President Donald J. Trump along the colonnade at the White House on Tuesday, Dec 17, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – A majority of the House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to impeach President Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors. The vote marked only the third time in American history that the full chamber has approved articles of impeachment against a president.
The sharply partisan vote represented the culmination of a sprawling three-month investigation that was conducted by multiple committees in the Democratic-controlled House, and which was opposed at every turn by the White House and congressional Republicans.
Wednesday’s vote fell cleanly along party lines, but two Democrats broke ranks and voted against impeaching the president.
Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn., represents a district that Trump won easily in 2016, and had faced pressure for months to oppose the impeachment. The other ‘no’ vote came from New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who is expected to switch parties and join the Republican caucus.
Van Drew and Peterson had both consistently voted against allowing the impeachment probe to move forward in procedural votes this fall.
Ultimately, Trump was impeached on two specific charges: The first was that he abused his power by freezing U.S. foreign aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Ukraine’s president into launching investigations into Trump’s domestic political opponents. According to the first article of impeachment, Trump’s actions towards Ukraine amounted to having used his office to solicit “the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.”
Through his conduct, the article states that Trump “demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.”
The second article of impeachment charges Trump with obstruction of Congress, for demanding that top level staffers at the White House defy the lawfully issued subpoenas they received from the House Intelligence Committee, compelling them to testify in the impeachment probe.
“President Trump thus interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives,” the article states, and he “assumed to himself functions and judgments” that are the constitutional purview of the legislative branch, and specifically of the House.
Despite the White House’s blanket directive to aides this fall not to testify, more than a dozen current and former national security officials, diplomats and career public servants ignored the president’s instructions and opted to give testimony under oath.
Collectively, the officials described how Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani engaged in a monthslong effort for force Ukraine to agree to actions that ran contrary to U.S. national security priorities. Instead of working in the best interests of the United States, the officials said, Trump’s lieutenants were dispatched around the world to carry out what a top Russia expert at the White House called, “a domestic political errand” on the president’s own behalf.
A bitter defeat
Throughout the entire impeachment inquiry process, Trump has constantly assailed and insulted the lawmakers leading the probe, the reporters covering it, and the government employees testifying in it. Trump has insisted that a July 25 phone call he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which he asked for the investigations as “a favor,” was “perfect,” and that the entire impeachment effort is part of a personal vendetta against him and a desire by Democrats to overthrow his 2016 election.
On Tuesday, Trump wrote a furious letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., calling his impeachment “an illegal, partisan attempted coup.”
“You are the ones interfering in America’s elections,” Trump wrote in the six page long screed. “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,” wrote the president.
But it is partly because Trump was so furious, and was so personally undone by the impeachment, that Wednesday’s vote marked such a bitter defeat. For a president obsessed with winning, the prospect of being forever part of the group of three U.S. presidents in the country’s history who have been impeached likely represents a singular professional and personal humiliation.
As the Democratic-majority House voted on Wednesday to deal Trump the sharpest blow of his political life, the president was a thousand miles away — literally. Trump spent Wednesday evening in the swing state of Michigan, where he held a raucous campaign rally in Battle Creek before a crowd of 10,000 adoring supporters.
One of the many ways that Trump differs from most of his predecessors is that he loves campaigning. For Trump, speaking off the cuff for two hours at a massive campaign rally is one of the best perks of being president.
That these two events took place simultaneously on Wednesday was remarkable.
Together, the rally in Michigan and the impeachment vote in Washington amounted to a perfect split screen image of the Trump presidency:
While one half of America watched the House vote to remove the president from office because he posed a danger to the nation’s security, the other half turned on Fox News Channel, where Trump’s campaign rally was being carried live.
“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” Trump said in Michigan, while the House was voting in Washington. “The country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong.”
This is a developing story; please check back for updates.