Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 February 2020

US Congress votes to impeach President Donald Trump in historic day

The president joins Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton as the only American leaders in history to receive such a rebuke

The US House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for abuse of power, and for obstructing Congress, making him only the third American leader in history to receive such a rebuke.

Mr Trump joins Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 as the only American leaders to face impeachment.

House Democrats brought two impeachment articles against the president.

The first was on abuse of power and the second was on obstruction of Congress for blocking testimony and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas.

The House voted in favour of the first article by 230 to 197 votes. Democrats needed 216 votes for impeachment to pass the resolution.

Although two Democrats voted against the resolution, none of the Republicans voted to impeach the president.

The second article was voted for by 229 to 198 votes.

epa08080979 US President Donald J. Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House after returning from a rally in Michigan, in Washington, DC, USA, 19 December 2019. The US House of Representatives voted to impeach US President Donald J. Trump on 18 December for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, making him the third US president in history to be impeached. The impeachment leads to a trial in the US Senate, where a two-thirds vote of approval will be necessary in order to remove Trump as president. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS / POOL
US President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House after returning from a rally in Michigan, in Washington, DC, USA, 19 December 2019. EPA

Democratic presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, broke with her party and voted present on both counts.

Independent Congressman Justin Amash, who is of Arab-American descent, was expected to vote with the Democrats to impeach Mr Trump. Mr Amash left the Republicans last July.

As the votes were being cast on Wednesday evening, Mr Trump was in Michigan at a rally at Battlecreek, hoping he could use the impeachment proceedings to galvanise support for his 2020 presidential campaign.

At the rally, called the vote "an eternal mark of shame" on the Democrats.

The impeachment inquiry was launched on September 24 over Mr Trump’s controversial call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the summer.

On the call, the US president urged Mr Zelenskiy to announce investigations into former vice president Joe Biden.

Mr Biden is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and could face Mr Trump in next year's election.

The president’s attempt alarmed whistle-blowers in his administration, who saw it as an abuse of power that invited foreign interference in US elections.

Last week, after a House investigation, the Democrats announced they would be charging Mr Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations.

The House session opened at 9am local time on Wednesday but was expected to last throughout the evening as Republicans used objection votes to prolong it.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff opened the second half of the debate on Wednesday evening, summarising the allegations against the president, before saying that “he tried to cheat and he got caught".

“Donald J Trump sacrificed our national security in an effort to cheat in the next election,” Mr Schiff said.

“And for that, and his continued efforts to seek foreign interference in our elections, he must be impeached.”

He accused Mr Trump's conduct on the call with the Ukrainian president as him getting “a chance to cheat in the next election.”

Mr Trump was in the White House watching House session on his impeachment, but was expected to be in Michigan at a campaign rally at 7pm, the time of the vote.

He tweeted and retweeted supporters at least 40 times before the House voted on the rules to impeach him.

“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG!” he said in a tweet.

“A terrible thing. read the transcripts. This should never happen to another president again. Say a PRAYER!”

Another read: "SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!"

Mr Trump’s defiance was also evident in a six-page letter he sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, calling the process unconstitutional.

"You have developed a full-fledged case of what many in the media call Trump Derangement Syndrome and sadly, you will never get over it,” he wrote.

Ms Pelosi called the letter “ridiculous” and “really sick.” She then tweeted a live-streamed video of the session and accused Mr Trump of abusing his powers.

In a further humiliation of the president, footage from a 2008 CNN interview that was re-shared on Wednesday showed Mr Trump saying he was "really impressed" with Ms Pelosi and advocating the impeachment of former Republican President George W Bush over his decision to invade Iraq.

Mr Trump's impeachment vote in the House will lead to a trial in the US Senate next month where Republicans hold majority.

That has so far been reassuring for Mr Trump, as his party has dismissed calls to remove him from office. For Mr Trump to be forced to leave office, the Senate will need 20 Republicans to withdraw their support for the president and defect to convict him.

Senate judiciary committee chairman Lindsey Graham said on Wednesday that he wanted Mr Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to testify before the panel.

But Mr Graham did not want Mr Giuliani to testify about corruption involving the president.

Instead, he wanted him to testify on the allegations that Mr Biden used his position as vice president to secure a lucrative position for his son on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

“I’m going to be reaching out to Rudy, writing a letter saying, 'You’re welcome to come to this committee if you have something you’d like to share about corruption',” Mr Graham said.

The US public was deeply divided around the process on which “47 per cent of Americans say they support impeachment and 47 percent are opposed”, according to opinion poll analysis website Five Thirty Eight.

Election polls show a close contest between Mr Trump and the Democratic nominees, 11 months before the vote in November.

Updated: December 19, 2019 11:26 AM

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