The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has made the historic vote to impeach US President Donald Trump, only the third time it has taken the step in the nation’s 243 years.
The action now shifts to the Republican-controlled Senate after the House voted two on two articles of impeachment against him on Wednesday following a process that stretched over two months and deepened the nation’s vitriolic-filled political divide.
Trump will now be formally tried by the Senate on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings with Ukraine and the House investigation of it.
Former Presidents Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, but neither was convicted and forced out of the White House. Impeachment proceedings were launched against Richard Nixon, but he quit in the middle of the process.
The impeachment will not affect Trump’s presidency either as the Republican-controlled Senate will acquit him, making the dramatic impeachment process only a catharsis for Democrats smarting from their candidate Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 election.
Following the vote, the Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy declared: “Trump will be President today, will be president tomorrow, will be president after the impeachment.”
Three Democrats voted against the impeachment, and one abstained fearing a voter backlash in constituencies which had chosen Trump in 2016.
There were no defections from the Republican side.
While Democrats hurled allegations of bribery, extortion and treason against Trump during the televised investigations by House Committees, they did not find a place in the final set of charges because the leadership wanted a narrow chargesheet that would getter wider acceptance.
Trump, who was campaigning in Michigan while the impeachment vote was taking place in Washington, said: “After three years of sinister witch hunts, hoaxes, scams, tonight, House Democrats are trying to nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans.”
He unleashed a series of personal invectives against several Democrats calling Hillary Clinton “horrible person”, and saying that a dead Democrat Congressman was looking up and not down.
Soon after the vote, Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatened to hold up the Senate trial telling reporters that she had no timeline for sending the charges known as Articles of Impeachment because she was concerned that the Republicans won’t hold an impartial trial.
Until the Articles are received, the Senate can’t hold the trial.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate who controls the process there, has turned down the Democrats’ request to have former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and two other officials testify at the trial.
It was a tit-for-tat for Democrat’s refusal to allow them to call their set of witnesses during the impeachment process in the House.
Trump wants a full-fledged trial in the Senate with several witnesses including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter called to testify. But McConnell has said that he prefers a short, quick trial and they would have to work out their strategy.
The charges against Trump arose from a phone call Trump made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July in which he asked him as a “favor” investigate the Bidens’ dealings in that country.
Hunter Biden, who was removed from the navy over alleged drug use and had to energy business experience, was made the director of a Ukrainian gas company with a monthly payment of $83,000, while the vice president was in-charge of dealings with the country.
The elder Biden had a prosecutor looking into the company removed.
While there is an appearance of a conflict of interest and even questionable ethics in the conduct of the Bidens, the Democrats turned the tables on Trump by alleging that he was inviting foreign interference in the US elections because Biden was a leading Democratic candidate to challenge Trump next year.
Moreover, they allege that Trump endangered national security by delaying nearly half-a-billion dollars in military aid to Ukraine to force a probe even though it was facing a threat from Russia, which they see as an enemy of the US.
Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi said during Wednesday’s debate that Trump attempted to use a foreign government for his personal political goals and obstructed Congress by silencing witnesses whom the House investigators wanted to depose.
Republicans countered that the aid was released after due diligence even though there was no probe of the Bidens.
Threat of foreign election interference was a recurring theme in the debate.
Democrats had alleged that Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election but their hopes of impeaching him on that charge were dashed when an inquiry by a special counsel said it could find no such collusion.
The Ukraine-related allegations gave them the Democrats the last chance to start impeachment proceedings because presidential elections will be held next year.