SPONSORED:

House votes to impeach Trump

House Democrats took the historic step Wednesday of impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline 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 PetersonDemocrats seek wave to bolster House majority Energized by polls, House Democrats push deeper into GOP territory Democrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade MORE (Minn.) and Jefferson Van Drew (N.J.) — crossing the aisle in dissent. Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardHarris faces biggest moment in spotlight yet Ocasio-Cortez slams Tulsi Gabbard for amplifying ballot harvesting video Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Netflix over 'Cuties' film MORE (Hawaii), a Democratic presidential candidate, voted “present.”

ADVERTISEMENT

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 PelosiPelosi: Trump should accept election results 'like a man' The spectre of pension failures haunts this election Microsoft: Iranian hacking group targeting attendees of major international security conferences 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 Owen McCarthyMcCarthy urges networks not to call presidential race until 'every polling center has closed' House Republicans slated to hold leadership election on Nov. 17 Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire 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 BidenHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline Overnight Defense: Trump campaign's use of military helicopter raises ethics concerns | Air Force jets intercept aircraft over Trump rally | Senators introduce bill to expand visa screenings 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 QuigleyWomack to replace Graves on Financial Services subcommittee Preventing next pandemic requires new bill's global solutions Democrats introduce legislation to revise FDA requirements for LGBT blood donors 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 ScaliseHouse Republicans slated to hold leadership election on Nov. 17 McCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats 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 GohmertMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Democratic Rep. Carbajal tests positive for COVID-19 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 NadlerMarijuana stocks see boost after Harris debate comments Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL Democrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court 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!!!”

ADVERTISEMENT

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 CollinsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's big battleground | Trump and Harris hit the trail in Arizona | Turnout surges among new voters Biden takes 5-point lead over Trump in Georgia in new poll House Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation MORE (Ga.). The second half of the debate fell to the leaders of the Intelligence Committee — Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCIA impeachment whistleblower forced to live under surveillance due to threats: report In our 'Bizarro World' of 2020 politics, the left takes a wrong turn Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox MORE (D-Calif.) and Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesTrump pushing to declassify document disputing intel findings on Russia: report Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 Democrat Arballo gains on Nunes: internal poll 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Wednesday’s votes send the two articles to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Battle for Senate 'a 50-50 proposition' 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem What a Biden administration should look like 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 ClintonTrump fights for battleground Arizona The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage Trump expected to bring Hunter Biden's former business partner to debate 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 SensenbrennerHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Republicans call for Judiciary hearing into unrest in cities run by Democrats Scott Fitzgerald wins Wisconsin GOP primary to replace Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner MORE (R-Wis.), who served as a manager during the Clinton impeachment.

ADVERTISEMENT

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?”