The House of Representatives opened the debate on the two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, regarding abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, removing all the remaining procedural obstacles to getting the Democrats to the final vote, which established whether, in the judgment of the House, the president was guilty of committing “high crimes and misdemeanors.” After six hours of debate, divided equally between Democrats and Republicans, Trump’s impeachment passed with 230 “yes” and 197 “no” votes. The president has now been officially indicted and will be subjected to trial in the Senate.
“This is a moment that you’ll read about in your history books. Today, I will vote to impeach the president of the United States, and I want you to know why,” said Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy in his opening statement, which took the form of a letter addressed to his children.
The “why” was explained by all the Democratic representatives who spoke during the debate, using very different words and metaphors to illustrate the same concept: that the president has subordinated the country to his own personal interests, even at the cost of jeopardizing US security, acting as if he was above the law, something no one can be.
“For centuries, Americans have fought and died to defend democracy for the people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, standing next to a large image of an American flag. “But, very sadly now, our founders’ vision of a republic is under threat from actions from the White House. … It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.”
An indication as to the final vote tally could already be gleaned from the three votes on procedural motions after the opening of the proceedings: a motion to adjourn the House, one to introduce the articles of impeachment and one to set the rules for the debate. All three votes proceeded strictly on party lines. The Republicans seemed immovable in their positions. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, even called the impeachment process “deplorable.”
“We on the Republican side have no problem taking our case to the majority and to the people of this country,” Collins said, “because they elected Donald Trump and it is a matter for the voters, not this House, not in this way, not in the way this is being done.”
It has often been said that the two sides of the current debate on impeachment can’t even agree on the basic facts, but Wednesday this phenomenon could be plainly seen even for well-established and indisputable circumstances, which the GOP had no qualms about denying outright. Some Republican representatives went on the record claiming that the facts that led to the impeachment proceedings never happened at all. According to Republican Tom Cole, military aid to Ukraine “was never withheld at all.” Representative Mark Meadows said that Joe Biden was not even Trump’s rival in the re-election campaign. And, according to Representative Debbie Lesko, Trump never asked Ukraine to investigate Biden Jr.
On his part, Trump, although he had said he wouldn’t follow the proceedings, tweeted several times during the day and led a “Merry Christmas” rally in Michigan, timed to coincide with the vote in the House. However, it’s not so easy to sweep such a vote under the rug with one political rally.
The people of the United States were all watching the proceedings, broadcast live from the House of Representatives on radios and TVs in all public places, from bars to doctors’ offices. On the previous night, over 600 demonstrations took place across the country: thousands of people took to the streets to demand that Trump be impeached and removed from office, not only in the traditionally liberal big cities, but also in smaller, conservative towns.