Trump Impeachment Vote Live Updates: ‘He Gave Us No Choice.’ House Opens Debate on Charges Against Trump
Here’s what you need to know:
Pelosi opened the debate by urging Trump’s impeachment, saying his ‘reckless actions’ demand it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday on the articles of impeachment against President Trump, declaring that lawmakers are “custodians of the Constitution” and urging her colleagues to honor their oaths by charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“Today, as speaker of the House, I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States,” Ms. Pelosi said as the chamber began six hours of debate on the two articles.
Ms. Pelosi took the floor on Wednesday dressed in a dark suit, a nod to what she has long said would be a solemn day, and a carefully-chosen accessory: a gold brooch fashioned as the Mace of the Republic, also known as the speaker’s mace.
“Our founder’s vision of a republic is under threat from actions from the White House,” she said somberly, adding, “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.”
When she concluded her remarks, Democrats gave the speaker a standing ovation while Republicans chanted “regular order” to quiet the chamber.
Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, spoke first for the Republicans, rising to oppose the articles and accusing Democrats of conducting an unfair and illegitimate impeachment inquiry that had not proven Mr. Trump guilty.
“This is an impeachment based on presumption,” Mr. Collins said. “This is a poll-tested impeachment about what actually sells to the American people. Today is going to be a lot of things. What it is not is fair. What it is not is about the truth.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi arriving at her office on Wednesday ahead of the House vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
The House adopted rules for the debate, casting a proxy vote on impeachment.
The debate unfolded after the House voted to open debate on the articles, clearing a key procedural hurdle that moved Democrats a step closer to final votes to charge the president with committing high crimes and misdemeanors.
The vote served as an early test that indicated the House would proceed as expected later Wednesday to approve the articles themselves, making Mr. Trump the third president in history to be impeached.
“If a president undermining our national security and using the federal government for his own selfish personal gain is not impeachable conduct, then, Madam Speaker, I don’t know what is,” said Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Rules Committee.
Lawmakers voted 228 to 197 to move forward, with just two Democrats voting no, signaling that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has largely succeeded in unifying House Democrats behind the effort to remove the president. The articles of impeachment assert that Mr. Trump abused the power of his office by soliciting Ukraine’s help in discrediting his political rivals, seeking an advantage in the 2020 election, and then obstructed Congress by trying to block its inquiry.
The debate on the articles opened after Republicans attempted to derail the proceeding by forcing a pair of procedural votes to register their opposition to an impeachment process that Mr. Trump has branded a coup and that they have called grossly unfair.
Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the committee, said the Democrats were being partisan, using “cherry picked” evidence to fit their narrative. “If we’re really being honest,” he said, “Democrats have been searching for a reason to impeach President Trump since the day he was elected.”
The rule approved on Wednesday gave Republicans and Democrats each three hours to make their cases for or against impeaching Mr. Trump. Approval of the articles, scheduled for the evening, is expected to set the stage for a trial in the Senate early in the new year, which would unfold just 10 months before the president stands for re-election.
Full List: Where Every House Member Stands on Impeachment Against Trump
A majority of the House support the articles of impeachment against the president.
Here’s a rough rundown of the schedule.
In the morning, the House debated the rules that the House Rules Committee hashed out on Tuesday and then voted largely along party lines to approve them. This was the first procedural vote by the full chamber to lay the groundwork for formally impeaching Mr. Trump. The rules call for six hours of debate, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, on the articles.
Republicans opened the day with several parliamentary moves to register their opposition and slow the process, and may continue to do so throughout the proceedings, which could lead to multiple procedural votes throughout the day, like the motion to adjourn, that don’t amount to much. The votes everyone is waiting for — on the two articles of impeachment — are expected in the evening. House leaders anticipate two separate votes on the two articles to begin at 7:15 p.m. and wrap up about 20 minutes later.
The House may also vote to empower Ms. Pelosi to name impeachment managers, whose identities are likely to become public in the coming days. The managers are House members who act much like prosecutors in the impeachment trial that is to follow in the Senate, presenting the findings of the House inquiry to their colleagues across the Capitol. Senators decide whether to acquit the president or to convict and remove him from office, which requires a two-thirds vote, or 67 senators if all are present.
On a day of history, lots of talking on the House floor but not a lot of suspense.
