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House impeaches Trump on abuse of power, obstructing Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday night, becoming only the third American chief executive 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 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.

He saw the blame flowing the other direction. He told a political rally in Michigan that “crazy Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame.”

The votes were 230 for impeachment and 197 against on the first count, 229-198 on the second.

Democrats led Wednesday night’s voting, framed in what many said was their duty to protect the Constitution and uphold the nation’s system of checks and balances. Republicans stood by their party’s leader, who has frequently tested the bounds of civic norms. Trump called the whole affair a “witch hunt,” a “hoax” and a “sham,” and sometimes all three.

The trial is expected to begin in January in the Senate, where a vote of two-thirds is necessary for conviction. While Democrats had the majority in the House to impeach Trump, Republicans control the Senate and few if any are expected to diverge from plans to acquit the president ahead of early state election-year primary voting.

Pelosi, once reluctant to lead Democrats into a partisan impeachment, gaveled both votes closed, risking her majority and speakership to follow the effort to its House conclusion.

“Today we are here to defend democracy for the people,” she said earlier during floor debate.

Trump, who began Wednesday tweeting his anger at the proceedings, pumped his fist before an evening rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, boasting o f “tremendous support” in the Republican Party and saying, “By the way it doesn’t feel like I’m being impeached.”

No Republicans voted for impeachment, and Democrats had only slight defections on their side. Voting was conducted manually with ballots, to mark the moment.

On the first article, abuse of power, two Democrats, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who is considering switching parties to become a Republican, and Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota voted against impeaching Trump. On the second article, obstruction, those two and freshman Rep. Jared Golden of Maine voted against. Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is running for president, voted “present” on both.

What Pelosi called a sad and solemn moment for the country, coming in the first year that Democrats swept control of the House, unfolded in a caustic daylong session that showcased the nation’s divisions — not only along party lines, but also by region, race and culture.

The House impeachment resolution laid out in stark terms the two articles of impeachment against Trump stemming from his July phone call when he asked the Ukraine president for a “favor” — to announce it was investigating Democrats ahead of the 2020 election. He also pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to probe unsubstantiated corruption allegations against Joe Biden, the former vice president and 2020 White House contender.

At the time, Zelenskiy, a young comedian newly elected to politics, was seeking a coveted White House visit to show backing from the U.S. ally as it confronts a hostile Russia at its 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 charge, the resolution said the president “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections,” and then obstructed Congress’ oversight like “no president” in U.S. 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 are impeaching Trump because they can’t beat him in 2020.

“This vote is about one thing, and one thing only: They hate this president,” said Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “They want to take away my vote and throw it in the trash.”

But Democrats warned the country cannot wait for the next election to decide whether Trump should remain in office because he has shown a pattern of behavior, particularly toward Russia, and will try to corrupt U.S. elections in 2020.

“The president and his men plot on,” said Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of the Intelligence Committee that led the inquiry. “The danger persists. The risk is real.”

The outcome brings the Trump presidency to a milestone moment that has building almost from the time the New York businessman-turned-reality-TV host unexpectedly won the White House in 2016 amid questions about Russian interference in the U.S. election — and the rise of the “resistance.”

Democrats drew from history, the founders and their own experiences, as minorities, women and some immigrants to the U.S., seeking to honor their oath of office to uphold the constitution. Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., spoke in Spanish asking God to unite the nation. “In America,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., “no one is above the law.”

Republicans aired Trump-style grievances about what Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko called a “rigged” process.

“We face this horror because of this map,” said Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Ala., before a poster of red and blue states. “They call this Republican map flyover country, they call us deplorables, they fear our faith, they fear our strength, they fear our unity, they fear our vote, and they fear our president.”

The political fallout from the vote will reverberate across an already polarized country with divergent views of Trump’s July phone call when Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats in the 2016 election, Biden and his son, Hunter, who worked on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was the vice president.

Trump has repeatedly implored Americans to read the transcript of the call he said was “perfect.” But the facts it revealed, and those in an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that sparked the probe, are largely undisputed.

More than a dozen current and former White House officials and diplomats testified for hours. The open and closed sessions under oath revealed what one called the “irregular channel” of foreign policy run by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, which focused on investigating the Bidens and alternative theories of 2016 election interference.

The question for lawmakers was whether the revelations amounted to impeachable offenses to be sent to the Senate for a trial.

Few lawmakers crossed party lines without consequence. Van Drew, who is considering changing parties over his opposition to impeachment, sat with Republicans. Rep. Justin Amash, the Michigan conservative who left the Republican party and became an independent over impeachment, said: “I come to this floor, not as a Republican, not as a Democrat, but as an American.”

Beyond the impeachments of Andrew Johnson or Bill Clinton, this first impeachment of the 21st century is as much about what the president might do in the future as what he did in the past. And unlike investigation of Richard Nixon, who resigned rather than face the House vote over Watergate, the proceedings against Trump are playing out in an America already of mixed views over Trump.

Rank and file Democrats said they were willing to lose their jobs to protect the democracy from Trump. Some newly elected freshman remained in the chamber for hours during the debate.

“This is not about making history, this is about holding a lawless president accountable,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.

GOP Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia said of the Democrats: “You’ve been wanting to do this ever since the gentleman was elected.”

Top Republicans, including Rep. Devin Nunes on the Intelligence Committee, called the Ukraine probe little more than the low-budget sequel to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mueller spent two years investigating the potential links between Moscow and the Trump campaign, but testified in July that his team could not establish that Trump conspired or coordinated with Russia to throw the election. Mueller did say he could not exonerate Trump of trying to obstruct the investigation, but he left that for Congress to decide.

