House to vote on two articles of impeachment that accuse Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Wednesday’s landmark votes on impeachment come after a more than two-month inquiry by House Democrats, who accuse the president of pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation into the president’s political rival and former vice president, Joe Biden, who is also a frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential race.
They also charge that the president obstructed their investigation by refusing to comply with subpoenas and directing members of his administration to do the same.
The votes made Trump only the third president in United States history to be impeached and set the stage for a likely trial in the Republican-led Senate in January.
No president has ever been removed from office via the impeachment process set out in the Constitution, and Republican senators have given little indication of changing that.
As the impeachment aftermath unfolds, here are all the latest updates as of Friday, December 20:
Trump on Friday afternoon continued to rail against Christian Today, an evangelical magazine that in an editorial called for his removal.
“I guess the magazine, “Christianity Today,” is looking for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or those of the socialist/communist bent, to guard their religion. How about Sleepy Joe? The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!” he tweeted, without providing evidence.
I guess the magazine, “Christianity Today,” is looking for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or those of the socialist/communist bent, to guard their religion. How about Sleepy Joe? The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2019
Trump has been invited to deliver the State of the Union to a joint session of Congress on February 4, one day after the first caucuses of the 2020 presidential primary season.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to the president on Friday formally inviting him to deliver the address at the US Capitol.
“In the spirit of respecting our Constitution, I invite you to deliver your State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress,” Pelosi wrote.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Trump has accepted the date proposed by the speaker.
Pelosi extended the invitation to Trump to make the annual address just two days after the House adopted two articles of impeachment against Trump.
A date for the Senate impeachment trial has not yet been set.
While defending Trump, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said the president should want a “real” impeachment trial
“It’s important for the history … it’s important for the people that voted for President Trump, they believe in him,” Bannon told Fox News.
“He didn’t do anything wrong,” he said, adding that Trump will be “exonerated by the Senate in front of the American people and the world”.
Senate leaders are currently at an impasse over what a trial will look like.
Speaking to the Associated Press, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said no matter what the Senate does, Trump “will be impeached forever”.
“He’s impeached forever because he violated our Constitution,” she said.
“If I did nothing else, he saw the power of the gavel there,” Pelosi added. “And it wasn’t me, it was all of our members making their own decision.”
Reacting to an editorial in a leading evangelical magazine article, Trump said he has “done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close.”
Christianity Today, founded by the late Billy Graham, published an editorial on Thursday calling for TRump’s removal from office.
Trump pushed back on Twitter: “A far left magazine, or very ‘progressive’, as some would call it, which has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years, Christianity Today, knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President. No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close. You’ll not get anything from those Dems on stage. I won’t be reading ET again!”
….have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President. No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close. You’ll not get anything from those Dems on stage. I won’t be reading ET again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2019
The leading evangelical magazine in the US called for Trump to get the boot from office, in an editorial published Thursday.
Citing precedent that Christianity Today set when it supported the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton two decades ago, editor Mark Galli wrote that Trump had lost the moral authority to lead the country.
“We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath,” Galli wrote in the editorial, offering the judgement on the heels of the House’s vote Wednesday night to impeach the chief executive.
White evangelicals were the bedrock of Trump’s victory in 2016, turning out in force for the Republican. Trump garnered about 80 per cent of the white evangelical vote, according to exit polls.
“To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve,” the editorial urged. “Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency.”
Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who is also vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, defended voting “present” on Wednesday’s impeachment articles.
“So my stance [on Wednesday], my vote, was opting out of this zero-sum game mindset and back into one of negotiation and compromise,” she said. “We’re stuck right now on this terrible scenario where everyone is trying to exact maximum hurt from their opponent for a quote, unquote win. My present vote was not passive; it was an active protest against the terrible fallout of this zero-sum mindset that the two opposing political parties have trapped America in. There’s no winning here. Everyone is losing.”
US senators who control the fate of Trump left Washington, DC, for a holiday break on Friday with no agreement over how they will handle the Senate trial to consider his impeachment charges in January.
The drive by the Democratic-led House of Representatives to impeach Trump was the top news story of 2019, according to The Associated Press’ annual poll.
