US House impeaches Donald Trump in historic vote; What happens next?
Trump has officially been impeached. But does this mean that the US President will no longer hold office? Here are your impeachment essentials, explained.
In a historic move, the US House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump late on Wednesday, formally charging him with two counts - first, the abuse of power and second, the obstruction of Congress.
This House action makes Trump the third President in the country’s history to be impeached.
The Democratic-led House's passage of two articles of impeachment on a mostly party-line vote sets the stage for Trump’s trial next month in the Republican-controlled Senate on whether to convict and remove the Republican President from office.
To break this down, here’s what happened:
The Democrats - who led the fight for impeachment - control the House of Representatives. Members of the House voted as expected. The vote in favour of impeaching Trump for abuse of power was 230-197, with two Democrats voting against, and Tulsi Gabbard merely voting ‘present’.
Now, the trial goes to the Senate - which is controlled by Trump’s party, the Republicans. There, the trial will decide whether Trump will be convicted, and whether he will be removed from office. If the Senate chooses not to remove him from office, then the entire impeachment proceedings fail, and Trump will continue as President of the United States of America.
This is what is most likely to happen.
What are the charges against the US President?
Under the first article, Trump, 73, is accused of abusing his power, by pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Democrats said Trump held back $391 million in security aid ,intended to combat Russian-backed separatists and a coveted White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as leverage to coerce Kiev into interfering in the 2020 election by smearing Biden.
The second article accused Trump of obstruction of Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to comply with lawful House subpoenas for testimony and documents related to impeachment.
Will Trump really be usurped from the Oval Office?
According to political analysts, Trump’s impeachment is likely to fail as the ruling Republicans have majority in the 100-member Senate.
So far, no President in the 243-year-long US history has been removed from office by impeachment. It would need a two-thirds majority in the Senate, meaning at least 20 Republicans would have to join hands with Democrats in voting against Trump.
The two US Presidents who were impeached by the House earlier were Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both these leaders were later acquitted by the Senate.
Trump’s reaction to the House impeachment vote:
As the voting took place, Trump was addressing a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan. Speaking to a charged crowd at the rally, he said: "While we're creating jobs and fighting for Michigan, the radical left in Congress is consumed with envy and hatred and rage, you see what's going on."
Reacting to the House impeachment move against him, Trump said that the Democrats were trying to impeach him from day one.
"After three years of sinister witch hunts, hoaxes, scams, tonight, House Democrats are trying to nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans," he told the crowd in Michigan.
"Crazy Nancy Pelosi's House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame," he added.
Trump, who is seeking another four-year term in the November 2020 presidential election, has denied wrongdoing and called the impeachment inquiry, launched by House Speaker Pelosi, a "witch hunt".
Calling the impeachment as one of the "most shameful" political episodes in the history of the US, the White House said that the President was “confident that he will be fully exonerated” in the Senate trial.
All four Democratic Indian-American members of the House of Representatives voted for Trump's impeachment.
How the voting took place in the House
The House voted 230-197 to charge Trump with abuse of power and 229-198 to charge him with obstruction of Congress.
All Republicans voted against both the articles. Just two Democrats -- Representatives Collin Peterson and Jeff Van Drew -- voted against both articles.
A third, Representative Jared Golden of Maine, voted for one impeachment article.
Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, voted present for both articles.
Prior to the vote, an intense partisan debate over impeachment took place for hours on the House floor in which Democrats and Republicans presented their arguments for why they were voting for or against the impeachment.
Here is what could happen in the coming days:
Thursday, December 19
The House must still name "managers" to present the case against Trump to the Senate. These managers may be selected on Thursday, before winter break; or they could wait to announce the managers until next year.
Nancy Pelosi, just after the House approved the two articles of impeachment, told reporters she needed more information from the Senate before naming the managers.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and the chamber's top Democrat Chuck Schumer have staked out dramatically different views on how the trial should play out. Expect them to negotiate in private and through the news media in the coming days.
Pelosi did not say when she formally would submit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which is necessary before a Senate trial can begin.
By saying she wants a fairer Senate process than one McConnell has been hinting at, Pelosi could be applying pressure on McConnell to speed up talks with Schumer and allow administration witnesses to testify during the trial.
Barring unexpected developments, Trump will face a trial in the Senate to determine whether he should be convicted and ousted from office when Congress returns to Washington in early January.
The Senate is controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans, who have shown little sign they will find him guilty. A two-thirds majority of those present in chamber would be needed to convict Trump.
US Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over the trial. House managers would present their case against Trump, and the President's legal team would respond. Senators would act as jurors.
A trial could involve testimony from witnesses and a gruelling schedule in which proceedings occur six days a week for as many as six weeks. McConnell predicted that there is "no chance" his chamber will remove Trump when it holds its trial.
Meanwhile, Pelosi said after the vote she would wait to name the House managers, or prosecutors, until she knew more about the procedures for the Senate trial. She did not specify when she would send the articles to the Senate.
Reactions to the House impeachment vote
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who led the impeachment investigation, said that the President "was willing to sacrifice our national security by withholding support for a critical strategic partner at war in order to improve his reelection prospects."
"But for the courage of someone willing to blow the whistle, he would have gotten away with it," Schiff said. "Instead, he got caught. He tried to cheat, and he got caught."
Trump's political rival Joe 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."
Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said: "I just left the House floor and voted to impeach President Trump. Here are the facts: President Trump abused his power. He threatened our democracy and obstructed Congress. He compromised our election and national security."
But congressional Republicans condemned Democrats for rushing to impeach the President, charging that Democrats pushed forward with a partisan impeachment intended to beat Trump at the ballot box in 2020.
Republican Jim Sensenbrenner said: "There is a rush-job … because they want to influence the 2020 elections."