Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment today that charge President Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors, setting up a historic House vote next week that all but guarantees Trump will be just the third president to be impeached in U.S. history.
The articles, which charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, were passed out of the committee along strict party lines, with 23 Democrats voting to send the measures to the full House, which is expected to approve them next week.
All 17 panel Republicans, meanwhile, united against both articles, arguing that the charges rested on thin evidence and that Democrats proceeding with their rapid impeachment push will set a dangerous precedent in the years ahead.
The partisan vote came after more than 14 hours of feisty debate on Thursday over a series of Republican amendments seeking to scrub Democrats’ impeachment articles that raised allegations about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine.
In comparison to that slog, Friday’s votes were lightening fast: Nadler introduced them, one by one, shortly after 10 a.m., and he gaveled the hearing closed less than 10 minutes later.
Almost no one spoke, except to cast their yea or nay vote.
Afterwards, Democrats hailed the development as a case of Congress protecting the country from an inherently corrupt president who had put his personal political interests above those of national security.
“It’ll be remembered as a day that certain people stood up for the Constitution and the founding fathers,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).
Republicans were equally as passionate that Trump, rather than doing the abusing, had been abused.
They accused the Democrats of rushing the process — before gathering all the facts and hearing from the first-hand players — to fit a pre-conceived conclusion that Trump should be removed.
“America needs to hear from the witnesses,” said Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas), referring to the process as “a kangaroo court.”
“They don’t have the right to abuse the process and this was a total abuse of process.”
The White House dismissed Friday’s committee vote, saying Trump looks forward to a “fair” trial in the GOP-controlled Senate.
“This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement issued shortly after the vote. “The President looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House.”
Democrats allege Trump used a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Kyiv as leverage to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open two investigations that would benefit him politically, including one into the son of his 2020 political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
They also accused him of obstructing Congress during their subsequent investigation of that episode.
They say such conduct rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors — the grounds for impeachment under the Constitution — and that leaving a lawless president in office threatens the very basis of American democracy.
Republicans fought back in defense of their White House ally.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) offered an amendment Thursday to gut the abuse of power charge, arguing that there could be no “quid pro quo” since the U.S. aid was ultimately delivered without Kyiv announcing the investigations Trump sought.
“This amendment strikes article one because article one ignores the truth,” he said.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) offered another amendment to add language characterizing Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden, as “a well-known corrupt company” — a provision designed to frame Trump’s investigation requests as valid anti-corruption efforts, not political bullying.
“There is no way in the United States of America that honestly pursuing political corruption is a political offense,” Gaetz said.
Democrats argued otherwise.
“The idea of Donald Trump leading an anti-corruption effort is like Kim Jong Un leading a human rights effort. It’s just not credible,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the head of Democrats’ messaging arm.
Next week’s impeachment vote will be part of a packed House calendar, as Democratic leaders are also hoping to pass two other big-ticket items just before leaving town for the two week holiday break: a revamped trade agreement with Canada and Mexico and a sweeping spending bill to prevent a government shutdown.
A House leadership aide said today that the tentative schedule is to vote on the spending bill Tuesday, impeachment Wednesday and trade on Thursday.
That timetable, while subject to change, opens up the possibility that the House could recess a day earlier than previously scheduled.