WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has become the third president in US history to be impeached after the House of Representatives voted Wednesday on two charges against him — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The House passed the first charge, accusing Trump of abusing the power of his office, Wednesday evening on a 230–197 vote. The House then passed the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, on a 229–198 vote.
The abuse of power article alleges that Trump pressured Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election by withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid unless the country’s president announced an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and his family.
The obstruction of Congress article is tied to Trump directing executive branch agencies and officials not to comply with congressional subpoenas. Several administration officials subsequently refused to testify during impeachment proceedings.
Two Democrats voted against impeaching Trump, Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who plans to leave the Democratic Party in the coming days and become a Republican after Trump personally appealed to him. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine, split his vote, voting for the article on abuse of power and against the article on obstruction of Congress. No Republicans voted in favor of impeachment, but Rep. Justin Amash — an independent who left the Republican Party earlier this year after saying Trump had committed “impeachable conduct” — voted with Democrats.
Before the votes began Wednesday evening, Rep. Adam Schiff, who as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee oversaw much of the House's impeachment investigation, said, "What is at risk here is the very idea of America."
"If you say the president may refuse to comply, may refuse lawful process, may coerce an ally, may cheat in an election because he's the president of our party, you do not uphold our Constitution. You do not uphold your oath of office," Schiff added. "Well, I will tell you this. I will uphold mine. I will vote to impeach Donald Trump."
Trump called the impeachment an “ASSAULT ON AMERICA” in an all-caps tweet earlier in the day Wednesday. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said earlier Wednesday Trump would be “working all day,” but would be briefed by staff on the House’s actions “and could catch some of the proceedings between meetings.” At the time of the vote, Trump was speaking at a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan — in Amash's congressional district.
"Every single Republican voted for us. ... The Republican party has never been so affronted but they have never been so united as they are right now," Trump said at the rally.
"Think of it: Three Democrats went over to our side," he said, seeming to include Golden who voted to impeach Trump, but not on both counts.
Amash told BuzzFeed News ahead of the vote that he believed impeachment was “bipartisan" thanks to his vote, adding, "but there are people who do say bipartisan means you have to be in one of the parties, but I’m not a Democrat and I’m not a Republican.”
The Senate will hold a trial on whether to convict Trump of the two articles of impeachment and remove him from office, likely in January. The president is widely expected to be acquitted by the Republican majority, with some senators already calling the outcome a foregone conclusion.
But House Democrats said Wednesday it was important to impeach the president, regardless of what the Senate does, to prevent interference in the 2020 election and send a message to Trump and future presidents. “The President cannot be given the perception that Congress doesn't have the courage to do what the Constitution requires and protect the balance of power and let the president know that there are boundaries,” Rep. Al Green told BuzzFeed News ahead of the vote.
There are many unresolved questions about what the Senate trial will look like. Democrats and Republicans have not yet reached an agreement on key questions such as whether witnesses will be called to testify.
The House will pick a group of impeachment managers, who will make the case before the Senate that Trump should be removed from office. White House lawyers will serve as defense counsel. Senators play the role of jury while Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will oversee the trial as judge.
A two-thirds vote is required to convict, which would mean 20 Republicans would need to get onboard. So far not one Republican senator has signaled they will vote to convict Trump.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not appoint House managers or send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until she sees the proposed rules for a Senate trial, she said Wednesday night following the impeachment vote.
The Senate is required to begin its trial once the speaker selects impeachment managers, a high-profile group of lawmakers who will make the House’s case to the Senate during its trial.
Pelosi has refused to release any official timeline moving forward, and said at a press conference just off the House floor that withholding the articles has “not been part of our conversation."
But, she added, “We’re not sending [the articles] tonight, it’s difficult to determine who the managers will be until we see the arena in which we will be participating."
Some House Democrats have reportedly been pushing for her to delay the trial until McConnell agrees to terms for the trial that Democrats believe are fair. Though she would not say exactly what she believed the trial should look like, Pelosi condemned recent remarks McConnell made saying he could not be an impartial juror.
Pelosi said leading up to the vote that it was a somber day and gave her Democratic colleagues a look when some members started to clap after the first article passed Wednesday night.
While more than half of the Democratic caucus in the House came out in support of an impeachment inquiry before the Ukraine saga began to unravel, it was not until news broke in September of a whistleblower report related to a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the party almost uniformly endorsed a formal investigation.
Pelosi first announced the House would begin an impeachment inquiry in late September, amid reports that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate Biden and his family as well as the origins of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The White House released a record of the call between the two leaders, which showed Trump asking Zelensky for a “favor,” saying that it “would be great” if Zelensky could also look into unsubstantiated allegations that Biden used his position to influence a Ukrainian investigation into his son Hunter.
The full story became clear over the course of a series of public hearings held by the House Intelligence Committee last month, where current and former State Department officials Marie Yovanaovitch, Lt. Col. Vindman, Gordon Sondland, and Fiona Hill, among others, testified that they believed Trump withheld aid money and a White House visit until investigations into the Bidens were announced publicly.
Republicans have repeatedly argued Trump did nothing wrong, though the president has largely admitted to nearly everything outlined in the whistleblower report. He denies the aid holdup was connected to the investigations he requested, though a series of witnesses testified that it was.
Republicans also attacked the impeachment process. During the first phase, when witnesses testified in closed-door hearings, Republicans accused Democrats of creating a “Soviet-style impeachment chamber.”
On Oct. 23, a group of Republican members stormed the committee room in protest. The disruption, led by staunch Trump supporter Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, lasted about four and a half hours, stalling a scheduled interview with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper.
Rep. Steve Scalise, a member of House Republican leadership, said Republicans reached out to Democrats before the votes to try to convince them to vote no. "[Georgia Rep.] Drew [Ferguson] and I worked really hard to make sure that members had as much information as possible, as quickly as possible," Scalise said.
Scalise accused Democrats of working in secret — even though Republicans on the three committees involved in the impeachment inquiry had access to the closed-door depositions and later held public impeachment hearings.
"Ultimately, when the facts came out, it showed the president didn't do anything wrong, and sticking with the facts is really what we worked on the most, and that's what got not only no Republicans to vote for impeachment, but ultimately a number of Democrats to vote against impeachment as well," Scalise said.
Asked if he had to twist any arms on the Republican side, Scalise said, "On any vote of consequence, there are going to be members that are not sure which way they're going to vote for various reasons and so we talked to them individually and get them the facts — that's really the main job.”
Scalise said he did talk to Florida Rep. Francis Rooney, a Republican who had been publicly wavering on impeachment and was the party’s strongest critic of Trump on the issue. For weeks leading up to the impeachment vote, Rooney — who announced on Oct. 19 that he would not run for reelection next year — criticized Trump’s administration, arguing that the president’s pressure campaign in Ukraine was “quite troubling.”
After Democrats began their formal impeachment inquiry into Trump, Rooney was one of a rare group of Republicans who said they’d consider the evidence rather than blindly exonerating the president.
"I'm a business guy, okay? I'm used to being open to all points of view — and making the best decision I can. But there's a lot of water still to flow down under the bridge on this thing,” he told reporters in October.
But Rooney ultimately voted with the rest of Republicans against impeachment.
"We've talked for a long time. I've got a longtime relationship with him and we talk about a lot of things,” Scalise said of Rooney.
Emma Loop contributed reporting to this story.