Trump also figured in the second and third biggest stories of the year: the fallout over his immigration policies and the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into whether his election campaign coordinated with Russia.
But it was impeachment that was by far the top choice in the AP poll.
In the aftermath of Wednesday’s impeachment, all seven Democrat presidential candidates at the last 2019 presidential debate said the president must be defeated at the 2020 ballot box.
“We need to restore the integrity of the presidency,” said frontrunner Biden, who accused Trump of “dumbing down” the office “beyond what I even thought he would do”.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is second in the standings, blasted Trump as “running the most corrupt administration in the modern history of this country”.
Fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren added that the president ignores the poor, to do “everything he can for the wealthy and the well-connected”.
US Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to consider over the upcoming holiday recess allowing witnesses to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial, Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said.
Following a private meeting of the Democratic and Republican leaders, Goodman said Schumer “made clear to Senator McConnell that the witnesses and documents are necessary to ensure a fair trial in the Senate.”
Seven Democratic candidates are set to face off Thursday night in the last debate of the year.
The debate comes just a day after Trump was impeached, and the topic is expected to be front and centre.
Most Democratic contenders have previously said they supported impeachment, labelling Trump “the most corrupt president in history”.
The House impeachment votes set up a likely January trial in the Republican-led Senate, where the three senators on Thursday’s debate stage will act as jurors.
“For these senators who are running, it’s significant because they’re going to become players of the story now, they’re no longer watching it,” said Joel Rubin, a former deputy assistant secretary of state who served under former President Barack Obama.
“I’m sure we will have some commentary, [not just] about Donald Trump and why he was impeached, but also about [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and about process and about the Constitution and about what they’re going to do because they’re all going to make statements at a certain point from the Senate floor,” he added.
Expected party-switcher Representative Jeff Van Drew was scheduled to meet Trump at the White House on Thursday, one day after the New Jersey congressman broke with Democrats to vote against the president’s impeachment.
A White House official confirmed that Trump would meet with Van Drew, who told his staff over the weekend that he would become a Republican. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal discussions.
The Senate voted to advance a $1.4-trillion government spending package in a last, bipartisan burst of legislating before bolting for the holidays from a Capitol that is toxic with impeachment.
The 71-21 procedural vote is a likely prelude to an easy final set of votes later Thursday.
US Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, and Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat, were scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the process for a Senate trial in the impeachment of President Donald Trump, MSNBC reported.
Both had previously said they planned to meet one another soon to discuss next steps.
The day after the United States House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump played out much like the day before: with partisan jabs, name-calling and fighting over next steps.
The votes set up a likely trial in the Senate, but when a trial would take place and what it would look like remains a major point of contention between the parties.
Read more here.
Speaking to reporters on the day after Trump’s impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected criticism from Republicans, who have accused Democrats of being afraid to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
“Frankly, I don’t care what the Republicans say,” Pelosi said.
She said she was waiting to see “the process that is set forth in the Senate” before naming House managers who would act as prosecutors in the a trial.
She refused to say when she plans to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
The top Democrat in the Senate said he has proposed a “very reasonable structure” for a trial in the Senate.
Chuck Schumer has previously requested trial that would include four additional witnesses, but Senate Majority Mitch McConnell has appeared to reject that plan.
“Leader McConnell claimed that the impeachment of President Trump is illegitimate because the House voted along party lines,” Schumer said. “Forgive me, but House Democrats cannot be held responsible for the cravenness of the House Republican caucus and their blind fealty to the president.”
Schumer said he would meet “very soon” with McConnell to try to come to an agreement on the next steps.
Social media in the US was abuzz with reaction to the 45th US president’s impeachment.
I see President* Trump is in full panic tweetstorm mode this morning, huh? Oh yeah he TOTALLY doesn’t care about being impeached.
What a national embarrassment.#Impeached45
— Josh (@AcceleratorVM) December 19, 2019
— AllBlackLivesMatter🖤 (@CharXRenee) December 19, 2019
Nothing like waking up to see Impeachmus trending
— Mara McEwin (@maramcewin) December 19, 2019
The top Senate Republican is set to denounce the “unfair” House impeachment of Trump and reassure Trump and his supporters that “moments like this are why the United States Senate exists”.
