Following two days of heated debate, the House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, sending them to the House floor for a final vote.
Both articles were passed by a 23-17 margin along party lines.
The articles charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for a monthslong campaign to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations into his political opponents and his subsequent refusal to allow senior White House aides to testify before Congress as it investigated the matter.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said in a tweet immediately after the vote that the move “will backfire and on November 3, 2020, voters will re-elect” Trump.
The full House vote on the articles is expected next week, before Congress goes on recess for the Christmas holiday.
The White House on Friday dismissed the inquiry as a “desperate charade.”
The President looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
In a press conference after the vote, the committee chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, gave a short statement, calling today a “solemn and sad day” and promising to “act expeditiously.” He took no questions.
Friday’s vote followed two days of public debate during which members of the Judiciary Committee proposed various amendments to the legislation. None of the amendments was accepted by the Democratic-controlled committee. Nadler postponed the vote late Thursday, following 14 grueling hours of debate.
The amendments were primarily introduced by Republicans who oppose the impeachment and who sought to amend the articles either to weaken their language or insert language that boosted the president’s defense.
Early in the daylong proceedings Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a staunch Trump ally, proposed an amendment that would have removed the first article accusing Trump of abuse of power.
Jordan argued that “Article One in this resolution ignores the truth, it ignores the facts, it ignores what happened, and what has been laid out for the American people over the last three weeks” of public hearings in the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.
Democrats, who have a 24-17 seat majority in the Judiciary Committee, struck down the amendment.
The articles themselves represent the culmination of months of investigation by the House into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The probe, which the White House refused to cooperate with in any way, included testimony from current and former diplomats and national security officials, documentary evidence and public statements from the president himself.
Despite being warned not to testify, several administration officials told Congress that Trump and his private attorney Rudy Giuliani led a sweeping effort to pressure newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce two investigations Trump wanted: one into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, and the other into a debunked conspiracy theory about supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The officials described how Trump, Giuliani, and a small circle of political appointees conditioned a high-profile White House meeting for Zelenskiy, as well as nearly $400 million in congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine, on Zelenskiy’s willingness to announce the investigations.
The pressure campaign included the notorious July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Zelenskiy in which Trump asked his counterpart to “do us a favor,” by looking into Hunter Biden and into the alleged 2016 election conspiracy.
The congressional impeachment inquiry was triggered by a whistleblower’s complaint that stemmed from the phone call.
Trump appears to have watched parts of the House debate on Thursday, taking aim at two Texas Democrats, Reps. Veronica Escobar and Sheila Jackson Lee.
“Dems Veronica Escobar and Jackson Lee purposely misquoted my call. I said I want you to do us (our Country!) a favor, not me a favor,” Trump wrote in a tweet during the hearing. “They know that but decided to LIE in order to make a fraudulent point! Very sad.”
Republicans have criticized the investigation every step of the way, calling it “a sham” and “a witch hunt.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the impeachment inquiry in September.
Throughout the impeachment process, Trump has been highly critical of the Democrats, repeatedly accusing them of treating him unfairly and impeaching him over “nothing.”
If articles of impeachment pass the House next week, the Republican-controlled Senate will conduct a formal trial of the president, likely in January. It is unclear whether the Senate plans to call witnesses to defend the president or merely mount a legal defense without the added drama of live witnesses. The trial will be presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court.