukraine,” Meuser said during his floor remarks. “President Zelensky confirmed many times that there was no quid pro quo, no action taken, and significant military aid was delivered without anything in return. Of course, his words have been conveniently dismissed.”
Trump joins Presidents Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson as the only presidents in U.S. history to be impeached. Both Clinton and Johnson were acquitted by the Senate, as Trump is expected to be. Congress began an impeachment inquiry into President Richard Nixon, but he resigned from office before a vote was taken.
The articles of impeachment specifically accuse Trump of withholding $400 million in military aid to the Ukraine unless and until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced an investigation into former Vice President (and Trump political rival) Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in the country.
During the administration of former President Barack Obama, Hunter Biden took a paid position on the board of Ukrainian energy giant Burisma while his father was vice president, a decision Republicans say was ethically wrong.
Biden leads most national polls in the race to be the Democratic nominee for president to run against Trump in 2020.