Senator Mitch McConnell, in remarks prepared for a Thursday floor speech, accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being afraid to send “their shoddy work product to the Senate” after she threw uncertainty into the impeachment process by refusing to say when she would send two impeachment articles to the Senate for a trial.
In excerpts of the remarks, McConnell described Trump’s impeachment as “the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history”.
Trump spent some of Thursday morning retweeting his supporters and railing against Democrats.
“I got Impeached last night without one Republican vote being cast with the Do Nothing Dems on their continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history,” he tweeted. “Now the Do Nothing Party want to Do Nothing with the Articles & not deliver them to the Senate, but it’s Senate’s call!”
I got Impeached last night without one Republican vote being cast with the Do Nothing Dems on their continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history. Now the Do Nothing Party want to Do Nothing with the Articles & not deliver them to the Senate, but it’s Senate’s call!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2019
Although Trump is not expected to be acquitted in the Senate, questions remain about when a trial would take place.
Will Pelosi withhold the articles of impeachment? Will Senate Republicans agree with the Democrats requests for additional witnesses.
Get up to speed on what is expected next here.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed a marathon annual end-of-year news conference on Thursday in Moscow.
Among the issues he discussed was Trump’s impeachment.
“The party that lost the  election is continuing the fight by other means,” he said.
“[The impeachment bill] still needs to go through the Senate where Republicans, as far as I know, have a majority. It’s unlikely they will want to remove from power a representative of their party based on what are, in my opinion, completely fabricated reasons,” he added.
“The Democrats accused Trump of a plot with Russia, and then it emerged that there was no kind of plot. It could not be the basis of impeachment … “Then they thought up some kind of pressure on Ukraine.”
Read more here.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2019
Two Democrats voted against impeachment, and one voted against the obstruction of Congress article.
Jeff Van Drew, who reportedly said he would switch parties, and Collin Peterson voted against both articles of impeachment. Jared Golden voted in favour of abuse of power, but against obstruction of Congress.
See how all members voted here.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Twitter that he plans to speak impeachment on Thursday at 9:30am local time (14:30 GMT).
At 9:30am tomorrow morning, on the Senate floor, I will speak about House Democrats’ precedent-breaking impeachment of the President of the United States.
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) December 19, 2019
Minutes after the House impeached Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw the process into confusion by refusing to say when or whether she would send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial.
At a news conference held immediately after the vote, Pelosi said “we’ll see what happens” when asked if she would send the articles to the Senate. She said that House Democrats could not name impeachment managers – House prosecutors who make the case in a Senate trial – until they know more about how the Senate will conduct a trial.
Pelosi made the comments after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected a proposal earlier this week from Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to call several witnesses. The Republican-led Senate is expected to acquit Trump.
Asked if she could guarantee she would send the articles, she said: “That would have been our intention”, but that they will see what the Senate decides.
“We are not having that discussion, we have done what we set out to do,” she said.
Read more about what’s next here.
Trump’s campaign rally speech in Michigan on Wednesday night zigged and zagged through a variety of seemingly unrelated topics before he would veer back to address the topic at hand: The landmark vote in the House of Representatives to impeach him.
As the first votes were cast, Trump complained about “the crap” he has had to go through.
Just after the House passed two articles of impeachment against him, Trump said the vote showed the “‘deep hatred and disdain” Democrats have for voters.
Later in the rally, Trump read off the vote and noted that three Democrats crossed over to join Republicans in voting against impeachment.
The White House said it was confident the US Senate would exonerate Trump in a trial after the House voted to impeach him for abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
“Today marks the culmination in the House of one of the most shameful political episodes in the history of our nation. Without receiving a single Republican vote, and without providing any proof of wrongdoing, Democrats pushed illegitimate articles of impeachment against the president through the House of Representatives,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
“The president is confident the Senate will restore regular order, fairness, and due process, all of which were ignored in the House proceedings. He is prepared for the next steps and confident that he will be fully exonerated,” she said.
Former Vice President and 2020 candidate Joe Biden, who was at the centre of the inquiry, tweeted on Wednesday that it was a “solemn moment”.
“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,” Biden tweeted.
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.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 19, 2019
The House is adjourned, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to speak at a news
The House also voted to impeach Trump for Obstruction of Congress.
