The House Judiciary Committee passed two articles to impeach President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The historic vote on Friday is only the fourth of its kind taken by the committee. It sends the articles to the House floor for a vote that Speaker Nancy Pelosi said will take place next week.
Lawmakers voted on the articles following a debate that stretched over three days and exposed the sharp partisan divide in Congress over the effort to impeach Trump for soliciting Ukraine’s help investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic officials.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, gaveled in the hearing Friday without more debate on amendments or statements from lawmakers.
Over the course of the three-day proceeding, Democrats said their case against the president was both strong and urgent: Trump is undermining national security and the integrity of the 2020 election, they argued.
“The president abused his power and is a continuing threat not only to democracy but to our national security,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, said.
Republicans accused the Democratic majority of politically targeting Trump after spending years fishing for an impeachment case that would end Trump’s presidency.
Both Lee and Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner were among the few lawmakers on the panel who voted on impeachment articles against President Bill Clinton in 1998. Lee and Sensenbrenner sparred Thursday over the legitimacy of the impeachment articles levied against Trump.
“I think it’s obvious to all America that this is a railroad job,” Sensenbrenner said. “The facts speak for themselves. There was no impeachable offense here.”
Republicans argued the two articles make no reference to bribery, extortion, and other accusations that Democrats have lodged against the president.
“They have to say abuse of power because they don’t have evidence of obstruction,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, argued. “They have to say abuse of power because they have no evidence of bribery or treason.”
The two articles, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, accuse Trump of withholding security aid from Ukraine to pressure government officials to investigate Democratic actions to undermine Trump’s 2016 campaign and to investigate corruption allegations against Biden, who is arguably Trump’s top political rival.
“The president committed the highest crime against the Constitution by abusing his office, cheating an election, inviting foreign interference for purely personal gain while jeopardizing our national security and the integrity of our elections,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, argued at the hearing.
Swalwell said Trump’s offenses do not have to qualify as statutory crimes.
“After all, we in Congress are not criminal prosecutors,” Swalwell said. “We do not prosecute crimes. We protect the Constitution.”
Democrats, who outnumber Republicans, unanimously rejected several GOP amendments.
Democrats blocked an amendment introduced by Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, to strike the abuse of power article.
Democrats also voted down an amendment that would have introduced Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, into the impeachment articles by substituting his name in place of the former vice president, who Trump discussed during a July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine.
Gaetz introduced the amendment, opening up a chance for the GOP to bring attention to Hunter Biden’s lucrative job serving on the board of Ukraine oil company Burisma Holdings. Biden obtained the position despite having a history of drug use and no experience in the energy industry, Gaetz said.
Gaetz said the Hunter Biden position and Joe Biden’s effort while vice president to oust a prosecutor targeting Burisma, show the legitimacy of Trump’s effort to get Ukraine to open an investigation.
“We have the ability to show that Hunter Biden is corrupt and that totally exculpates the president because there is no way in the United States of America that honestly pursuing actual corruption is an impeachable offense,” Gaetz said.
Democrats said the timing of Trump’s request to Ukraine undermines the corruption claim.
“It wasn’t until Vice President Joe Biden was beating Trump in the polls that this issue was raised,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, said.
The Judiciary Committee vote concludes weeks of closed-door and public testimony from current and former Trump administration officials.
Pelosi announced the House would take up the two impeachment articles next week.
House Republicans are expected to unanimously oppose the articles.
The articles will likely pass with nearly all House Democrats voting in favor of them and just a handful of opposition from moderate Democrats representing swing districts that support Trump.
After House passage, House Democrats appointed by Pelosi will present a case to the Republican-led Senate beginning in January.
Republicans are expected to either dismiss the charges or acquit Trump after the trial.
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