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House votes to impeach President Trump
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President Donald Trump leaves the White House for a campaign trip to Battle Creek, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday night, becoming only the third American chief executive to be formally charged under the Constitution’s ultimate remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors.

The historic vote split along party lines, much the way it has divided the nation, over a charge that the 45th president abused the power of his office by enlisting a foreign government to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election. The House then approved a second charge, that he obstructed Congress in its investigation.

The articles of impeachment, the political equivalent of an indictment, now go to the Senate for trial. If Trump is acquitted by the Republican-led chamber, as expected, he still would have to run for re-election carrying the enduring stain of impeachment on his purposely disruptive presidency.

He saw the blame flowing the other direction. He told a political rally in Michigan that “crazy Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame.”

The votes were 230 for impeachment and 197 against on the first count, 229-198 on the second.

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 stood by their party’s leader, who has frequently tested the bounds of civic norms. Trump called the whole affair a “witch hunt,” a “hoax” and a “sham,” and sometimes all three.

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House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., speaks as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (House Television via AP)

GOP Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia said of the Democrats: “You’ve been wanting to do this ever since the gentleman was elected.”

Other Georgia representatives weighed in as well.

Rep. Tom Graves said: “In 2016, the American people voted to elect Donald Trump the President of the United States. But, for the last three years, politicians in Washington have been working to overturn the will of voters. This partisan process has only pushed Congress, and our country, further down a path of division. I am disappointed in this unnecessary outcome. Our country and our president deserve better.” 

And Rep. Jody Hice said, “They’ve based their indictment of the president on presumption, hearsay, and policy disagreements, none of which builds a convincing or compelling case for removing him from office.”

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, gaveled both votes closed, risking  her majority and speakership to follow the effort to its House conclusion.

“Today we are here to defend democracy for the people,” she said earlier during floor debate.

Trump, who began Wednesday tweeting his anger at the proceedings, pumped his fist before an evening rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, boasting of “tremendous support” in the Republican Party and saying, “By the way it doesn’t feel like I’m being impeached.”

No Republicans voted for impeachment, and Democrats had only slight defections on their side. Voting was conducted manually with ballots, to mark the moment.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. - photo by Associated Press

What Pelosi called a sad and solemn moment for the country, coming in the first year that Democrats swept control of the House, unfolded in a caustic daylong session that showcased the nation’s divisions — not only along party lines, but also by region, race and culture. 

The House impeachment resolution  laid out in stark terms the two articles of impeachment against Trump stemming from his July phone call when he asked the Ukraine president for a “favor” — to announce it was investigating Democrats ahead of the 2020 election. He also pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Joe Biden, the former vice president and 2020 White House contender. 

At the time, Zelenskiy, a young comedian newly elected to politics, was seeking a coveted White House visit to show backing from the U.S. ally as it confronts a hostile Russia at its border. He was also counting on $391 million in military aid already approved by Congress. The White House delayed the funds, but Trump eventually released the money.

Narrow in scope but broad in its charge, the resolution said the president “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections,” and then obstructed Congress’ oversight like “no president” in U.S. history.

“President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” it said.

Republicans argued that Democrats are impeaching Trump because they can’t beat him in 2020.

“This vote is about one thing, and one thing only: They hate this president,” said Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “They want to take away my vote and throw it in the trash.”

“We face this horror because of this map,” said Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Ala., before a poster of red and blue states. “They call this Republican map flyover country, they call us deplorables, they fear our faith, they fear our strength, they fear our unity, they fear our vote, and they fear our president.”

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