President Donald J. Trump has been impeached. The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday, December 18, 2019, to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial to determine if Trump will be removed from office. Two Democrats — Reps. Jeff Van Drew, of New Jersey, and Collin Peterson, of Minnesota — voted against impeaching Trump for abuse of power, along with all of the members of the Republican minority. Rep. Jared Gordon, of Maine, split his vote, voting for abuse of power, but against obstruction of congresss. The Democratic majority was joined by Rep. Justin Amash, of Michigan, a former Republican who turned independent.
On the first article of impeachment, the House voted 230 to 197. Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, of Hawaii, abstained by voting present. Gabbard, who is running for president has been critical of the impeachment process and had called for Trump to be censured instead of an impeachment vote. On the second article of impeachment, the House voted 229 to 198, with Gabbard again voting present.
As he was impeached, Trump was on stage in Battle Creek, Michigan, speaking at a political “Keep America Great” rally promoting his 2020 campaign. Earlier in the day, Trump left the White House without making a statement or taking questions from reporters.
As he took the stage, talking about how people are saying “Merry Christmas,” again, and calling back to his “greatest” victory in Michigan during the 2016 presidential election, Trump told the crowd, “by the way, it doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached.”
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement saying, “Today marks the culmination in the House of one of the most shameful political episodes in the history of our Nation. Without receiving a single Republican vote, and without providing any proof of wrongdoing, Democrats pushed illegitimate articles of impeachment against the President through the House of Representatives. Democrats have chosen to proceed on this partisan basis in spite of the fact that the President did absolutely nothing wrong. Indeed, weeks of hearings have proved that he did nothing wrong.”
Grisham added, “Throughout the House Democrats’ entire sham impeachment, the President was denied fundamental fairness and due process under the law. The House blatantly ignored precedent and conducted the inquiry in secrecy behind closed doors so that Chairman Adam Schiff and his partisan political cronies could selectively leak information to their partners in the media to push a false narrative.”
Amash, who was a Republican before leaving the party because he endorsed impeaching and removing Trump from office, and whose district includes Battle Creek, said during his floor speech, “I rise today in support of these articles of impeachment. I come to this floor not as a Democrat, not as a Republican but as an American. Trump has abused and violated the public trust.” Amash added, “His actions reflect precisely the type of conduct the framers of the Constitution intended to remedy through the power of impeachment. And it is our duty to impeach him.”
Trump’s impeachment stems from a phone call he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that July 25 call, Trump told Zelensky, who had been newly elected to lead Ukraine, “I would like you to do us a favor though.” He later asks Zelensky to “look into” former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, and a discredited conspiracy theory about Ukraine, not Russia, interfering in the 2016 election. Details about the call were brought forward by a whistleblower, who filed a complaint in August.
In September, the Wall Street Journal first reported about Trump’s call with Zelensky. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry on September 24, saying, “calling upon a foreign power to intervene in his election. This is a breach of his constitutional responsibilities, and “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”
It didn’t take long for the impeachment inquiry process to begin. Depositions with government officials involved in the Ukraine affair started in early October behind closed doors. An official vote approving an impeachment inquiry through a resolution passed in late October and on November 13, the House Intelligence Committee began two weeks of hearings. Led by Chairman Adam Schiff, the committee questioned witnesses including State Department officials, former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovnovitch, Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and the National Security Council’s Ukraine expert, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. On December 4, the House Judiciary Committee picked up the process and held hearings with constitutional lawyers and attorneys for the Judiciary Committee, who presented the details of the committee’s report.
On December 12, the House Judiciary Committee debated for more than 14 hours and then approved two articles of impeachment against Trump, accusing him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. That vote sent the articles of impeachment to the full House of Representatives and led to Trump’s eventual impeachment on Wednesday.
Here’s what you need to know about the impeachment of President Donald Trump:
1. Trump Is Only the Third President in U.S. History to Be Impeached
President Donald Trump is the third president in the history of the United States to be impeached by the House of Representatives. President Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868. President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1999. Both were acquitted after Senate trials. No president has ever been impeached and removed from office. President Richard Nixon was heading that way, but resigned before an impeachment vote was taken by the House.
According to the articles of impeachment against Trump, Democrats say the president “corruptly” solicited election assistance from the government of Ukraine to smear a political rival, while using military aid and security assistance as leverage. “In all of this, President Trump abused the powers of the presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit. He has also betrayed the nation by abusing his office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections,” the articles of impeachment say.
