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House votes to impeach Trump, now goes to Senate trial

United States House of Representatives chamber at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 27, 2017. (Office of the Speaker of the House/WikiMedia Commons)
December 18, 2019

The Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday night to pass two articles of impeachment against Republican President Donald Trump.

The first article of impeachment was for abuse of power, following claims Trump withheld a military aid package to Ukraine as well as diplomatic meetings between the two presidents, in exchange for an announcement of an investigation of Biden. The first article of impeachment passed on a vote of 230-197.

Democrats Collin Peterson and Jeff Van Drew voted for impeachment, while Republican Justin Amash voted in favor. Democrat Tulsi Gabard voted present.

The second article of impeachment was for obstruction of Congress, after Trump blocked administration officials from testifying before Congress, in opposition to congressional subpoenas. Trump has appealed the subpoenas, asking the judiciary to determine whether his executive privilege would extend to deny those subpoena requests. The second impeachment article passed on a vote of 229-198.

The Senate is expected to hold an impeachment trial in early January. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he may not call four White House witnesses during the trial.

“Impeachment is a political decision. The House made a partisan political decision to impeach,” he said. “I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all,” McConnell also said, according to the Courier-Journal

The impeachment votes follow allegations raised by a still-unnamed whistleblower who alleged Trump improperly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a July 25 phone call, to take up a politically motivated investigation against former Vice President Joe Biden.

The vote comes just after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House impeachment inquiry against Trump. The House then voted on Oct. 31 to affirm its inquiry process, allowing the House Intelligence Committee to call the first witnesses, before passing along the process to the House Judiciary Committee which has previously been tasked with handling impeachment proceedings.

The House Intelligence Committee, under the leadership of chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, heard from several witnesses involved in Trump’s foreign policy work with Ukraine. Many of the witnesses expressed concerns about Trump’s Ukraine policy, though many did not have firsthand knowledge of the controversial July phone call. Ambassador Gordon Sondland did have a conversation with Trump in which Trump insisted he wanted no “quid pro quo” from Ukraine and only wanted Zelensky to act on the anticorruption platform he ran on, though Sondland himself did assume there was some form of “quid pro quo” to be exchanged between the two.

The House Intelligence Committee submitted a 300-page report of its findings after returning from the Thanksgiving holiday further alleging wrongdoing by Trump. One portion of the report even claimed Trump’s actions undermined Ukraine’s anticorruption reforms.

The Republican minority members in the committee submitted their own report, claiming the allegations against Trump amounted to a disagreement between the President and unelected diplomatic officers. The minority report further criticized the speedy nature of the proceedings.

As lawmakers returned from the Thanksgiving break, the impeachment proceedings did move on to the House Judiciary Committee. The committee held its first hearing with a panel of four constitutional scholars on Dec. 4, just one day before the Democratic leaders announced the two articles of impeachment.

Though the impeachment measures did pass in the House on the Democratic party’s commanding majority, it is expected to face a tougher trial before the Republican-controlled Senate, which cannot vote to convict Trump without a two-thirds majority.

Trump has also floated the idea of calling Biden to testify in the trial, over allegations Biden himself withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine in 2016 in order to force the firing of a prosecutor investigating a company where his son Hunter Biden worked – an allegation Biden himself appeared to confirm in a 2018 video.