The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to approve two articles of impeachment against Donald J. Trump, making him just the third American president to be impeached.
The floor vote was the culmination of a three-month impeachment inquiry into Trump’s and his allies’ efforts to force Ukraine into opening investigations into his political rivals.
By a largely party line vote, the House adopted articles of impeachment that alleged Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress in its investigation into the pressure campaign.
The vote on the abuse of power article was 230-197.
The vote on the obstruction of Congress article was 229-198.
Only two Democrats – Reps. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) and Collin Peterson (D-MN), the same two who voted against the resolution formalizing the impeachment proceedings — fully defected from the impeachment vote. Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) split his vote by supporting only the second of the two articles. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) voted present on both articles.
“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,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, kicking off eight hours of floor debate ahead of the vote. “He gave us no choice.”
The GOP-controlled Senate will almost certainly acquit Trump of the charges when it conduct an impeachment trial next month.
Democrats described Wednesday’s impeachment vote as a somber affair in which they took no enjoyment. They alleged that, without taking this historic step, the President would not be held accountable for seeking foreign interference in a U.S. election and that he would be only emboldened to continue the effort.
Regardless, Trump has shown no contrition for his Ukraine gambit, and has doubled down on the baseless claims that have propelled it.
In an erratic and error-filled letter to Pelosi Tuesday, Trump claimed that she had developed “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and that the Salem witch trials afforded more due process than the impeachment proceedings.
Republicans have mostly stood by the President, even as a few expressed discomfort with his conduct towards Ukraine. Rather than mount a full-throated defense of Trump’s actions, many have seized on process complaints about how the majority conducted its impeachment inquiry while claiming that Democrats have been hell-bent on impeaching Trump since his election.
Democrats have rebuked the GOP claim that they were eager to impeach to Trump, and Pelosi in particular was resistant to opening an impeachment proceeding, even as some top members of her caucus said that the conduct outlined in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report justified an impeachment inquiry.
“Democrats did not rush to judgment. Democrats did not embrace impeachment at its first opportunity,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters Tuesday, pointing to the previous failed efforts to force impeachment votes that did not earn even a majority of Democratic support.
What brought House Democrats to this tipping point was a mysterious hold the Trump administration placed on congressionally authorized military assistance for Ukraine, as well as the emergence an anonymous whistleblower complaint alleging the pressure campaign.
The complaint centered on a July 25 phone between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump, according to rough transcript later released by the White House, asked Zelensky to investigate former President Joe Biden and a conspiracy theory that Democrats and Ukraine framed Russia for the 2016 hacks of Democratic emails.
With several weeks of private and public testimony from key government officials, the inquiry uncovered an effort to use a promise of White House meeting with Zelensky as leverage for the investigations. The freeze on the nearly $400 million in military aid appeared to serve that purpose as well, according to witness testimony.
Though many administration officials, some of the Trump-appointees, came forward to testify about the effort, the White House blocked other key witnesses, including Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who orchestrated the aid freeze, from appearing in front of Congress. The administration also ignored subpoenas for documents related to the effort as well.
Over the course of eight hours of floor debate, Democrats framed the step they were about to take as an obligation to their oath to the Constitution, and as a bulwark to protect free and fair elections. They painted his obstruction of their investigation as as an effort to cover up more evidence of his inappropriate misconduct and pointed to signs that he would continue to invite foreign interference into the U.S. election.
“The President and his men plot on. The danger persists. The risk is real. Our democracy is at peril,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said. “But we are not without a remedy, prescribed by the Founders for just these circumstances: impeachment. The only question is, will we use it?”
Besides a few minor skirmishes, Wednesday’s proceedings were initially free of GOP stunts that could have disrupted the Democrats well-orchestrated impeachment vote. As the debate wore on, however, members appeared crankier and more inclined to interrupt speeches with grumbles, jeers and even trollish applause.
Republicans did in their floor speeches make some bombastic claims to defend the President, comparing the impeachment vote to Pontius Pilate’s condemnation of Jesus Christ, and equating Wednesday’s events to the Pearl Harbor attack.
Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) interjected frequently with fact checks of statements Republicans made about the inquiry’s process and the supposed lack of evidence against the President.
Republicans, nonetheless, would not concede that Trump acted even inappropriately in his conduct towards Ukraine. Despite their and Trump’s full-throat defense of his actions, Democrats remained largely united behind the impeachment push, a unity that extended to the caucus members who were elected in districts that supported Trump in 2016.
One of those full defectors was Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ), who is reportedly planning on switching parties.
Joining the Democrats in adopting the impeachment resolutions was Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), a libertarian who left the Republican Party over its blind allegiance to Trump.
Amash said he came to the vote “not as a Democrat, not as a Republican, but as an American.”
“President Trump Donald J. Trump has abused and violated the public trust by using his high office to solicit the aid of a foreign power, not for the benefit of the United States of America, but instead for his personal and political gain,” he said.