Politics, World, Americas

Trump becomes third US president to be impeached

Abuse of power, obstruction charges now head to Senate, where Republicans are expected to clear president of wrongdoing

Michael Hernandez   | 19.12.2019
Trump becomes third US president to be impeached

WASHINGTON 

President Donald Trump on Wednesday became only the third chief executive in U.S. history to be impeached following near-party line votes in the House of Representatives.

The two articles of impeachment -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress -- will now be sent to the Senate, where they will be tried.

Only two House Democrats crossed party lines to join all Republicans in opposition to advancing the abuse of power charge through the federal legislature in a 230-197 vote.

The obstruction vote saw three Democrats stand in opposition in a second 229-198 vote. After voting for the abuse of power article, Congressman Jared Golden joined Jeff Van Drew and Collin Peterson in opposition. 

Congressman Justin Amash, a former Republican lawmaker who is now the chamber's sole Independent, voted with majority Democrats on both articles while Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard voted present.

Addressing reporters at the Capitol shortly after the votes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it is "a great day for the Constitution of the United States; a sad one for America that the president's reckless activities necessitated."

The abuse of power article is centered on Trump’s multiple requests to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into Democratic front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, as well as claims that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that meddled in the 2016 election. Obstruction of Congress stems from Trump's refusal to cooperate with the House proceedings and his insistence that his top officials do the same. 

The White House promptly issued a lengthy statement after the first article cleared the chamber in which it called the "sham" impeachment process "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," spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said. "Democrats have chosen to proceed on this partisan basis in spite of the fact that the President did absolutely nothing wrong."

Trump accused Democrats of having "cheapened" impeachment while addressing supporters in Michigan, saying that now "anybody that becomes president, they could have a phone call, and they get impeached."

"House Democrats are surrendering their majority, their dignity, their reputations. They look like a bunch of fools," he said.

With both articles approved in the Democratic-controlled House, they will now be turned over to the Senate for a trial, where Republicans are expected to acquit the president of wrongdoing. The Republican-held chamber would need a two-thirds majority to remove Trump from office, a highly unlikely scenario given the president's party's heretofore uniform support.

The House launched impeachment proceedings against Trump on Sept. 24 following claims by a whistle-blower that the commander-in-chief sought to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.

Also at issue is the holdup of some $400 million in congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine and whether Trump conditioned its release and a possible Oval Office meeting with Zelensky on the Ukrainian president publicly announcing the investigations.

The House had previously voted only twice on articles of impeachment against a sitting president. Presidents Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1998) were acquitted in Senate trials. Trump now becomes the third president to face impeachment articles in the Senate.

Richard Nixon stepped down from office in 1974 to avoid his removal as part of the Watergate scandal.

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