The United States (U.S.) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the debate on President Donald Trump’s impeachment on Wednesday just after midday on two articles of impeachment, calling the American number one citizen “an ongoing threat to our national security and the integrity of our elections”.
She charged Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
A simple majority vote in favour of either article would result in Trump’s impeachment.
The president called the process an “attempted coup” and a “scam”.
In a six-page letter to the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, on the eve of the vote, the 45th president of the United States argued he had been treated worse than “those accused in the Salem witch trials”.
Mrs. Pelosi described the letter as “really sick”.
“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG!” Trump said in an early morning tweet. “A terrible Thing.” Later Trump tweeted, in all caps, “THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA.”
Wearing a large pin of the ceremonial mace of the chamber as she rose to speak on the House floor, Pelosi warned that “our founder’s vision of a republic is under threat by actions from the White House”.
“It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary,” she said.
“He gave us no choice.” Praising the “moral courage of our members”, some of whom court political risks by backing impeachment, Pelosi announced six hours of debate on the matter.
Her speech was met with sustained applause from her caucus.
But Republican Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking member on the judiciary committee, replied that impeachment had always been”inevitability” under the Democrats. “The founders were very concerned about a partisan impeachment in which the majority in their strength can do whatever they want to do regardless of the facts,” he said.
After a three-month investigation, members of Congress were prepared to act against Trump for his scheme to cheat in the 2020 election, as Democrats charge, by pressuring Ukraine to manufacture bad news about former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s rivals, and then blocking congressional oversight.
“This is a democracy-defining moment,” said the Massachusetts congressman Jim McGovern, the Democratic chair of the rules committee. “History will judge us by whether we keep intact that fragile republic handed down to us more than 200 year ago.”
From all indications, Trump was set yesterday to become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, joining Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before he could be impeached.
Following his impeachment, Trump would face a congressional trial in the new year in the Republican-controlled Senate, where a two-thirds majority would be required to convict and remove him from office. With no Republican senators currently voicing support for impeachment, Trump appeared safe to survive.
Activists gather at a rally to show support for impeachment of Donald Trump outside the Capitol in Washington DC yesterday.
Zero Republican representatives, likewise, had signed on in advance of yesterday’s vote, to the House impeachment case, fueling the party’s charges that the proceedings were driven by partisanship. Democrats replied that Republicans were hostage to Trump and unable to deliver a sound judgment in the matter.
Two Democrats, including one whose staff said he would soon be switching parties to the Republican side, broke with their party on an early procedural vote. With four vacant seats in the House, Democrats, who hold a 233-seat majority, would need 216 votes to impeach Trump.
They repeatedly sailed over that number in a series of votes to overcome procedural roadblocks thrown up by Republicans as yesterday session got under way.
The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, presented a resolution seeking to condemn Adam Schiff, the chair of the intelligence committee, and Jerry Nadler, chair of the judiciary committee, for what McCarthy said were abuses of power and violations of procedure. The resolution was tabled without a vote.
The vote in the Democratic-controlled House is expected to fall almost entirely along party lines.
Nearly 200 Republicans are united in opposition, except for one lawmaker, Florida’s Francis Rooney, who is retiring and has not ruled out siding with Democrats.
All but a handful of the 233 House Democrats have said they will back impeachment – about 216 votes are needed for the measure to pass by a simple majority in the lower chamber of Congress.
The yeses include most of the 31 Democratic lawmakers who represent districts won by Trump in 2016.
Collin Peterson, of Minnesota, and Jeff Van Drew, of New Jersey, have indicated they will vote no. Van Drew plans to become a Republican.
Jared Golden, of Maine, said he would vote to impeach on one charge, not both.
Democrats say Trump dangled $400m of U.S. military aid and the prospect of a coveted White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as bargaining chips to prod the U.S. ally into announcing a corruption inquiry into the Bidens.
The second charge, which is obstructing Congress, claimed Trump blocked his aides from testifying and is accused of failing to co-operate with the House impeachment investigation.
Under the U.S. constitution, a president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours”. It is a political process, not a legal one.
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