As the momentous debate started shortly after 10 a.m., the House floor was hardly gripped by tension. Only a handful of Republican lawmakers sat in their seats as Mr. McGovern kicked off debate on the rules to guide consideration of the articles of impeachment. A few Democrats huddled in conversation behind him.
“This is democracy-defining moment,” Mr. McGovern, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, intoned to the mostly empty chamber. About 120 members of the public sat quietly in the gallery, listening to the beginning of the debate.
The chamber had been boisterous earlier in the morning, with many members engaged in loud conversations on the floor as Republicans used procedural motions in an unsuccessful attempt to derail impeachment. But once the debate began, most members departed.
One who remained was Ms. Pelosi, who sat in the back row, reading notes and quietly listening to the discussion of the impeachment process that she set in motion months ago. Several members approached her for brief conversations while Representative Tom Cole, of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on the Rules panel, opened his side’s argument in opposition to the impeachment articles.
Protests unfolded outside the Capitol, but for much of Washington it was business as usual.
As the House debate unfolded on Wednesday, the rest of Washington seemed to be functioning as usual. A crowd of power brokers huddled around tables at the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown. People sitting around the sunny dining room craned their necks to see who else was in the vicinity, and at least one reporter could be heard pitching a story.
Across town, a group of dozens of protesters outside of the Capitol as were divided as the politicians inside. A man dressed in Santa costume rode around on a One Wheel decorated as a sleigh as women nearby carried signs saying “Give the Gift of Impeachment” and “All I Want for Christmas is for Congress to Impeach.”
A Trump supporter stood in the center of a group of people who were there in support of impeachment — “You’ve been programmed! Brain washed! By the deep state!” he shouted, as people in the group took turns calling him racist.
Mark Kampf, a 65-year-old voice actor who traveled here from Pahrump, Nev., held up a sign that read “Impeach Pelosi (A.K.A. the Devil),” and said he wanted to make sure his views were represented.
“I think she’s been plotting to take down the president,” Mr. Kampf said of Ms. Pelosi, echoing the president’s beliefs, “as admitted on T.V., for two and a half years.”
Ilana Rios, a 20-year-old student, stood away from the main group of protesters and said she was still trying to hear both sides, a comment that made her a rarity in a polarized capital.
“I don’t think it’s right for people to say they’re above the law,” Ms. Rios said. She added that she shares some of the beliefs Mr. Trump has on hardening American immigration policies, but added that “I don’t think it’s right to keep him here in government.”
— Katie Rogers and Lola Fadulu
Pelosi tapped a veteran Democrat, Diana DeGette, to preside over the impeachment debate.
Ms. Pelosi chose Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado, a veteran Democrat who had impressed her with a tough, skillful parliamentary hand, to preside over the historic debate on the articles of impeachment.
Ms. DeGette, first elected in 1996, was until this year the Democrats’ chief deputy whip — the member of leadership responsible for counting votes, known in congressional parlance as “whipping.” She has held the gavel more than a dozen times this year, rotating in and out of the chair as members customarily do.
On Wednesday, she will spend the entire day in the chair. Her skills managing unruly proceedings on the House floor were quickly put to the test when Republicans moved to shut down debate on the articles of impeachment even before it had begun.
A top aide to Ms. Pelosi said Ms. DeGette had impressed the speaker with her past performance in the presiding officer’s chair. But Ms. Pelosi herself will preside over the vote, the aide said.
— Sheryl Gay Stolberg
Trump and Pence lashed out at Democrats as they confronted the near certainty of impeachment.
Mr. Trump may end his day as the third president in American history to be impeached, but he started it as the first president to live-tweet his own impeachment.
By noon, roughly three hours into the House proceedings, Mr. Trump had already posted or reposted 45 messages on Twitter, most of them condemning Democrats for seeking to charge him with high crimes and insisting he did nothing wrong.
”SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS,” Mr. Trump said in one, all-caps tweet. “THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!”
In typical Trumpian fashion, he assailed Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Schiff and other Democrats in incendiary terms. “Will go down in history as worst Speaker,” he wrote about Ms. Pelosi at one point. “Already thrown out once!” he added, apparently a reference to the 2010 midterm elections when Republicans won the majority from Democrats before losing it to them again in 2018.