In the second article of impeachment, Democrats say Trump used his presidential power to obstruct the Congressional investigation into the accusations of wrongdoing. They said he engaged in “unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance.”
The Democrats wrote, “In the history of the republic, no president has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House to investigate ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.'”
The Democrats wrote, “Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election. He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage.”
2. During the Floor Debate Ahead of the Vote, Democrats Said Trump Is an ‘Ongoing Threat to Our National Security’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at the start of the 10-hour floor debate that Trump is “an ongoing threat to our national security.” The Democratic leader said, “But, very sadly, now, our Founders’ vision of our Republic is under threat from actions from the White House. That is why, today, as Speaker of the House, I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the President of the United States. If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the President’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, whose committee led the investigation into the Ukraine affair and wrote a report that led to the impeachment articles, said on the floor, “But for the courage of someone willing to blow the whistle, he would have gotten away with it. Instead he got caught. He tried to cheat and he got caught.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, whose committee wrote the articles of impeachment and a more than 600-page report, said, “Taken together, the two articles charge that President Trump placed his private, political interests above our national security, above our elections, and above our system of checks and balances. After months of investigation, there can be no serious debate about the evidence at hand.”
Rep. John Lewis echoed Pelosi’s mournful tone.
“Our nation is founded on the principle that we do not have kings. We have presidents. And the Constitution is our compass,” the civil rights icon said. “When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?’ For some, this vote may be hard. We have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that in his 38 years in Congress he has never seen, “such an obvious wrongdoing by a President of the United States.” Hoyer added that, “Democrats did not choose this impeachment.”
He said, “We voted against it. We voted against it once. We voted against it twice, we voted against it three times as recently as July. We did not want this. However, President Trump’s misconduct has forced our constitutional republic to protect itself.”
Hoyer also gave a shoutout to Amash, saying, “Representative Amash is of course, the only member of this House who has no allegiance to either party, but to his country. He is supporting, as I’ve said both articles,” Hoyer said. “We need not ask who will be the first to show courage by standing up to President Trump. The question we must now ask is who will be the last to find it?”
3. Republicans, Who First Tried to Stall the Vote, Said During the Debate That It Was a ‘Desperate Attempt’ by Democrats to Overturn the Will of the People Without Evidence
Republicans began the day of the historic impeachment vote by trying to delay the process. When the Democratic majority pushed through those attempts, GOP House members took to the floor to blast the process and attempt to discredit the Democrats, saying that they have simply been out to impeach Trump from the moment he was elected. Lawmakers called it a “desperate attempt” and said there was no evidence that Trump had committed any “high crimes or misdemeanors” or impeachable offenses.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk said during his speech, “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.”
Other Republicans compared the impeachment vote to Pearl Harbor, saying it will be a “day that lives in infamy,” and a witchhunt. They called for Pelosi to be removed from office and said it was her and the Democrats who were abusing power and obstructing Congress.
Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said, “Speaker Pelosi said the House would not impeach unless it was ‘compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan.’ Well, it’s not bipartisan. It’s not compelling. It’s not overwhelming.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz said, “This is not about the Ukraine. It is about power — Donald Trump has it and House Democrats want it. And so with no crime, no victim, no evidence, no proof, no agenda for America, this impeachment charade marches on, following no rules and adhering to no sense of honor. The American people aren’t fooled by dirty tricks. Voters will never forget that Democrats have been triggered into impeaching the President because they don’t like him and they don’t like us. Those who vote yes on today’s articles of impeachment must carry the heavy burden of shame and guilt for as long as they serve in Congress which won’t be long because the American people will remember in November.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said, “This is a political vendetta. It has nothing to do with a crime committed. There was no crime and why don’t we listen to some of the witnesses? Obviously, we weren’t able to call all of the witnesses we wanted.” Scalise added, “You don’t impeach a president because you don’t like his foreign policy as so many experts came and testified. But this isn’t just about Donald Trump. They don’t just hate Donald Trump, Madam Speaker. They hate the 63 million Americans who voted for this president. The forgotten men and women of this country who have been left behind, madam speaker.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy then wrapped up the Republicans’ side by saying, “What we’ve seen is a rigged process that has led to the most partisan and least credible impeachment in American history. That is your legacy. Any prosecutor in the country would be disbarred for such blatant bias, especially if he was a fact witness, judge, and jury. But Democrats haven’t just failed on process. They’ve also failed on evidence.”