The 229 to 198 vote fell almost entirely along party lines. All of Trump‘s fellow Republicans opposed it, and all but three Democrats supported it.
Trump was impeached after the Democratic-led House passed the abuse of power article of impeachment on a largely party-line with a 230-197 vote. The House proceeded with a vote on the second article of impeachment charging Trump with obstruction of Congress.
House began voting on the first of two articles of impeachment against Trump. The first vote, scheduled to last 15 minutes, was on abuse of power. Once that concluded, the House held a five-minute vote on obstruction of Congress.
As voting continued, supporters of impeachment crossed the 216-vote threshold needed to secure a majority in the House.
As the House began voting on impeachment, Trump took the stage at a rally in Michigan.
“By the way, it doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” Trump said as he opened a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan.
“Tonight the House Democrats are trying to nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans,” he told the raucous crowd.
The day-long debate ahead of the landmark vote to impeach Trump came to a close and voting began.
Vice President Mike Pence addressed a large campaign rally in Michigan, where Trump was expected to make an appearance.
“They’re trying to run down this president because they can’t run against our record,” Pence said. “They know they can’t stop you from giving President Donald Trump four more years in the White House.”
But the crowd was growing restless as his appearance was delayed by more than 45 minutes.
“We want Trump,” the audience chanted.
The “Merry Christmas” rally held in the Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek, included two decorated Christmas trees set on the stage topped with Trump’s signature red heads bearing the “Keep America Great” slogan.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler accused Republican legislator Louie Gohmert of spouting Russian propaganda, sparking a heated clash on the House floor.
Gohmert said the impeachment inquiry aimed to “stop the investigation of the US Department of Justice and Ukraine into the corruption of Ukraine interference into the US election in 2016.”
Nadler, returning to the podium after Gohmert concluded his speech, came back to respond.
“I am deeply concerned that any member of the House would spout Russian propaganda on the floor of the House,” Nadler said.
Gohmert responded by yelling and jabbing his finger at Nadler, but his reaction was drowned out by Representative Diana DeGette, who banged the gavel and called for order.
Highlighting the Republican accusations that the Democratic-led Trump impeachment proceedings are politically motivated, veteran Republican Steve Scalise said: “Let’s talk about what this is really about. This is about a political vendetta.”
“This isn’t about some crime that he committed. It’s about fear that the might get re-elected,” Scalise said.
Number two House Democrat Steny Hoyer called on Republicans to show political courage and recognise the evidence against Trump.
“Damning evidence of the president’s high crimes has emerged. Nevertheless, Republicans have continued to defend the president,” Hoyer said.
“Party loyalty must have its limits. As evidence mounts daily, it’s become increasingly clear that the limits of partisanship have been reached.”
As the vote neared, the bitterly divided Democratic and Republican legislators continued to trade accusations.
Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren worked as a Judiciary Committee staffer on the impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon and as a member for the impeachment investigations of President Bill Clinton and Trump. She was one of many legislators who brought up the past.
“George Washington would be astonished since he warned against the insidious wiles of foreign influence,” she said.
Republican Representative Chris Stewart, one of Trump’s most emphatic defenders during the impeachment investigation, said Democrats despise Trump and his supporters.
“This day is about one thing and one thing only. They hate this president. They hate those of us who voted for him. They think we are stupid.”
He warned “gleeful” Democrats of a dangerous precedent. “If you set this bar as being impeachable, every president in our future will be impeached,” Stewart said.
Thousands of Trump supporters braved the bitter Midwest cold queuing for hours, some overnight, to attend a large rally in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Republican Congressman Bill Johnson, accusing Democrats of trying to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election by impeaching Trump, asked for a moment of silence to remember the “63 million Americans” who voted for Trump and have been forgotten.
All the Republicans in the House chamber stood up, Democrats stayed glued to their seats.
As the hours-long debate surged on, Republicans stoutly defended Trump on the House floor and Democrats pushed back.
“The matter before the House today is based solely on a fundamental hatred of our president. It’s a sham, a witch-hunt – and it’s tantamount to a coup against the duly elected president of the United States,” Republican Representative Mike Rogers said.
Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, shot back: “Many of my colleagues appear to have made their choice – to protect the president, to enable him to be above the law, to empower this president to cheat again, as long as it is in the service of their party and their power.”
Trump headed to a rally in the battleground swing state of Michigan for what was expected to be a highly charged event.
The White House said the president would be busy on Wednesday, working, rather than focused on the proceedings in the House – in a move critics slammed as an attempt to brush off the significance of the day’s events.
The president has said the impeachment would bolster Republicans and Trump’s campaign has experienced a surge in contributions and volunteers during the proceedings.
Allies nonetheless acknowledge that Trump has been angry over the stain the episode will leave on his legacy.
A Republican legislator from Georgia said Jesus was “afforded more rights” ahead of his crucifixion than Trump before the impeachment vote.
“When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers,” Congressman Barry Loudermilk said from the House floor.
“During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded this president in this process,” the legislator added.
Loudermilk, a conservative, represents a solidly Republican district in the Atlanta area. A Baptist, he wrote the book, And Then They Prayed, featuring stories of American figures famous in history at prayer.
Meanwhile, Republican Representative Mike Kelly compared the impeachment with the Japanese attack on the US naval base at Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor in 1941, calling the House proceedings another “date that will live in infamy”, similar to the words Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt used to describe the raid that led to the US’s entry into the second world war.
Trump himself has compared the drive to impeach him with the Salem Witch trials. During the infamous 17th century trials, 20 people suspected of witchcraft were killed in Massachusetts.
Underscoring the deep divide in Congress over Trump’s conduct during his presidency, Republicans defended the president in a series of speeches on the House floor and accused Democrats of seeking to topple him from power using an unfair and rigged process to nullify the results of the 2016 election in which Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“To Democrats, it’s politics, not facts, that matter,” Republican Doug Collins said.
“Today is going to be a lot of things. What it is not, is fair,” Collins said.
Meanwhile, Democrat Ayanna Pressley, who has been targeted by Trump in the past, said that Wednesday’s vote was “not only patriotic, it is uniquely American”.
“America is a story of ordinary people confronting abuses of power with a steadfast pursuit of justice,” she added. “Throughout our history, the oppressed have been relegated to the margins by the powerful and each time, we have fought back, deliberate in our approach, clear-eyed.”
The #ResignTrump hashtag was trending on Twitter on Wednesday, as the debate neared its halfway mark.
Amid the scandal of Watergate, Richard Nixon is the only US president to have resigned from office in 1974 after a House panel approved articles of impeachment against him but before the House voted on the issue – avoiding impeachment.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would be happy to testify for a Senate impeachment trial if he is summoned.
“I’m happy to do document productions, I’m happy to testify if that’s appropriate, required by the law,” Pompeo said at a news conference.
“State Department has done the same thing all the way through, we will continue to do so,” he said.
Early in the impeachment inquiry, Pompeo objected to efforts to obtain depositions from current and former State Department officials and accused Democrats of bullying and intimidation.
He has also refused to heed subpoenas for documents.
The rhetoric heard during the hearings of the impeachment inquiry was again on display during Wednesday’s debate.
Many Democrats pointed to the actions of Trump that led to the impeachment inquiry and his refusal to participate in the investigation. They also urged their colleagues to uphold their oath to the constitution.
“In 2019, President Trump sought foreign interference when he needed a favour from Ukraine,” said Democrat Steve Cohen.
“President Trump attacked in his continuing threat to our system of free and fair elections. I took an oath. I urge my colleagues to abide by that oath and stand up to President Trump’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress,” Cohen added.
Republicans, meanwhile, focused on attacking the impeachment inquiry process itself, saying Trump was blocked from having due process.
“This impeachment is based purely on partisan motives,” Republican Ross Spano on the House floor.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to announce a trial date by the end of the week, CNN reported, citing unnamed sources.
Many expect the trial to begin as soon as January 6. McConnell has said he hopes to meet soon with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to hammer out the details for a trial.
Queen’s “We Are the Champions” hit song was heard before a Michigan rally when Vice President Mike Pence told supporters that the impeachment vote was a “disgrace.”
Pence was speaking to more than 200 people at a “Workers for Trump” event. He said Trump will again win the important swing state in the 2020 election, in part because of impeachment.
