The House of Representatives voted largely along party lines Wednesday evening to impeach Donald Trump, making him just the third president in U.S. history to stand trial for high crimes and misdemeanors in the Senate.
The vote was split to address both articles, with the House voting to impeach on “abuse of power” by a 230-197 margin, and passing “obstruction of Congress” by a 229-198 margin. One lawmaker, Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii), voted “present” on both articles.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking just after the vote, called impeachment “a great day for the Constitution” but “a sad day for America.”
“I could not be prouder or more inspired by the moral courage of the House Democrats,” she said. “We never asked one of them how they were going to vote. We never whipped this vote.”
The House Speaker was vague when asked about her timeline for sending the articles to the Senate, after news broke Wednesday that Democrats wanted to gain leverage over a Senate trial by withholding the articles. “We’re not sending it tonight,” Pelosi said. “. . . It’s up to the Senate to say what their rules will be.”
Every GOP member voted against both articles, while Michigan Independent Justin Amash, who left the Republican party earlier this year after saying in May that the Mueller Report showed Trump’s “impeachable conduct,” voted yes on both articles.
Among Democrats, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey — who is expected to become a Republican — and Collin Peterson of Minnesota voted against both articles after opposing the opening of the impeachment inquiry in October. Representative Jared Golden (D., Maine) followed through with his Tuesday announcement by splitting his vote — approving the abuse of power charge but voting “nay” on obstruction of Congress.
Gabbard, who introduced a resolution to censure Trump as an alternative to impeachment, was the lone wild card in the vote.
“I could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country,” Gabbard explained in a statement following her vote.
In a striking image, Trump attacked the impeachment process as a “political suicide march” to the cheers of thousands of supporters at a rally in Michigan just as the House members cast their votes.
“It doesn’t really feel like we are being impeached,” Trump said. “We did nothing wrong. We have tremendous support in the Republican Party, like we’ve never had before.”
“Americans will show up by the tens of millions next year to vote Pelosi the hell out of office,” he later added.
Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) began debate on the House floor Wednesday morning by thanking House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) for their roles in the weeks-long impeachment inquiry. Standing next to a sign of the American flag with the phrase “To the Republic, for which it stands,” Pelosi reminded her fellow representatives of their oath to defend the Constitution.
“Very sadly now, our Founders’ vision of a republic is under threat from actions from the White House,” Pelosi declared. “ . . . 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.”
The House Speaker went on to describe “the established fact that the president violated the Constitution,” and called Trump an “ongoing threat” to national security and future elections.
Pelosi also argued that Trump attempted to secure an “improper, personal, political benefit” by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin at the request of former Vice President Joe Biden. “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that,” the president said on the July 25 call with Zelensky.
Pelosi quoted the recently deceased Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings to close, saying “when we are dancing with the angels, the question will be, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?”
Democrats applauded Pelosi’s speech, but were reportedly told not to cheer the vote, with one member telling Axios the instruction was to “keep it solemn.” CNN’s Dana Bash reported that a Pelosi aide said the House Speaker and other female Democrats intentionally wore black “to signal it is a somber day.”
Pelosi later shot a glare at Democrats who began to cheer when the articles were passed.
Republicans were united in opposition to the vote, with ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins of Georgia, announcing his intention to “fight this on process” in his opening salvo for the minority.
“It has been awful,” Collins argued on the House floor. “We don’t care about rules because the chairman gets to determine what is relevant. Wow, that’s pretty good, let the accuser determine what is relevant to the one being accused. The people of America see through this. The people of America understand due process and they understand when it is being trampled in the people’s house.”
The Georgia Republican also mentioned Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), saying it was “hilarious” that Schumer attempted to negotiate certain witnesses for the Senate trial, after House Republicans were rejected by Schiff in their efforts to call Hunter Biden, the whistleblower, and other to testify.
The six-plus hours of debate were marked by theatrics. Georgia Republican Barry Loudermilk echoed the style of Trump’s Tuesday letter to Pelosi by claiming “Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this President in this process.”
Representative Al Green (D., Texas) — who tried to impeach Trump in July — showed a picture of 2-year-old Honduran girl attempting to cross the border and announced his support of impeachment “for the sake of the many who are suffering.”
Amash told the House it has a “duty” to impeach. “Trump has abused and violated the public trust . . . his actions reflect precisely the type of conduct the framers of the Constitution intended to remedy through the power of impeachment,” he said.
Trump, who said Tuesday he wouldn’t watch the debate, tweeted as the debate began “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!” Later, the president did not speak to reporters as he left the White House for the rally in Battle Creek, Michigan — Amash’s district.
Impeachment rumblings picked up steam earlier this year following the release of the Mueller Report, but Pelosi dismissed the possibility on July 24, saying impeachment “would have to be done with our strongest possible hand.”
The next day, Trump had his infamous call with Zelensky, which prompted an unnamed intelligence community whistleblower to file a complaint on August 12 over the president “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election.”
After news of the call broke September 20, Pelosi tasked Adam Schiff to lead an impeachment inquiry, which she announced on September 24. Eight days later, the New York Times reported that the whistleblower informed Adam Schiff of the call’s contents before he formally reported the complaint, causing Trump to label Schiff a “fraud.”
Following closed deposition hearings — which Republicans labeled “Soviet-style” over complaints that Schiff shut down their questions — the House voted to formalize the inquiry on October 31 by a vote of 232-196.
Revealed testimony and evidence showed that U.S. officials worked with Ukraine in an attempt to move forward on the investigations that Trump mentioned on the call. In November, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified to the House Intelligence Committee that “everyone was in the loop” regarding a “quid pro quo” relayed by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to predicate a White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky on a public announcement of investigations — neither of which have occurred.
Other testimony in the House described Giuliani’s role as part of a “irregular channel” of Ukrainian foreign policy, including efforts to remove Marie Yovanovitch as ambassador for blocking his collection of evidence of corruption involving the Bidens. On Monday, Giuliani confirmed he had told Trump about Yovanovitch before her removal and said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “relied” on his information.
Another key question pertinent to the impeachment process is how exactly Trump effectuated the withholding of $250 million in military aid. The holdup was initiated before Trump’s call with Zelensky “pending a policy decision” from the White House and was ultimately released September 11 after Trump knew of the whistleblower complaint.
The White House and Republicans have defended the holdup as routine and legitimate over concerns of Ukrainian corruption, with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney telling reporters in October that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.”