WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday night, making him the third president to be impeached in U.S. history.
Trump was impeached largely along party lines on charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress. The charges surround allegations that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival in an effort to interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
No House Republicans voted to adopt either impeachment article. Two House Democrats voted against both articles of impeachment — Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. Van Drew was reportedly planning to switch parties to become a Republican. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) voted yes on the first article but against the obstruction of Congress article. Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted “present” on both articles.
The vote came after a lengthy and heated debate on the House floor, as Democrats warned that Trump had trampled on the U.S. Constitution, while his GOP defenders accused the House majority of manufacturing a case for impeachment due to their disdain for Trump’s policies.
“The founders’ great fear of a rogue or corrupt president is the very reason why they enshrined impeachment in the Constitution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “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.”
Only two other presidents had previously been impeached by the House: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both of those presidents were acquitted by the Senate.
Trump also appears to be headed for acquittal in the GOP-led Senate. A trial, in which House Democrats will argue their case before the upper chamber of Congress, is expected to begin next month.
Some senators have been cautious about stating whether they’ll vote to remove Trump from office, arguing that they’ll be jurors in the trial and don’t want to prejudge the outcome. But not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
McConnell told reporters Tuesday that he is “not at all impartial” on impeachment and that it is a “political process.”
“Unlike the Nixon and Clinton cases, there are no allegations that the president has committed a crime. We’ve had almost three years of nonstop investigations,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Brookfield), who led the Clinton impeachment. “Why are we here? We’re here because the majority caucus, the Democratic caucus, has been hijacked by the radical left. They have wanted to reverse the course of the 2016 election ever since Donald J. Trump won that election.”
As lawmakers prepared to vote on Wednesday, Trump wrote on Twitter: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!”
Trump held a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on Wednesday night. “By the way, it doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached, the country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like never before,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post.
Democrats, including some in districts won by Trump in 2016, streamed onto the House floor during the day-long debate on Wednesday to make their case for impeachment.
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said she was choosing what is right and “not what is politically expedient.” She said she had the “resolve to stand with the president at the White House last week and resolve to stand up to the president in this House today. I ask my colleagues to have the same strength and the same resolve.”
Luria is among 31 Democrats in districts that Trump carried in 2016.
Other Democrats delivered sharper rebukes of the president, arguing that failing to impeach Trump would set a precedent that other presidents could invite foreign interference in U.S. elections.
“This is not about a single call or a single transcript. This is about a perfect storm, months of activity directly ordered by the president to his senior cabinet and political appointees, an orchestrated plan demanding a foreign power interfere in our democracy,” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth) said on the floor. “President Trump betrayed his oath of office. He abused the power of his office for personal and political gain and has refused to cooperate with a co-equal branch of government. This is a vote for our Constitution, setting the precedent for all future presidents, Democrat or Republican. Donald Trump must be held accountable for his actions.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that in his nearly 40 years in the House under six presidential administrations, he never expected to “encounter such an obvious wrongdoing by a president of the United States. Nor did I expect to witness such a craven rationalization of presidential actions which have put our national security at risk, undermined the integrity of our elections and defied the constitutional authority of the Congress to conduct oversight.”
Republicans, meanwhile, spent the debate accusing their Democratic colleagues of pursuing a political vendetta against the president, pointing frequently to statements Democrats had made supporting impeachment before the Ukraine investigation was launched.
“Why do we keep calling this a solemn occasion, when you’ve been wanting to do this ever since [Trump] was elected?” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
“The president has been driving these guys crazy because he’s getting things done,” said Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee. “When you drain the swamp, the swamp fights back. They started attacking the president before the election even.”
“We’re certainly not here because of a misquoted phone call in July of 2019. The Washington Post ran an article headlined, ‘The campaign to impeach President Trump has begun,’ the day he was sworn in,” said Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah).
Democrats vehemently denied GOP attacks that they were pursuing impeachment because they hate Trump’s policies or dislike him personally.
“We’re talking about a president who subverted national security by soliciting foreign interference in our elections, the exact thing our Founding Fathers feared and the exact circumstance for which they drafted the impeachment clause,” said Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee). “Our democracy, our Constitution deserve standing up for, not Donald John Trump.”
One independent congressman, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, sided with Democrats to vote for both articles of impeachment. Amash, who helped found the conservative House Freedom Caucus, left the GOP earlier this year after calling for Trump’s impeachment.
Trump’s “actions reflect precisely the type of conduct the framers of the Constitution intended to remedy through the power of impeachment, and it is our duty to impeach him,” Amash said Wednesday on the House floor.