Donald Trump has been impeached by the US House of Representatives on Wednesday night, becoming only the third US President to be formally charged under the Constitution’s final solution for high crimes and misconducts.
The historic vote split along party lines, much the way it has divided the US, over the charges that the Trump abused the power of his office by incorporating a foreign government to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election.
The US House of Representatives was also voting on a charge that he then obstructed Congress in its investigation.
The articles of impeachment, the political equivalent of an indictment, now go to the Senate for trial. If Donald Trump is cleared by the Republican-led chamber, as expected, he would have to run for reelection carrying the permanent mark of impeachment on his presidency.
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 backed their party leader, who has repeatedly tested the boundaries 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, now risks her majority and speakership to hold the president accountable. “Today we are here to defend democracy for the people,” Pelosi said opening debate. Trump, who began Wednesday tweeting his anger at the proceedings, scheduled an evening rally in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Democrats said they had “no choice” but to formally charge Trump, whose impeachment along stark party lines places an enduring stain on his record while driving a spike ever deeper into the US political divide.
“What is at risk here is the very idea of America,” said Adam Schiff, the lawmaker who headed the impeachment inquiry, ahead of the vote. Trump will now stand trial in the Senate, where his Republicans hold a solid majority and are expected to exonerate him.
As the House debated the articles of impeachment throughout the day, Trump registered his anger with the process on Twitter, in all capital letters: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!” he wrote.