WASHINGTON — For only the third time in U.S. history, the House of Representatives has voted to impeach a president.
After a daylong debate, the House passed two articles of impeachment charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstructing Congress.
The articles passed along party lines, as the process now moves to a Senate trial slated for January. If Trump is acquitted by the Republican-led chamber, as expected, he still would have to run for reelection carrying the enduring stain of impeachment on his purposely disruptive presidency.
During Wednesday’s debate on the House floor, several of Georgia’s representatives toted their party’s line for or against impeaching Trump.
Democrats led Wednesday night’s voting, framed in what many said was their duty to protect the Constitution and uphold the nation’s system of checks and balances. Republicans stood by their party’s leader, who has frequently tested the bounds of civic norms. Trump called the whole affair a “witch hunt,” a “hoax” and a “sham,” and sometimes all three.
“Today, this day --- we didn’t ask for this! This is not a day of joy,” said Rep. John Lewis. “Our nation was founded on a principle --- that we do not have kings, we have presidents. Our children and their children may ask us: what did you do? What did you say? We have a mission, and a mandate, to be on the right side of history.”
Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, attacked Democrats for pursuing impeachment for what he called political reasons, saying they want to impeach President Trump because they're concerned he will win reelection in 2020.
"This is … basically a poll-tested impeachment --- on what sells to the American people," Collins said. "Today's going to be a lot of things. What it is not is fair. What it is not is about the truth.”
“Abuse of power,” he said, “because they can’t actually pin anything of factual basis on him. The president did nothing wrong in this issue. And then they’re going to talk about obstruction of Congress. You know, obstruction of Congress, as I’ve said before, is like petulant children saying, ‘We didn’t get our way when we didn’t ask the right way and we didn’t try to go after and make a case.’ You know why, Madame Speaker, the clock and the calendar are terrible masters and the majority will own that problem today. Because to the clock and the calendar, facts don’t matter,” Collins continued.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk called the impeachment a sham.
“Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind: When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this President in this process,” Loudermilk said.
In a tweet Wednesday, Rep. Hank Johnson said he was voting yes on impeachment.
“We are not asked to possess even a fraction of the courage of civil rights heroes & patriots. We are simply called upon today to do what’s right. And I’m proud to vote yes on impeachment,” Johnson said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the vote “great day for the Constitution of the United States, a sad one for America that the president’s reckless activities necessitated us having to introduce articles of impeachment.”
President Donald Trump labeled his impeachment by the House of Representatives on Wednesday “a suicide march” for the Democratic Party.
“Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame," Trump told the crowd at a campaign rally in battleground Michigan, where he took the stage just minutes before becoming only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. “It’s a disgrace.”
“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached," he said, later adding: “I don’t know about you, but I’m having a good time. It’s crazy."
The vote on the House floor caps off weeks of hearings in a bitterly divided House, with Democrats and Republicans at odds over Trump’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine amid efforts to pressure the country to launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden family’s business dealings and unsubstantiated claims of Ukrainian election interference in 2016.
The political fallout from the vote will reverberate across an already polarized country with divergent views of Trump’s July phone call when he asked Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats in the 2016 election, Biden and Biden's son Hunter, who worked on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was the vice president.
Trump has repeatedly implored Americans to read the transcript of the call he said was “perfect.” But the facts it revealed, and those in an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that sparked the probe, are largely undisputed.
More than a dozen current and former White House officials and diplomats testified for hours in impeachment hearings. The open and closed sessions under oath revealed what one called the “irregular channel” of foreign policy run by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, which focused on investigating the Bidens and alternative theories of 2016 election interference.
The question for lawmakers was whether the revelations amounted to impeachable offenses. Few lawmakers crossed party lines.
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