House votes to impeach Trump

House Democrats took the historic step Wednesday of impeaching President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE, a momentous move that will send long-lasting reverberations throughout the Capitol and the country, both already fiercely divided over the truculent figure in the Oval Office.

The two articles, which charge Trump with abusing power in his dealings with Ukraine and obstructing Congress in their investigation of those actions, passed almost exclusively along party lines, marking the most sectarian and contentious of the three presidential impeachments since the nation’s founding — and the first to target a president in his first term. 

Lawmakers voted 230 to 197 on the resolution accusing Trump of abusing his power, with all Republicans opposed and only two Democrats — Reps. Collin PetersonCollin Clark Peterson Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Six ways to visualize a divided America On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 MORE (Minn.) and Jefferson Van Drew (N.J.) — crossing the aisle in dissent. Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard on Chicago mayor's decision to limit media interviews to people of color: 'Anti-white racism' Fox News says network and anchor Leland Vittert have 'parted ways' New co-chairs named for congressional caucus for millennials MORE (Hawaii), a Democratic presidential candidate, voted “present.”

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The second article, alleging obstruction, passed along near-identical lines, with lawmakers voting 229-198 approving it and Gabbard voting "present." Republicans were again unanimous in rejecting the measure, while a third Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), joined Peterson and Van Drew in opposition. 

The votes marked the culmination of the Democrats’ months-long investigation into Trump’s handling of foreign policy towards Kyiv, triggered in September by a government whistleblower’s allegations that the president had threatened national security in withholding military aid and the promise of a White House meeting to press Ukrainian leaders to find dirt on his political rivals.

Dressed in black to mark the somber occasion, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) framed the extraordinary maneuver as a congressional obligation — the Constitution’s Hail Mary remedy for protecting America’s democratic institutions from a lawless president who would seek foreign help to sway a U.S. election.

“If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty,” Pelosi said.

“It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary,” she added. “He gave us no choice.”

Republicans countered with equal vigor, defending their White House ally with accusations that Democrats had orchestrated a discriminatory process that exaggerated the evidence and denied Trump a fair defense.

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“What we've seen is a process that's led to the most partisan and least credible impeachment in the history of America,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate After police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi Capitol Police asked to arrest the maskless MORE (R-Calif.), the House minority leader. “After three years of breathless outrage, this is their last attempt to stop the Trump presidency.”

With much at stake and the TV cameras rolling, lawmakers from both parties dug deep into their rhetorical closets to mark the historic debate, invoking the Founding Fathers, Jesus and the crucifixion, Pearl Harbor and Maya Angelou — among a long list of other cultural touchstones — to make their case.

The facts underlying the impeachment debate are not seriously contested. Beginning early this year, Trump and his allies had pressed Ukrainian leaders to open two investigations that might have helped him politically: one into the son of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE, a 2020 presidential hopeful; and another into debunked theories that it was Kyiv, not Moscow, that had meddled in the 2016 election. Amid that pressure campaign, the administration temporarily withheld almost $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, which is fighting Russian aggression in eastern parts of the country.

Where the parties diverge is on the question of whether that conduct represents a flagrant abuse of power, as Democrats argue, or a routine effort to protect U.S. taxpayer dollars from being frittered by a country long known for corruption, as Republicans maintain.

“He has laid siege to the foundation of our democracy: our electoral process,” said Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyGyms, hotels, bus companies make last-ditch plea for aid Carole Baskin: People 'will be outraged' by conditions exotic animals face House panel includes 0 million election security grant in proposed appropriations bill MORE (D-Ill.).

“This impeachment will not just be a stain on this Democrat majority's legacy — it will be their only legacy,” countered Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRepublican governors revolt against CDC mask guidance House to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance What you need to know about the new COVID-19 surge MORE (R-La.), the minority whip.

The debate was largely civil; lawmakers from both sides — so far apart on the merits of the impeachment effort — seemed to agree on the historical significance of the moment.

But there were also some flare-ups, most notably when Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertPhotos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - CDC equates Delta to chickenpox in contagiousness Gaetz, Greene and Gohmert turned away from jail to visit Jan. 6 defendants MORE (R-Texas) promoted the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election, in addition to Russia. All of America’s intelligence agencies have determined that Russia was the culprit, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBiden backs effort to include immigration in budget package Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Britney Spears's new attorney files motion to remove her dad as conservator MORE (D-N.Y.) wasted no time lambasting the claim.

“I'm concerned that any representative of the United States would spout Russian propaganda on House floor,” he said.

Gohmert marched back to the podium and sought to shout over the banging of the gavel in response to the accusation fired against him, but his yells were drowned out by demands that the House return to order.

Throughout the impeachment investigation, Trump has bashed the process as a politically motivated “witch hunt” designed to undo the 2016 election results. As the impeachment debate raged on the House floor Wednesday, he lashed out on Twitter to amplify those charges.

“SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS,” he wrote. “THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!”

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What effect Trump’s rallying cry had on the debate is unclear, but Republicans gained more gusto as the day wore on, responding at times en masse with boos, groans or other knee-jerk reactions at the later statements from the Democrats.

Wednesday’s debate ran for six hours equally divided between the parties and featuring some of the key players in the months-long impeachment investigation.

Nadler, who returned to D.C. despite an ongoing family emergency, led the first round, jousting with the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor MORE (Ga.). The second half of the debate fell to the leaders of the Intelligence Committee — Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.) and Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Tucker Carlson claims NSA leaked private emails to journalists MORE (R-Calif.) — who sparred in familiar fashion over the propriety of Trump’s pressure campaign in Ukraine.

Yet it was Pelosi, a historic figure in her own right, who was on center stage. The Speaker, who spent hours on the House floor as the sides traded barbs, had managed all facets of the process, from the launch of the inquiry in September, to dictating which committees would take the lead, to deciding what charges would eventually be brought, and how many.

One Democratic lawmaker who spoke on the floor Wednesday said Pelosi’s office had even screened each lawmaker speech prior to delivery.

“We needed to stay on message,” the lawmaker said.

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Wednesday’s votes send the two articles to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (R-Ky.) has said he’ll hold an impeachment trial early next year. It’s widely expected that the GOP-controlled Senate will fall far short of the two-thirds majority required to convict Trump, meaning he will almost certainly join the small club of presidents — including Andrew Johnson and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonOvernight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' Biden rolls dice by getting more aggressive on vaccines Amanda Knox blasts 'Stillwater' movie: 'Does my name belong to me? MORE — to be impeached but remain in office.

Passage of the two articles was secured after dozens of moderate Democrats facing tough reelections — lawmakers who were wary of impeachment for much of the year — jumped on board after the details of the Ukraine affair emerged through the investigation.

One Democratic lawmaker described such votes as “seismic,” warning that there will be some blowback at the polls in 2020.

“Some of them are going to lose,” the lawmaker said.

Both parties agreed the votes were historic, but clashed wildly over what legacy would be left. Republicans warned that impeachment will become the new normal: a political cudgel to grab any time the president and the House are of opposing parties.

“There is a rush-job ... because they want to influence the 2020 elections,” said Rep. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerProtecting the fundamental right of all Americans to have access to the voting booth Republicans compare Ron Johnson to Joe McCarthy: NYT GOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell MORE (R-Wis.), who served as a manager during the Clinton impeachment.

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Democrats had a different view of history, offering their own cautionary tales of future presidents run amok because Congress failed to impeach Trump.

“I remind my friends that he will not be the last president, and you may one day be in the majority, and what will you say when have no oversight over them?” said Schiff.

“What will you say?”