The next day, Trump called Ukraine. Not quite four months later, a week before Christmas, Trump was impeached.

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Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Matthew Daly, Alan Fram and Andrew Taylor in Washington contributed to this report.

Statements

“Today is a somber day for our country. For only the third time in our nation’s history the House of Representatives voted to impeach a sitting President. Regrettably, the impeachment process in the House was flawed, inherently unfair, and politically motivated. All things our Founding Fathers warned us against.

The Constitution of the United States allows for Congress to impeach a president if he or she commits “high crimes and misdemeanors”. In order to uphold the oath that each Member of Congress took to protect and defend the Constitution, they must ensure their vote is not motivated by partisan disagreement. As Alexander Hamilton said in the Federalist Papers, “There will always be the greatest danger that the decision to use the impeachment power would be driven by partisan animosity instead of real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

Disappointingly, the House Democrats have been solely driven by partisan animosity. Their desire to find a path to impeach the President began the day he was sworn in.  Contrary to past impeachment inquiries, there was no neutral independent investigation that took place before this impeachment inquiry began. Chairman Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee led the most partisan process imaginable acting as the investigator, prosecutor, grand jury, and judge. Contrary to past precedent, Chairman Schiff selected what evidence was heard and prevented the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee and the President from presenting evidence of their own. Even with a completely one-sided and unfair fact gathering process, Chairman Schiff and the Democrats did not make their case.  

House Democrats’ argument for impeaching the President ultimately rests on the allegation he asked a foreign power to intervene in the 2020 presidential election. In reality, it is the hypocrisy of the Democrats interfering in the 2020 election by impeaching President Trump eleven months before the election. 

 The Articles of Impeachment allege President Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress. First, Democrats allege President Trump abused the power of his office. This is untrue. The facts revealed President Zelensky of Ukraine said multiple times he did not feel pressured by President Trump. The facts revealed no Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens occurred. The facts revealed Ukraine received the foreign aid from the United States. Therefore, the facts demonstrated there was no bribery and there was no extortion.

Second, the Obstruction of Congress article has not been proven. President Trump, as many other presidents have done, exerted Executive Privilege to prevent members of his administration from testifying before Congress. Under the Constitution, when disputes arise between the Executive and Legislative branches, the separate but equal Judiciary Branch decides those disputes. House Democrats, in their haste to impeach the President, failed to appropriately litigate this matter in the courts thus any discussion of Obstruction of Congress is premature.  

For these reasons, I do not believe the President committed high crimes and misdemeanors, therefore I voted against the Articles of Impeachment. 

While I am disappointed in the extraordinarily partisan impeachment process that transpired in the House of Representatives, I continue to have faith in our democracy. We must find a way forward to bridge the partisan divide and deliver bipartisan solutions to improve the lives of Americans.”

Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-Ind.)

“This is a sad day for our country. House Democrats have wanted to impeach President Trump since day one, regardless of the facts. They set up a rigged process with a predetermined outcome, and even though they failed to uncover a single piece of evidence to justify impeachment, today they got the result they wanted. This is pure partisan politics at its worst, and the American people deserve better.

It’s time for Congress to put this divisive charade behind us and focus on what matters: keeping our economic momentum going, helping workers and families thrive, and protecting our national security.”

Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.)

“For over three years, House Democrats have been obsessed with impeaching President Trump because they simply cannot accept the results of the 2016 presidential election and are fearful for the results of the 2020 election. That is why from the outset, this sham impeachment process has been nothing more than a partisan exercise to influence the outcome of the 2020 election.

Speaker Pelosi herself established the standard for impeachment when she said the only way she would move forward with impeachment was if the case was compelling, overwhelming, and bipartisan. Yet, the case for impeachment that has been rushed forward by House Democrats is anything but that. It woefully fails to meet this standard because it does not prove any wrongdoing or impeachable offense has actually taken place; instead, House Democrats’ case rests solely on hearsay testimony and presumptions from cherry-picked witnesses. The only thing that is bipartisan about this impeachment is the opposition to it.

The Framers of the Constitution never intended impeachment to be used as a tool to settle political and policy differences due to the devastating impact it has on the nation. That is what elections are for, and the American have the opportunity to make their voices heard in 11 months. This is a sad and dangerous moment in our history as impeachment is being used to undo the will of the American people and silence the voices of millions of Americans in the process.”

Congressman Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.)

“The vote I have taken to impeach President Trump was done with a heavy heart but with the strongest conviction. The President of the United States takes an oath of office to uphold the Constitution and the laws of this nation. He takes an oath to work as a representative of the people he serves, and a stalwart defender of our nation’s interests abroad. But instead, President Trump abandoned his oath to America in favor of his own personal and political interests. When Congress did its job to hold him accountable, he repeatedly obstructed our efforts.

Every American should be extremely concerned by these actions. In our country, no one is above the law, not even the president. When my colleagues and I took our Congressional oath of office, we swore to protect the rule of law, and our Constitution. We did that work today, and throughout this impeachment inquiry. The resounding vote in favor of both Articles of Impeachment is a reflection of that thorough, fair, and eye-opening investigation.

Every day, I am honored to work for Hoosiers in The People’s House. And I never forget that it is “We The People” who make up this great nation. When a President abuses the power entrusted to them by the people, we all have a responsibility to condemn this behavior in the strongest terms to protect our Democracy. As this impeachment decision moves to the Senate, I urge my colleagues there to put aside partisan politics and defend our nation and its values, not a President who has disrespected both.”

Congressman André Carson (D-Ind.)

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