The House of Representatives voted to approve two articles of impeachment today: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The votes of 230-197 and 229-198 respectively were split neatly down party lines: no House Republicans voted to approve the articles and only three Democrats broke ranks against them. These votes make Donald Trump the third U.S. president to be impeached, with just Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton before him.
After the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it a “great day for the Constitution of the United States, a sad one for America that the president’s reckless activities necessitated us having to introduce articles of impeachment.”
In a campaign rally taking place during the vote, Trump had a different take, saying that “The do-nothing Democrats are declaring their deep hatred and disdain for the American voter.” He also remarked that he was enjoying himself and called the impeachment vote a march to political suicide for the Democrats.
This all stems from a phone call President Trump had in July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. On that call, Trump asked Zelenskiy for a “favor” to investigate Joe Biden, a likely political opponent of his in 2020. The abuse of power charge approved by the Democrats presents the case that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure them into interfering in the election by creating or unearthing a scandal about his opponent.
Furthermore, during the investigation into
Trump’s conduct, the White House defied congressional subpoenas and refused to
allow White House aides to testify before Congress. In the second article, obstruction
of Congress, Democrats asserted that this denies the power of congressional
oversight spelled out in the Constitution.
If he is to be removed from office, the next step is to hold a trial in the Senate with House officials acting as prosecutors and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts presiding. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel said Tuesday that he is “not an impartial juror” and remarked that he had been coordinating with the White House about impeachment strategy. He has further refused to declare that he will allow witnesses to be called in the trial despite a Washington Post/ABC News poll that shows 7 in 10 Americans in favor of testimony from White House aides. This represents a break from the standard set by the Clinton trial in the Senate, where a bipartisan set of rules was created which allowed a variety of witnesses and evidence to be presented.
McConnel’s statements have led many Democrats to become concerned by the prospect of the Senate dismissing the charges immediately and without a rigorous trial. As a result, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that she will prevent the process from moving forward until a bipartisan agreement about what evidence will be presented in the Senate trial can be reached. Such a move has never been attempted before, but Pelosi hopes she can use it to pressure. According to House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, “The question is now whether Sen. McConnell will allow a fair trial in the Senate, whether the majority leader will allow a trial that involves witnesses and testimony and documents.”
If you ask McConnel, however: “The fact that my colleague is already desperate to sign up the Senate for new fact-finding suggests that even Democrats who do not like this president are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the House’s rushed process has been.”
How long the trial will be left in limbo over negotiation remains to be seen, but the result remains: in this political fight, impeachment is just the beginning.