The first charged him with abuse of power, and the second charged him with obstruction of Congress, setting the stage for an impeachment trial next month.
The House passed the first article 230-197 and the second article 229-198.
The House has 430 voting members, meaning 216 votes were needed to pass an article of impeachment. The body is made up of 232 Democrats, 196 Republicans, and one independent.
The full House voted on the articles after nearly 12 hours of debate, with Democratic and Republican lawmakers offering impassioned speeches in favor of and against the president’s impeachment.
Wednesday’s vote came after the House Judiciary Committee voted on Friday to approve the two articles.
At the center of the impeachment inquiry are Trump’s efforts to solicit Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 election while withholding a nearly $400 million military-aid package to the country, which is at war with Russia. Trump also refused to grant a White House meeting to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The catalyst for the inquiry was a whistleblower complaint detailing a July 25 phone call during which Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian oil-and-gas company.
Multiple career diplomats and national-security officials testified that the Trump administration explicitly conditioned a lifting of the military-aid hold and a White House meeting on Zelensky publicly announcing investigations into Burisma and a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 US election.
Witness testimony also revealed that the phone call was just one data point in a months-long pressure campaign in Ukraine that was spearheaded by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Other government officials, including Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, the former special representative for Ukraine, were also involved and testified before Congress about Trump’s efforts to bully Ukraine into acceding to his political demands..
What, exactly, is impeachment?
Impeachment by the House doesn’t mean automatic removal from office. When the House launches an impeachment inquiry, it’s analogous to prosecutors launching an investigation into a suspect in a crime.
In Trump’s case, the process of calling witnesses to testify in private sessions and gathering evidence is comparable to grand-jury proceedings, which occur behind closed doors.
The House Judiciary Committee’s decision to unveil articles of impeachment against Trump last week was akin to a grand jury’s decision to present criminal charges against a defendant, setting up a courtroom trial if the defendant doesn’t plead guilty. In other words, the impeachment of a sitting president is politically equivalent to a criminal indictment.
The constitutional mechanism for the impeachment of a federal officer, including presidents, vice presidents, and federal judges, is laid out in Article 2, Section 4 of the US Constitution, which says „the President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.“
Foto: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.sourceAP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
What happens next?
Since a majority of representatives voted on Wednesday to charge the president with two articles of impeachment, the process will now move to the Senate, which is responsible for holding a fair and impartial trial.
Both sides will present their cases to the senators, who act as jurors, while Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the hearings.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to name several House lawmakers as impeachment managers in the coming days, while other members of Congress or White House lawyers could argue in Trump’s defense.
It’s unclear who Pelosi will appoint, but a few names stand out. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, took the lead in overseeing the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump, and his background as a federal prosecutor could make him uniquely qualified to make the case for Trump’s impeachment in the Senate.
Several names stand out in the Republican arena as well. Reps. Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, and John Ratcliffe have all mounted impassioned defenses of the president throughout the impeachment inquiry and during Wednesday’s hearing before the House voted on the articles of impeachment.
Jordan and Ratcliffe have law degrees. But Ratcliffe has faced some controversy in his professional career.
After Trump nominated him to be the director of national intelligence earlier this year, it surfaced that Ratcliffe had represented himself as the „chief of anti-terrorism and national security“ in the Eastern District of Texas. But no such position exists. Instead, national-security experts found that Ratcliffe served in a less prestigious, more administrative role when he worked in the Justice Department.
Since Congress is going on recess for the holidays, a Senate trial is likely to start in early January. Leading Senate Republicans have indicated that they want to get a trial done as quickly as possible, meaning senators might vote without hearing any additional witness testimony.
The president has indicated that he wants a longer trial so he can clear himself of any wrongdoing. Democrats, meanwhile, have asked several witnesses to provide testimony before the Republican-led Senate, but they’ve been shot down so far.
This week, several Democrats floated the possibility of refusing to transmit Trump’s articles of impeachment to the Senate until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promises a fair trial. McConnell on Thursday slammed Democrats for weighing that possibility and said it was unconstitutional.
For Trump to be removed from office, two-thirds of the Senate – 67 members – must vote to convict him. The Senate consists of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents who caucus with Democrats, meaning Trump is highly unlikely to be removed from office.
Congress has never removed a president through impeachment. While two US presidents – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton – were impeached by the House, both were acquitted in the Senate.
Trump is the first president to be impeached in his first term.
If Trump is impeached but not convicted in the Senate, he will stay in office, and it will be left up to the American people to reelect him in 2020.