Washington: Donald Trump has become the third President in US history to be impeached as the House of Representatives formally charged him with abuse of power and obstructing the Congress, setting up a Senate trial next year that will decide whether he remains in office after three tumultuous years.
The House on Wednesday night impeached President Trump on two counts – abuse of power and obstructing the Congress. The first article of impeachment, abuse of power, was on party lines with 230 to 197 votes. The second article of impeachment, obstruction to the Congress, was voted 229-198 votes.
The White House described the impeachment as one of the “most shameful” political episodes in the history of the US. All four Democratic Indian-American members of the House of Representatives voted for Trump’s impeachment.
The impeachment now moves to the Senate where the Supreme Court Chief Justice would preside over the trial. No President in the 243-year-long US history has been removed from office by impeachment. It would require a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate, meaning at least 20 Republicans would have to join Democrats in voting against Trump.
Given that the ruling Republicans have majority in the 100-member Senate, political analysts say that impeachment is likely to fail and the Democrats might not be able to unseat Trump from the Oval Office.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would hold an impeachment trial early next year. Democrats need two-third majority in the Senate to convict Trump.
“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,” Democratic leader and House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in her remarks on the floor of the House.
“There is a rush-job … because they want to influence the 2020 elections,” Republcian Jim Sensenbrenner said. “I just left the House floor and voted to impeach President Trump. Here are the facts: President Trump abused his power. He threatened our democracy and obstructed Congress. He compromised our election and national security,” Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said in an e-mail to his supporters.
Trump, who is seeking another four-year term in the November 2020 Presidential election, has denied wrongdoing and called the impeachment inquiry, launched by House Speaker Pelosi in September, a “witch hunt”.
In his first reaction on Wednesday’s impeachment, Trump said the Democrats were trying to impeach him from day one. “They’ve been trying to impeach me from day one. 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 said in his address to a ‘Keep America Great’ rally in Michigan.
“Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame,” Trump said.
He then slammed his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton. Loud “Lock Her Up!” chant came from the crowd after he mocked her stamina.
“They shouldn’t even be able to have an impeachment. If we were Democrats, they would have been in jail two years ago. It’s a disgrace,” he said.
Today marks the culmination in the House of one of the “most shameful” political episodes in the history of our nation, said White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
“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,” she said.
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.
She said 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, she said.
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,” she said.
“President Trump abused his power, violated his oath of office, and betrayed our nation. This is a solemn moment for our country. But in the United States of America, no one is above the law not even the President,” Trump’s political rival Joe Biden said in a tweet.