WASHINGTON – Donald Trump on Wednesday became the third US president to be impeached as the House of Representatives formally charged him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in a historic step that will inflame partisan tensions across a deeply divided America.
The Democratic-led House’s passage of two articles of impeachment on a mostly party-line vote sets the stage for a trial next month in the Republican-controlled Senate – friendlier terrain for Trump – on whether to convict and remove him from office.
The abuse of power article was passed on a 230-197 vote. The obstruction article was passed by 229-198.
No president in the 243-year history of the United States has been removed from office by impeachment. That 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 – and none have indicated they will.
Trump, who is seeking another four-year term in the November 2020 presidential election, has called the impeachment drive an “attempted coup” by Democrats seeking to nullify his 2016 election victory. The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, has predicted there is “no chance” his chamber will remove Trump when it holds its trial.
The first of the articles accused Trump, 73, of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
The second article accuses Trump of obstruction of Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to comply with lawful House subpoenas for testimony and documents related to impeachment.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the impeachment inquiry, launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in September, a “witch hunt”.
During a daylong debate before the vote, Pelosi read the US Pledge of Allegiance and said: “We are here to defend democracy for the people.”
“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,” Pelosi said.
As the debate unfolded, Trump on Twitter called the proceedings “AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA” and on his party. On the House floor, Republicans accused Democrats of seeking to use an unfair, rigged process to nullify the 2016 election.