Coming a day after he sent Ms. Pelosi a six-page letter complaining about what he cast as the injustice of impeachment, Mr. Trump also insisted again that he did nothing wrong and tweaked Ms. Pelosi, who has said she was praying for the president.
“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG!” he wrote. “A terrible Thing. Read the Transcripts. This should never happen to another President again. Say a PRAYER!”
Traveling in Michigan, Mr. Pence offered words of support for Mr. Trump, calling the impeachment effort “a disgrace” and said that Democrats are “trying to run down this president because they know they can’t run against our record.”
But like the president, Mr. Pence appeared to accept that impeachment was inevitable, adding: “Tonight after a sham investigation, do-nothing Democrats are going to vote on a partisan impeachment seeking to overturn the will of the American people.”
For Democrats, the only question is how many of their own balk at impeaching Mr. Trump.
With the final outcome seemingly preordained, perhaps the only suspense about the vote on Wednesday will be how many Democrats break with the party and oppose impeachment.
Two House Democrats who registered their opposition to the inquiry by voting against its ground rules in October, Representatives Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, plan to vote against the articles as well — and Mr. Van Drew is expected to leave the party altogether to become a Republican. On Wednesday, he was sitting on the Republican side of the chamber listening to the debate.
Another 14 Democrats have said they were undecided or have not responded to The Times survey, but only one of them, Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin, represents a district won by Mr. Trump. The rest of the so-called front-line Democrats representing Republican areas announced their support for impeachment in recent days, suggesting that the party was rallying behind the effort.
No Republican has announced support for impeachment, and while 30 have not said how they would vote, few expect any to break with the president.
While the House debates, the Senate looks ahead to a trial with the rules still unsettled.
Assuming the House proceeds with impeachment as anticipated, the fate of Mr. Trump’s presidency will soon be in the hands of the Senate, whose leaders are already quarreling over how to put on a fair trial in an era of deep divisions.
Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Chuck Schumer of New York, the Republican and Democratic leaders, hardly waited for the House vote to debate how to proceed. On Tuesday, Mr. McConnell rejected Mr. Schumer’s proposal to call four witnesses who did not testify in the House inquiry, arguing that it was not the Senate’s job to complete a rushed and inadequate investigation by the House.
But even as Mr. McConnell and other Republicans assailed House Democrats for not hearing from key witnesses, they generally did not fault the White House for blocking those witnesses from testifying in the first place. Instead, they said the blame lay with Democrats for not going to court to challenge the White House refusal to cooperate, an approach that Democrats rejected because they concluded the judicial process would take too long.
Mr. McConnell was navigating a tricky position of balancing Mr. Trump’s desire for vindication through a trial and the positions of vulnerable Republican senators who are concerned that an abbreviated trial or one that seems tilted to Mr. Trump would make it look like they did not take the charges seriously.
The various sides will continue to try to formulate a plan for the trial on Wednesday even as the House formally decides whether one will be needed.
A vote to impeach the president is one part of the process. Here’s how it works and where it would go next.
How Does the Impeachment Process Work?
Explosive testimony. News media frenzies. A trial in the Senate. Here is how impeachment works — and how it has played out in the past.