4. On the Eve of His Impeachment, Trump Sent a Lengthy Letter to Speaker Pelosi & the Democrats Criticizing Them for Impeaching Him
The day before he was impeached, President Trump sent a six-page letter from The White House to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Trump wrote, “You are the ones interfering in America’s elections. You are the ones subverting America’s Democracy. You are the ones Obstructing Justice. You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish personal, political, and partisan gain. … You have developed a full-fledged case of what many in the media call Trump Derangement Syndrome and sadly, you will never get over it!”
According to ABC News’ Jon Karl, Trump’s lawyers were left out of the letter-writing process. It was instead written at Trump’s direction by Stephen Miller and two other aides.
Pelosi responded to the letter by telling reporters, “It’s ridiculous. I mean, I haven’t really fully read it, we’ve been working. I’ve seen the essence of it though and it’s really sick.”
On Wednesday, as the House debated the articles of impeachment, Christmas cards containing the six-page letter were distributed to some lawmakers, including Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy. Blumenthal tweeted, “Thanks for this card & your 6 page impeachment screed. Bizarrely delivered together. Happy Holidays & best wishes for the coming year!”
Murphy added, “True story: there is a White House staffer going around the Senate delivering to each office, as a package, the incoherent, scathing Pelosi letter AND…wait for it…a giant 16×12 White House Christmas card (along with, implausibly, a second smaller Christmas card). What a day.”
In Michigan, at the “Keep America Great” rally, Vice President Mike Pence said, “What’s going on in Washington, D.C. tonight is a disgrace.” Pence said Democrats have from “day one of this administration” been “trying to impeach this president because they know they can’t defeat this president.”
In a statement after the vote from Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, the White House said, “When public hearings were held before Chairman Schiff’s committee, Democrats continued their games and denied the President the ability to cross-examine witnesses or present witnesses or evidence. The proceedings in the Judiciary Committee included no fact witnesses at all and consisted solely of a biased law seminar and a staffer rehashing the slanted report that was produced by Chairman Schiff’s rigged proceeding. This unconstitutional travesty resulted in two baseless articles of impeachment that lack any support in evidence and fail even to describe any impeachable offense.”
“All of these antics make clear that Democrats have lost sight of what this country needs, which is a Congress that works for the people. Their boundless animus for President Trump fuels their desire to nullify the 2016 election results, and improperly influence the 2020 election,” Grisham added. “The American people are not fooled by this disgraceful behavior. They understand fairness, due process, and substantial, reliable evidence are required before any American should be charged with wrongdoing—and certainly before impeaching a duly elected President.”
5. The Impeachment Process Will Resume in 2020 With a Senate Trial, but Details of How It Will Work Have Not Been Finalized
The House vote sends the impeachment process to the U.S. Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans are in control. The Senate trial will begin in early 2020, but details of how it will unfold have not been finalized. After a trial, it would take a 2/3 majority of the Senate to remove Trump from office. That would put Vice President Mike Pence into power. But Republicans control the Senate by a 53 to 47 majority. There are also two independents who typically vote with the Democrats. To reach the needed vote total, Democrats would need 20 Republicans to join them and the independents.
McConnell told NPR before the impeachment vote, “I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There’s not anything judicial about it. The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democrats sent McConnell a letter asking for similar rules that were used during the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, which were reached on a bipartisan basis. Schumer also asked for witnesses that include Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and his former national security adviser, John Bolton. Neither testified before the House.
“I am allowed to ask for votes. I will ask during the impeachment proceeding for a vote on whether Mulvaney should testify, and whether Bolton should testify,” Schumer said on MSNBC.
One possible wrench emerged late in the day on Wednesday, as some Democrats pushed for Pelosi to hold back on transmitting the articles of impeachment to McConnell and the Senate as leverage, CNN reported. It was not clear if that strategy was actually being considered.
“We’re not sending it tonight,” Pelosi said. She said they would wait for clarity from McConnell. Pelosi said they want a “fair trial,” and will work with the chairman of the House committees to determine when they will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. She said it is up to the Senate to first set the rules.
Grisham said, “The President is confident the Senate will restore regular order, fairness, and due process, all of which were ignored in the House proceedings. He is prepared for the next steps and confident that he will be fully exonerated. President Trump will continue to work tirelessly to address the needs and priorities of the American people, as he has since the day he took office.”