Pelosi opens impeachment debate: 'Today we are here to defend the Democracy for the people'

Pelosi opens impeachment debate: 'Today we are here to defend the Democracy for the people'
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views on misinformation Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday kick-started the hours-long impeachment debate with a speech stating that the House must move to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE in order to protect the republic.

Pelosi described the role of the House as being the "custodians of the Constitution," saying that Trump put his own interests ahead of those of the nation when he invited a foreign nation to interfere in an upcoming presidential election in a way that would benefit him politically.

"Our founders' vision is under threat from actions at the White House," Pelosi said on the House floor, wearing all black as she faced her colleagues on both sides of the aisle. "That is why today as Speaker of the House, I sadly and solemnly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States."

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Pelosi began her floor speech by asking House members to recall the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag, emphasizing that the debate over two articles of impeachment charging Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors will center around the line in the pledge: "The Republic for which it stands." 

And she concluded her remarks by praising the legacy of the late House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBaltimore unveils plaques for courthouse to be named after Elijah Cummings GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Pelosi taps Virginia Democrat for key post on economic panel MORE (D-Md.), who died earlier this year, as well as praising other members for showing courage with their vote to impeach Trump.

"Today we are here to defend the democracy for the people," she concluded.

As the Speaker walked off the House floor, Democrats rose in a standing ovation.

Democrats argue that Trump dangled the promise of a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in critical U.S. aid as leverage to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters George Conway: Witness missing from impeachment trial is Trump MORE and unfounded claims that Ukraine also interfered in the 2016 election.

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Republicans, on the other hand, have described the impeachment as a "sham" and "hoax" designed by Democrats to boot Trump from office because they cannot beat him at the ballot box.

Democrats and Republicans are expected to spend roughly six hours on the House floor debating the propriety of Trump's contacts with Ukraine, before the final votes on the articles of impeachment are taken up by the lower chamber.

The two impeachment articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — are expected to pass largely along party lines, making Trump the third president in the nation's history to be impeached and the first to run for reelection after such a vote takes place.