Trump impeached: House votes for 3rd time in U.S. history to impose Constitution’s ultimate sanction

All nine Democratic members of Pennsylvania’s House delegation were ‘yes’ votes heading into Wednesday’s historic debate

 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday night, making him the third president in American history to held accountable under the U.S. Constitution’s ultimate sanction. 

Trump was impeached on a largely party-line vote on charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress. The charges surround allegations that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival in an effort to interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election. 

The voting started shortly after 8:30 p.m., capping eight hours of often bitter debate that saw Republicans largely dismiss impeachment as a partisan exercise undertaken by a Democratic majority bent on undoing the result of the 2016 election. Democrats countered that they were exercising their constitutional obligation to hold Trump accountable for his improper acts.

The House voted 230-197 to approve the first article, abuse of power, MSNBC reported shortly after 9 p.m. The second article, abuse of power, passed on a vote of 229-198, according to MSNBC. All nine Democratic members of Pennsylvania’s U.S. House delegation were “yes” votes heading into Wednesday’s debate. That vote held in the final roll call, according to a New York Times tally.

“The founders’ great fear of a rogue or corrupt president is the very reason why they enshrined impeachment in the Constitution,” U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “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.”

What Pa’s U.S. House delegation said about Wednesday’s impeachment vote

Only two other presidents had previously been impeached by the House: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both of those presidents were acquitted by the Senate. 

Trump also appears to be headed for acquittal in the GOP-led Senate. A trial, in which House Democrats will argue their case before the upper chamber of Congress, is expected to begin next month. 

Some senators have been cautious about stating whether they’ll vote to remove Trump from office, arguing that they’ll be jurors in the trial and don’t want to prejudge the outcome. But not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. 

McConnell told reporters Tuesday that he is “not at all impartial” on impeachment and that it is a “political process.”

As lawmakers prepared to vote on Wednesday, Trump wrote on Twitter: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!”

Trump held a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on Wednesday night, where he brushed aside the historic act by the House.

“By the way, it doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached, the country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like never before,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post.

Democrats, including some in districts won by Trump in 2016, streamed onto the House floor during the day-long debate on Wednesday to make their case for impeachment. 

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., said she was choosing what is right and “not what is politically expedient.” She said she had the “resolve to stand with the president at the White House last week and resolve to stand up to the president in this House today. I ask my colleagues to have the same strength and the same resolve.” 

Luria is among 31 Democrats in districts that Trump carried in 2016. 

Democratic rebukes

Other Democrats delivered sharper rebukes of the president, arguing that failing to impeach Trump would set a precedent that other presidents could invite foreign interference in U.S. elections. 

“When is it ever right for a president to coerce a foreign power to interfere in our elections? When is it ever right for a president to intimidate a foreign leader into announcing false investigations into a political rival?,” asked U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “When is it ever right for that president to withhold congressionally appropriated aid to that country at the expense of its national security and our very own, and when is it ever right for a president to block a co-equal branch of government for investigating the scheme to cheat an election? The answer, of course, is never.” 

Dean’s Democratic counterpart on the Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, added that, “It’s with profound sadness that I stand here today in support of these articles of impeachment. President Trump’s behavior is exactly what our founders feared most.”

Added U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-2nd Disrtrict: “The heart of the matter is this: will members of this House have the courage to choose fidelity to the Constitution over loyalty to their political party? For the sake of our Constitution and our country, for Americans today and tomorrow, I urge all members to summon the courage to uphold the rule of law and vote yes.” 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said that in his nearly 40 years in the House under six presidential administrations, he never expected to “encounter such an obvious wrongdoing by a president of the United States. Nor did I expect to witness such a craven rationalization of presidential actions which have put our national security at risk, undermined the integrity of our elections and defied the constitutional authority of the Congress to conduct oversight.” 

The Republican defense

Republicans, meanwhile, spent the debate accusing their Democratic colleagues of pursuing a political vendetta against the president, pointing frequently to statements Democrats had made supporting impeachment before the Ukraine investigation was launched. 

“Why do we keep calling this a solemn occasion, when you’ve been wanting to do this ever since [Trump]  was elected?” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. 

U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District, dismissed the Democrats’ impeachment drive as a “political hit job.”

“The Democrats are caving to their far-left radical base and they’re using the thoughts and feelings and assumptions of some unnamed bureaucrats rather than relying on facts and law to impeach a duly elected president,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-12th District, the newest member of Pennsylvania’s House delegation, said Wednesday’s vote would “forever be remembered as a stain on our Republic.” Keller closed with an admonition from the Christian gospel, saying of his Democratic colleagues, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, who is one of the nation’s most heavily targeted incumbents in 2020, called the Democrats’ impeachment push “bitterly and nakedly partisan.”

“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have made a mockery of this process and this government,” Perry said. “They despise the president and are themselves abusing the power of this office, all to settle the political score they were unable to resolve at the ballot box.” 

Democrats vehemently denied GOP attacks that they were pursuing impeachment because they hate Trump’s policies or dislike him personally. 

“I don’t hate the president, but I love my country and I have no other choice,” said U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., “Voting for these articles of impeach is the only moral course of action, the only way to honor our oath of office. I have no doubt that the votes I cast today will stand the test of time.” 

One independent congressman, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, sided with Democrats to vote for both articles of impeachment. Amash, who helped found the conservative House Freedom Caucus, left the GOP earlier this year after calling for Trump’s impeachment. 

Trump’s “actions reflect precisely the type of conduct the framers of the Constitution intended to remedy through the power of impeachment, and it is our duty to impeach him,” Amash said Wednesday on the House floor. 

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.