Washington: Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, charging the unfazed US President with abuse of power and obstructing Congress, making him the third president to face the ignominy of a bruising Senate trial, months before he stands for re-election.
After some 11 hours of fierce arguments between Opposition Democrats and the ruling Republicans over Trump’s conduct with his Ukrainian counterpart, lawmakers voted almost entirely along party lines to impeach the 73-year-old President, who appeared defiant.
The first article of impeachment, abuse of power, was on party lines with 230 to 197 votes. The second article of impeachment, obstruction to Congress, was passed by 229-198 votes.
Trump now joins a small club of presidents who have been impeached by the House for “high crimes and misdemeanours” cited in the Constitution: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Richard Nixon quit in 1974 before impeachment proceedings against him could reach the House floor.
In his first reaction on the impeachment, Trump said the Democrats were trying to impeach him from day one.
“After three years of sinister witch hunts, hoaxes, scams, the House Democrats are trying to nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans,” he said at a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan.
“While we’re creating jobs and fighting for Michigan, the radical left in Congress is consumed with envy and hatred and rage, you see what’s going on,” Trump told his cheering supporters.
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 Republican-controlled 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 Republicans have majority in the Senate, analysts say that the Democrats may not be able to unseat Trump from the White House ahead of the 2020 presidential polls.
Trump has become the third president in US history to face trial in the Senate, a proceeding that will determine whether he is removed from office less than one year before he stands for re-election, The Washington Post noted.
House Speaker and top Democrat Nancy Pelosi defended her role in impeaching 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,” 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 potential political rival in the 2020 polls, Joe Biden said in a tweet.
Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said, “I just left the House floor and voted to impeach President Trump. Here are the facts: President Trump abused his power.
Trump, who is seeking another four-year term in the November 2020 presidential election, has denied wrongdoing and called the impeachment inquiry, launched by Pelosi in September, a “witch hunt”.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said he would hold an impeachment trial early next year.
The impeachment process was launched after an anonymous whistleblower complained to Congress in September about a July phone call by Trump to his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
In the July phone call to Zelensky, Trump appeared to tie US military assistance to Ukraine launching investigations which could help him politically.
In return for those investigations, Democrats say Trump offered two bargaining chips – US $400 million of military aid that had already been allocated by Congress, and a White House meeting for President Zelensky.