KEY POINTS

  • The House debated two articles of impeachment for six hours, offering no new light on the issues
  • Trump tweeted debate was filled with "atrocious lies'
  • Democrats said they were defending democracy; Republicans accused Democrats of acting because they "hate" the president

The House voted Wednesday to impeach President Trump mainly along partisan lines, making him only the third president in history to face Senate trial.

The vote followed a lengthy debate in which Republicans and Democrats traded diametrically opposed interpretations of the president’s actions -- Republicans arguing no impeachable offenses have been alleged and accusing Democrats of trying to undo the results of the last election to influence the next, and Democrats saying the very foundations of democracy are being threatened and action now is necessary to keep Trump from undermining the 2020 election.

The vote was 230-197 to adopt the first of two articles of impeachment, accusing Trump of abusing the power of his office for personal gain and preventing Congress from investigating his conduct. Two Democrats broke ranks with the majority: Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who is switching parties, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, voted present.

The vote on the second article was 229-198, with three Democrats breaking ranks -- Jared Golden of Maine joining Van Drew and Peterson. Gabbard again voted present.

The process now moves to the Senate where no witnesses are likely to be called to testify and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., already has said there’s “no chance” Trump will be removed from office since 67 senators would need to vote to convict.

Some House Democrats reportedly have floated the idea of withholding the articles to try to force the Senate to hold a more expansive trial. The Washington Post reported the idea is gaining traction. Democrats opted to go ahead with the impeachment process without waiting for the courts to compel key administration officials to testify before investigators and turn over documents subpoenaed in the inquiry. Trump had instructed administration officials not to cooperate with the investigation.

Trump monitored the proceedings, at one point tweeting in all caps that the process was riddled with “atrocious lies” and amounted to an “assault on America.”

The vote came as Trump held a rally in Michigan, firing up his supporters.

 “I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States. 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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in opening the debate.

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., called the impeachment vote urgent because “there’s no reason to believe President Trump won’t continue to abuse the power of his office.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Republicans had presented no evidence that the charges are false.

“I hear attacks on Democratic members of Congress but not one word of substantive defense,” Nadler said.

Collins countered: "[Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky said there's no pressure. President Trump said there's no pressure. And we saw that the aid was actually given with no conditional attachments."

“President Trump’s conduct is both impeachable and criminal,” Nadler said.

Later Collins said the impeachment process has produced a "dark cloud descending on this House."

Toward the end of the debate, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said the impeachment began long before the Zelensky phone call. He said it began 22 months ago.

"It's about a personal, political vendetta," Scalise said.

"We did not want this," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, noting Democrats voted against it three times since 2017. "However, President Trump has forced our constitutional republic to protect itself."

Hoyer said Republicans have chosen to ignore "damning evidence of the president's high crimes."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., urged the House to stop itself from making a grave mistake.

McCarthy accused Pelosi of throwing out the bipartisan rules that governed the impeachment inquiries of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

"This impeachment is unfounded and improper," McCarthy said, invoking Alexander Hamilton who wrote in the Federalist Papers that impeachment could be driven by partisan animosity rather than evidence of guilt.

"We face a choice: Do you trust the wisdom of the people or do you deny them a say in the government?" McCarthy asked.

Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., read an open letter to his children explaining his vote, saying Trump had abused “the highest, most sacred office in our land.”

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., called the debate a “defining moment” in democracy while the ranking Republican on the panel, Tom Cole, R-Okla., called it a “sad day” and an “unfair and rushed process [with] a predetermined result.”

Democrats needed a simple majority to approve the articles, which accuse Trump of attempting to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and a debunked conspiracy theory promoted by Moscow that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that attempted to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election in exchange for $391 million in military aid and then blocked the congressional investigation of his conduct.

“The president of the United States was willing to sacrifice our national security. … But for the courage of someone willing to blow the whistle, he would’ve gotten away with it. Instead he got caught,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who led the impeachment investigation.

In wrapping up the debate, Schiff went through the evidence, saying, "What is at risk here is the very idea of America. That idea holds we are a nation of laws, not men. ... When we say we uphold the Constitution, we are not talking about a piece of parchment." He added that allowing a president to ignore the tenets of the Constitution will destroy the democracy.