The House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Donald Trump, by a margin of 230 to 197 on one Article 1- Abuse of Power, with Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii being the sole “present” vote. The tally was 229 to 198 on Article 2 – Obstruction of Congress. 216 “yea” votes were needed to impeach on both counts. Gabbard voted “present” on that article as well.
The vote, which broke down along largely along party lines, with the Democrats, who won control of the House in the 2018 midterms, beating the Republicans by sheer numerical advantage. Libertarian Independent Justin Amash voted with the Democrats, saying that President Trump has “abused and violated the public trust.”
President Trump has joined the highly exclusive club of three American presidents who have been impeached, alongside Presidents Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson.
It is clear, at this point, that the Democratic leadership took their sweeping victory of 41 net seats to be a mandate from the American public to provide a check against the perceived excesses of President Trump. Once the opportunity presented itself to impeach the President, the Democrats pounced.
The “high crimes and misdemeanors” alleged by the House are twofold. The first charge targets the President’s abuse of power in his antics of allegedly pressuring the government of Ukraine to assist his re-election efforts through improper and unnecessary investigations of Trump’s chief political foe heading into the 2020 Presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden. The second charge is obstruction of Congress, relating to President Trump’s deliberate refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas and his ordering of top aides to not testify before House committees.
President Trump formally voiced his opposition to the articles of impeachment in a letter addressed to the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, which contained multiple legal fallacies and factual distortions. For example, he classified the impeachment process as an “unconstitutional abuse of power by the Democrats” when in reality impeachment is a remedy prescribed in the Constitution that gives the House of Representatives the “sole power” to impeach the President, among other government officials. It is a process well-established in American government, having been used historically against 19 officials.
Another example of President Trump’s apparent legal illiteracy came later in the letter when he claimed he was “denied the most fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution, including the right to present evidence, to have my own counsel present, to confront accusers, and to call and cross-examine witnesses.” He says this in spite of impeachment in the House being described in the Constitution as akin to the grand jury process– in other words, a process in which due process is not afforded by design.
As for the factual distortions in the aforementioned letter, they are numerous as well. For example, Trump claimed to have won the electoral college by a margin of 306 to 227, when in reality, it was 304 to 227. He also claimed a “colossal reduction in illegal border crossings” in his presidency, when in reality, in 2019 they were up to 977,000, as opposed to 553,000 in 2016. He also alleged that the FBI “used spies against my campaign” when in reality, the report from the Inspector General Horowitz said the FBI did no such thing.
All in all, the New York Times fact-checked the letter and found 19 misleading statements or just outright lies.
The period for debate before the vote itself was drama-filled, with Speaker Pelosi wearing all black to mark the “somber” occasion. House Republicans, on the other hand, hysterically decried the process as unfair, and their antics included comparing the constitutional process of impeachment to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor or even the crucifixion of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.