Pence is in Michigan for a daylong bus tour before joining Trump at a rally on Wednesday evening.
Dozens of activists braved the cold on Wednesday to rally in support of Trump’s impeachment on the US capitol in Washington, DC. Multiple “Nobody Is Above the Law” events have been held across the country.
As the heated debate got underway, Trump fired off a tweet in all caps denouncing his rivals, “THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY” he tweeted.
SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump gave “no choice” but to pursue impeachment.
Pelosi made the comments as she opened the six-hour debate on the articles of impeachment against Trump.
“It is a matter of fact that the President is an ongoing threat to our national security and the integrity of our elections, the basis of our democracy,” Pelosi said.
She added that Trump “launched an unprecedented, indiscriminate and categorical campaign of defiance and obstruction”.
The US House of Representatives opened six hours of debate on Wednesday on the impeachment resolution against Trump.
A vote on the two articles of impeachment is expected later in the day.
Democrats overwhelmingly approved the rules for the debate, 228-197, with just two defections from Pelosi’s ranks, representatives Collin Peterson and Jeff Van Drew voting no – an early indication of how the votes will eventually fall on the articles of impeachment.
No Republicans supported the procedural vote, but Democrats picked up backing from Representative Justin Amash, the Michigan conservative, who left the Republican party this year to become an independent over his support for impeachment.
The mood on the House floor was tense on Wednesday morning as members solemnly gathered for what would be a long and intense debate on impeachment.
The press galleries and public seats were full as observers peered down on the August House floor.
“It does not feel good,” said Joe Kennedy III, a Democrat, announcing his intention to vote to impeach Trump.
“This is a sad day,” said Debbie Lesko, a Republican. “Democrats are tearing this country apart. They are tearing families apart.”
The highly divided House of Representatives debated the rules that would govern the general impeachment debate.
The president, who is expected to depart later for a rally in the election battleground state of Michigan fired off a series of Tweets in the morning.
House Republicans kicked off Wednesday’s session with attempts to derail the impeachment debate.
The first motion to adjourn failed in the Democratic-led House.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat who led the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, posted a question to his colleagues ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
“President Trump abused his power to cheat in the next election, then obstructed Congress to cover it up,” Schiff tweeted. “The only question is: Will members honor their oath to uphold the Constitution? History will remember the vote we take today. #DefendOurDemocracy”
President Trump abused his power to cheat in the next election, then obstructed Congress to cover it up.
The only question is: Will Members honor their oath to uphold the Constitution?
History will remember the vote we take today. #DefendOurDemocracy
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) December 18, 2019
The House of Representatives began debate on Wednesday ahead of a historic vote on two articles of impeachment against Trump.
The first hour of debate comes ahead of a procedural vote on the rule governing the main debate on impeachment.
The vote on charges against the Republican president, expected to come later on Wednesday, is expected to fall along party lines in the Democratic-controlled chamber.
Impeachment supporters used #MerryImpeachmas on Wednesday morning to demand that Trump be impeached.
“#MerryImpeachmas everyone! The actions taken today will live on in the history books for a long time. May we learn from our mistakes and never allow the most powerful position in the free world to be taken by a pseudo Dictator,” tweeted one Twitter user.
#MerryImpeachmas everyone! The actions taken today will live on in the history books for a long time. May we learn from our mistakes and never allow the most powerful position in the free world to be taken by a pseudo Dictator. pic.twitter.com/3XvOsyepJh
— Matt Hogan (@3_Hogan) December 18, 2019
“I have been praying for your impeachment for over a year now. Prayers answered. #MerryImpeachmas,” tweeted another.
I have been praying for your impeachment for over a year now. Prayers answered. #MerryImpeachmas
— Sara Clark (@sjeffriesclark) December 18, 2019
Trump on Wednesday again denied any wrongdoing, tweeting: “I DID NOTHING WRONG”
“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG! A terrible Thing. Read the transcripts. This should never happen to another President again. Say a PRAYER!” Trump said on Twitter.
Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG! A terrible Thing. Read the Transcripts. This should never happen to another President again. Say a PRAYER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2019
The founders of the US included impeachment in the US Constitution as an option for removal of presidents by Congress. Delegates to the constitutional convention of 1787 in Philadelphia agreed that presidents could be removed if found guilty by Congress of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours”.