“Impeachment by its nature, it’s a political process.” “What people think is going to happen can turn out to be very different from what happens.” “Because it has to do with elected officials holding another elected official to account for their conduct.” When the framers of the Constitution created a process to remove a president from office, they were well … kind of vague. So to understand how it’s going to play out, the past is really our best guide. “I think we’re just all in for a really crazy ride.” Collectively, these New York Times reporters have covered U.S. politics for over 150 years. “I’m also a drummer in a band, so …” They’ve reported on past impeachment inquiries. “Yea, I’m lost in Senate wonderland.” And they say that the three we’ve had so far have been full of twists and turns. “The president of the United States is not guilty as charged.” In short, expect the unexpected. First, the process. Impeachment is technically only the initial stage. “Common misconceptions about impeachment are that impeachment by itself means removal from office. It doesn’t. The impeachment part of the process is only the indictment that sets up a trial.” The Constitution describes offenses that are grounds for removing the president from office as bribery, treason and — “They say high crimes and misdemeanors, which, really, is in the eye of the beholder.” “The framers didn’t give us a guidebook to it. They simply said, that the House had the responsibility for impeachment and the Senate had the responsibility for the trial.” One of the things missing from the Constitution? How an impeachment inquiry should start. And that has generally been a source of drama. Basically, anything goes. “In fact, in the Andrew Johnson case they voted to impeach him without even having drafted the articles of impeachment.” For Richard Nixon, his case started with several investigations that led to public hearings. That part of the process went on for two years, and yielded revelation after revelation, connecting Nixon to a politically-motivated burglary at D.N.C. headquarters — “… located in the Watergate office building.” — and its subsequent cover-up. “Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?” “I was aware of listening devices. Yes, sir.” “This was a shocker. Everybody in the White House recognized how damaging this could be.” As the House drafted articles of impeachment, Nixon lost the support of his party. “O.K., I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.” “I was asked to write the farewell piece that ran the morning after Nixon resigned. And this is what I wrote: The central question is how a man who won so much could have lost so much.” So for Nixon, it more or less ended after the investigations. But for Bill Clinton, that phase was just the beginning. “This is the information.” An independent counsel’s investigation into his business dealings unexpectedly turned into a very public inquiry about his personal life. “The idea that a president of the United States was having an affair with a White House intern and then a federal prosecutor was looking at that, it was just extraordinary.” That investigation led to public hearings in the House Judiciary Committee. “When the Starr Report was being delivered to Congress it was a little bit like the O.J. chase, only a political one. There were two black cars. They were being filmed live on CNN. They were heading towards the Capitol. We were watching it and a little bit agog.” Public opinion is key. And the media plays a huge part in the process. This was definitely true for Clinton. “You know it was just a crazy time. We worked in the Senate press gallery.” “All your colleagues are kind of piled on top of each other.” “We had crummy computers, the fax machine would always break. The printer would always break.” After committee hearings, the House brought formal impeachment charges. “It was very tense. I thought that the Saturday of the impeachment vote in the House was one of the most tense days I’d experienced in Washington.” And it turned out, also, full of surprises. “The day of impeachment arrived, everyone’s making very impassioned speeches about whether Bill Clinton should or should not be impeached and Livingston rises to give an argument for the House Republicans. He started to talk about how Clinton could resign.” “You, sir, may resign your post.” “And all of a sudden people start booing and saying, ‘Resign, resign’!” “So I must set the example.” “He announced he was resigning because he had had extramarital affairs and challenged President Clinton to do the only honorable thing, in his view —” “I hope President Clinton will follow.” “— to resign as well, so there was all this drama unfolding even in the midst of impeachment.” Then it went to the Senate for trial. The Constitution gets a little more specific about this part. “The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is supposed to preside over that trial.” “Rehnquist, he showed up in this robe he had made for himself, which had gold stripes on the sleeves because he liked Gilbert and Sullivan.” “The Senate is the actual jury.” “You will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws. So help you, God.” “This is a copy of the rules of the Senate for handling impeachment. They’re actually very specific.” “Meet six days a week.” “Convene at noon. The senators have to sit at their desks and remain quiet in their role as jurors. And not talk, which trust me, is going to be a problem for some of the senators who are used to talking all the time.” It’s just like a courtroom trial. There are prosecutors who present the case against the president. “That was perjury.” Only, they’re members of the House, and they’re called managers. Then the senators, or the jurors, vote. And things are still, unpredictable. “The options are guilty or not guilty. But there was one senator —” “Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania.” “Under Scottish law, there are three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty and not proved.” “— which is not a thing.” “And everybody just looks, you know, how do you even record that vote?” In the end, there were not enough votes to oust Clinton. “What’s amazing about this whole thing to me wasn’t so much the constitutional process. It was that it felt to me like the beginning of really intense partisanship, the weaponization of partisanship.” And here’s the thing: An impeachment charge has never gotten the two-thirds majority it needs in the Senate to actually oust a president from office. “So you could end up having a situation where the president is impeached, acquitted and runs for re-election and wins re-election.” And that would be a first. “This is my ticket to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. I don’t think you’ll find these on StubHub.”
Explosive testimony. News media frenzies. A trial in the Senate. Here is how impeachment works — and how it has played out in the past.CreditCredit…Photo illustration by Aaron Byrd
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