President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 18, becoming only the third American President to be formally charged under the Constitution’s ultimate remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors. The historic vote split along party lines, much the way it has divided the nation, over a charge that the 45th president abused the power of his office by enlisting a foreign government to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election. The House then approved a second charge, that he obstructed Congress in its investigation. The Articles of Impeachment, the political equivalent of an indictment, now go to the Senate for trial. If President 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. “The president is impeached,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared after the vote. She called it “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, who began December 18 by tweeting his anger at the proceedings, pumped his fist before an evening campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, boasting of “tremendous support” in the Republican Party. “By the way,” he told the crowd, “it doesn’t feel like I’m being impeached.” The mood in the House chamber shifted throughout the day as the lawmakers pushed toward the vote. Democrats spun lofty speeches, framing impeachment as what many said was their duty to protect the Constitution and uphold the nation’s system of checks and balances. Republicans mocked and jeered the proceedings, as they stood by their party’s leader, who has frequently tested the bounds of civic norms. The start of Trump’s Michigan rally was delayed as the voting was underway in Washington but once he took the stage he boasted of accomplishments and complained bitterly about his foes for two hours, defiant rather than contrite. He called Pelosi names and warned the impeachment would be politically disastrous for Democrats.
No Republicans voted for impeachment, and Democrats had only slight defections on their side, with Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Jared Golden (D-ME), and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) being the only Democrats who voted against impeachment. While Democrats had the majority in the House to impeach Trump, a vote of two-thirds is necessary for conviction in the Republican-controlled Senate. The trial is expected to begin in January of 2020, but House Speaker Pelosi was noncommittal about sending the House articles over, leaving the start date uncertain. Senate leaders are expecting to negotiate details of the trial, but Democrats are criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for saying he will not be an impartial juror and already knows the outcome.
The House impeachment resolution laid out in stark terms the articles of impeachment against Trump stemming from his July 2019 phone call when he asked the Ukrainian president for a “favor,” to announce he was investigating Democrats including potential 2020 rival Joe Biden. At the time, Ukrainian President Zelenskiy, new to politics and government, was seeking a coveted White House visit to show backing from the U.S. as he confronted a hostile Russia at his border. He was also counting on $391 million in military aid already approved by Congress. The White House delayed the funds, but Trump eventually released the money once Congress intervened. Narrow in scope but broad in its charges, the impeachment resolution said President Donald Trump “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections,” and then obstructing Congress’ oversight like “no president” in American history. “President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” it said.
Republicans argued that Democrats were impeaching President Donald Trump because they cannot defeat him in 2020. “They want to take away my vote and throw it in the trash,” said Congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT). But Democrats warned the country cannot wait for the next election to decide whether President Trump should remain in office because he has shown a pattern of behavior, particularly toward Russia, and will try to corrupt US elections again. “The president and his men plot on,” said Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chairman of the Intelligence Committee that led the inquiry. “The danger persists. The risk is real.”
Thus far, it is likely that the Senate will vote to acquit President Donald Trump. Whereas some Republican Senators including Mitt Romney (R-UT), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), are moving in the direction to vote to impeach President Trump, arch-conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is reluctant at best to support the Senate’s impeachment efforts. Based on this factor, the Senate will likely vote to acquit Trump assuming that Republican defections are kept at a minimum