The sole authority under the Constitution to bring articles of impeachment is vested in the House of Representatives where proceedings can begin in the Judiciary Committee. If the House approves articles of impeachment, or “impeaches” a president, he or she would then be subject to trial in the US Senate.
Read more on the US impeachment process here.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) December 18, 2019
Wednesday’s proceedings kicked off at 9am (14:00 GMT) with debate on the rule governing the longer impeachment debate. After the rule was approved, there were six hours of debate, divided equally among Democrats and Republicans. The final votes were expected in the afternoon or early evening.
Read more here.
A coalition of liberal groups organised rallies across the US in favour of impeachment.
Rallies were held from Washington, DC, to New York City and St Paul, Minnesota to Phoenix, Arizona, with protesters demanding Trump be impeached over his dealings with Ukraine.
“No one is above the law,” read one sign in Salt Lake City, Utah. “We already went over this, America does not want a king,” read another in Chicago, Illinois.
Read more here.
The House Rules Committee approved the rules for Wednesday’s debate on the two articles of impeachment against Trump.
The panel approved six hours of floor debate on the resolution, which will be divided equally among Democrats and Republicans and led by the House Judiciary Committee leaders.
There will also one hour of debate prior to a procedural vote to approve the rule governing debate.
In a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, Trump accused Democrats of pursuing an “illegal, partisan attempted coup” and declaring war on American democracy.
The rambling, six-page letter on White House letterhead largely restated the president’s objections to the impeachment inquiry but did so in accusatory and sometimes spiteful language that attacked Pelosi, congressional Democrats, Trump ‘s political rival Joe Biden and institutions such as the FBI.
“This is nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup that will, based on recent sentiment, badly fail at the voting booth,” Trump’s letter stated.
“By proceeding with your invalid impeachment, you are violating your oaths of office, you are breaking your allegiance to the Constitution, and you are declaring open war on American Democracy,” Trump wrote.
“You view democracy as your enemy!” he added.
Read the full letter here.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday brushed aside a Democratic request to call four current and former White House officials as witnesses in a Senate impeachment trial expected next month, sending another clear signal that he expects senators not to remove Trump from office.
Speaking from the Senate floor, McConnell said he would not allow a “fishing expedition” after a “slapdash” House impeachment process.
In his speech from the Senate floor, however, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said a trial without witnesses would be a “sham” and suggested Trump’s fellow Republicans favoured a cover-up.
At the Capitol, Democrats and Republicans sparred over the rules of debate on Tuesday with legislators arguing over the parameters for the debate.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to be here today, but the actions of the president of the United States make that necessary,” said Chairman Jim McGovern. “The evidence is as clear as it is overwhelming.″
He said the president “jeopardised our national security. and he undermined our democracy” and added that “every day we let President Trump act like the law doesn’t apply to him, we move a little closer” to rule by dictators.
Republicans disagreed, firmly.
The top committee Republican, Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, said the split view among Americans over impeachment should be reason enough not to proceed with the rare action. “When half of Americans are telling you what you are doing is wrong, you should listen,” he said.
Top Democrat in the Senate Chuck Schumer said he wants the trial to consider documents and hear testimony from four witnesses: Former National Security Adviser John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney aide Robert Blair and budget official Michael Duffey. Schumer has argued that such testimony could sway Republicans in favour of removing Trump.
Trump has refused to cooperate with the House impeachment process and ordered current and former officials like those mentioned by Schumer not to testify or provide documents.
McConnell took aim at Schumer and Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that spearheaded the impeachment inquiry launched in September.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, said in an interview with the New York Times published on Tuesday that he provided the president with information that the US ambassador to Ukraine was impeding investigations that could benefit Trump politically. Within weeks, she was recalled from her post.
In the interview, Giuliani portrayed himself as directly involved in the effort to remove Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and he provided details indicating Trump’s knowledge of that effort.
Giuliani said he passed along information to Trump “a couple of times” about how Yovanovitch had frustrated efforts that could help Trump, including efforts to have Ukraine investigate political rival, Joe Biden.
Read more here.