The US House of Representatives on Wednesday night kicked off the impeachment process of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of the Congress, becoming the third president of the United States to face impeachment.
The U.S. House gaveled in for a historic session on December 18 to impeach President Donald Trump on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress, votes that will leave a lasting mark on his tenure at the White House.
Opening the debate ahead of a voting, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump posed an “ongoing threat” to the country's security that left Democrats “no choice” but to impeach him. “It is tragic that the president's reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice,” said Pelosi.
“What we are discussing today is the established fact that the president violated the constitution. It is a matter of fact that the president is an ongoing threat to our national security and the integrity of our elections,” she said.
On President Trump’s abuse of power, an impeachment inquiry report said the president’s scheme subverted US foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined US national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential reelection campaign.
“The president demanded that the newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly announce investigations into a political rival that he apparently feared the most, former Vice President Joe Biden, and into a discredited theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
And, to compel the Ukrainian President to do his political bidding President Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcement of the investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical US military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary, says the report.
The first article of impeachment, abuse of power, was on party lines with 230 to 197 votes.
The report also pointed out that in response to the setting up of House committees to go into the misuse of powers of the office of the President, Trump engaged in an unprecedented campaign of obstruction of this impeachment inquiry. “Nevertheless, due in large measure to patriotic and courageous public servants who provided the committees with direct evidence of the President’s actions, the committees uncovered significant misconduct on the part of the President of the United States,” the report noted.
“As required under House Resolution 660, the Intelligence Committee, in consultation with the Committees on Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs, has prepared this report to detail the evidence uncovered to date, which will now be transmitted to the Judiciary Committee for its consideration,” it added.
The second article of impeachment, obstruction to the Congress, was voted 229-198 votes.
The White House described the impeachment as one of the most shameful political episodes in the history of the US.
All four Democratic Indian American members of the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump.
The impeachment now moves to the Senate where Supreme Court Chief Justice would preside over the trial.
Given that the ruling Republicans have majority in the 100-member Senate, analysts say the impeachment is likely to fail and the Democrats might not be able to unseat Trump from office.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would hold an impeachment trial early next year. Democrats need two-third majority in the Senate to convict Trump.
“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,” Democratic leader and House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in her remarks on the floor of the House.
“There is a rush-job because they want to influence the 2020 elections,” Republican Jim Sensenbrenner said.
“I just left the House floor and voted to impeach President Trump,” Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said in an e-mail to his supporters.
“Here are the facts: President Trump abused his power. He threatened our democracy and obstructed Congress. He compromised our election and national security,” he said.
In his first reaction, Trump said the Democrats were trying to impeach him from day one.
“They’ve been trying to impeach me from day one. After three years of sinister witch hunts, hoaxes, scams, tonight, House Democrats are trying to nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans,” he said in his address to a Keep America Great rally in Michigan.
“Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame,” he said. He then slammed his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton. Loud “Lock Her Up!” chant from the crowd after he mocked her stamina.
“They shouldn’t even be able to have an impeachment,” he said. “If we were Democrats, they would have been in jail two years ago,” he said. “It’s a disgrace.”
“Today marks the culmination in the House of one of the most shameful political episodes in the history of our nation. Without receiving a single Republican vote and without providing any proof of wrongdoing, Democrats pushed illegitimate articles of impeachment against the President through the House of Representatives,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
“Democrats have chosen to proceed on this partisan basis in spite of the fact that the President did absolutely nothing wrong. Indeed, weeks of hearings have proved that he did nothing wrong,” Grisham added.
She said throughout the House Democrats’ “entire sham impeachment”, the President was “denied fundamental fairness and due process under the law“.
The House blatantly ignored precedent and conducted the inquiry in secrecy behind closed doors so that Chairman Adam Schiff and his partisan political cronies could selectively leak information to their partners in the media to push a false narrative, she said.
Grisham said the President is confident the Senate will restore regular order, fairness, and due process, all of which were ignored in the House proceedings.
“He is prepared for the next steps and confident that he will be fully exonerated. President Trump will continue to work tirelessly to address the needs and priorities of the American people, as he has since the day he took office,” she said.