President Donald Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives.
Lawmakers on Wednesday approved articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress; the former passed 230 to 197, while the latter advanced 229 to 198. He is only the third president in U.S. history to face a Senate trial.
While the vote fell almost exclusively along party lines, noteworthy defections include Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D–N.J.), who announced last week that he will leave the Democratic party over his opposition to the impeachment process, and Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.), who in July left the Republican party after expressing support for impeachment. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) voted present.
Trump now faces a trial amid accusations that he withheld a White House meeting and $391 million in military aid from Ukraine in exchange for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy publicly announcing a probe into Burisma Holdings (the energy company where former Vice President Joe Biden's son sat on the board) and an investigation into a highly criticized theory that Ukraine carried out extensive election interference to help 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
"Many of my colleagues appear to have made their choice to protect the president, to enable him to be above the law, to empower this president to cheat again, as long as it is in the service of their party and their power," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D–Calif.). "They've made their choice….and I believe they will rue the day that they did."
Republicans characterized the proceedings as an effort to unseat a duly elected president. Rep. Mike Kelly (R–Pa.) said today's vote will "live in infamy," drawing an unsavory comparison to the 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, in which the Japanese killed more than 2,000 people. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R–Ga.) likened the legal mistreatment of Trump to the mistreatment of Jesus and said that Trump has had it worse.
Throughout the process, the GOP has sought to dispute the testimony of several witnesses, who in November described an apparent effort led by Trump to pressure a foreign power into investigating his political rivals in advance of the 2020 election. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified that there was a well-understood quid pro quo between the U.S. and Ukraine in exchange for the desired White House meeting; Bill Taylor, the current chargé d'affaires in Ukraine, said that it was "crazy" to freeze the congressionally appropriated security assistance, which was blocked without explanation in July and not disbursed until September 11. Republicans have dismissed those statements as hearsay.
Congressional GOPers have also accused Democrats of infringing on Trump's right to due process. Keith Whittington, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University, tells Reason that those allegations are akin to "throw[ing] sand in the air and try[ing] to distract people from what's going on."
But while the evidence might cut against Republicans' defenses, Democrats almost certainly do not have enough testimony to convict the president. Trump has blocked the release of requested documents and forbidden potential witnesses—including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and former national security adviser John Bolton—from appearing before Congress. Those first-hand accounts may have been obtainable had Democrats taken the issue to court. They chose not to, opting instead for speed and thus an almost certain acquittal in the Senate.