I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, December 19, 2019. 46 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 320 days until Election Day 2020. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Third president in U.S. history to be charged by House
President Donald J. Trump arrived in Washington nearly three years ago promising to bust the norms and precedents that have long governed the capital city. On Wednesday, the Trump era left an indelible mark on history yet again, as the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach an American president for only the third time since the nation's founding.
The House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
As expected, after nearly 12 hours of bitter partisan debate on impeachment, the votes on both articles were largely along party lines. No Republican voted for either article, a sign of how much the party has coalesced behind President Trump since his unexpected capture of the GOP mantle in 2016. Two Democratic congressmen, Colin Petersen of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, opposed both articles. Jared Golden, a Democrat of Maine, joined them in voting against the obstruction charge. (Van Drew, a Democratic freshman, is widely expected to join the Republican Party in the coming days.)
Hawaii's Tulsi Gabbard, who is currently seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, voted "present" on both articles. Independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who left the Republican Party earlier this year, joined the bulk of the Democratic caucus in voting "yea" on the impeachment charges.
The vote on the first article, which accused the president of soliciting "the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election," was 230 to 197 to 1. The vote on the second article, which charged Trump with directing "the unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives," was 229 to 198 to 1.
As prescribed by Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution, the impeachment articles now go to the U.S. Senate, which will hold a trial to consider Trump's actions, with the Chief Justice of the United States presiding and all 100 senators acting as jurors. If two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict the president, he will be removed from office; otherwise, he will be acquitted and allowed to continue serving out his term.
The two previous presidents who were impeached by the House, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were both acquitted by the Senate.
However, in a press conference minutes after the impeachment vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) threatened to delay transmitting the articles of impeachment to the upper chamber until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announces his terms for the trial. "So far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us," Pelosi said. "That would've been out intention, but we'll see what happens over there."
President Trump had faced the specter of impeachment almost since taking office, over a range of accusations and controversies, from his bombastic rhetoric to the two-year-long investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into links between Trump's campaign and Russia.
The saga that ultimately led to the House charging Trump on Wednesday with having committed "high crimes and misdemeanors" began the day after Mueller mostly quelled calls for Russia-focused impeachment proceedings with his shaky July 24 testimony on Capitol Hill.
On July 25, Trump phoned President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, a call that would change the course of his administration. According to a transcript of the conversation since released by the White House, after Zelensky brought up the potential sale of antitank missiles from the United States to Ukraine, Trump responded: "I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it." Trump would go on to recite unproven claims about former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter and alleged Ukrainain interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, pressing Zelensky to investigate both matters.
The call — which first rose to prominence due to an anonymous intelligence community whistleblower complaint in September — came amid a pressure campaign, led by the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, to encourage the Ukrainian government to launch the investigations into Trump's rivals. According to the first article of impeachment, President Trump conditioned "official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine" — an Oval Office meeting with President Zelensky and $391 million in military aid — "on its public announcement of the investigations."
Although Trump has repeatedly insisted his call to Zelensky was "perfect," a string of career government employees testified before the House Intelligence Committee about the unusual nature of the phone conversation and the pressure campaign that followed.
Left: President Trump addresses supporters at a rally in Michigan (Joel Bissell/MLive.com); Right: Speaker Pelosi gavels in the impeachment vote (Patrick Semansky/AP).
In her remarks after the impeachment vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) proclaimed Wednesday to be "a great day for the Constitution" and a "sad one for America." Pelosi was slow to support impeachment, even as many members of her caucus long backed the move, but led her party toward the presidential rebuke once the Ukraine scandal began unraveling.
President Trump was addressing a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, as a campaign aide notified him that the House had formally voted for his impeachment. "After three years of sinister witch hunts, hoaxes, scams, tonight, House Democrats are trying to nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans," he declared in response.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham referred to the impeachment proceedings in a statement as "the culmination in the House of one of the most shameful political episodes in the history of our Nation," mirroring Democratic remarks in the daylong floor debate decrying Trump's actions in Ukraine. "The risk is real," House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said. "Our democracy is at peril."
Recent public opinion polls show the electorate evenly divided on the course of action adopted by the House; according to a FiveThirtyEight average, 47.5% of Americans backed impeachment, while 46.3% opposed the move. With President Trump due to face a re-election vote in just less than a year, it remains unclear how impeachment will impact the already-unfolding 2020 campaign.
As the president said in Michigan on Wednesday, and has proved countless times since his gilded escalator ride that irreparably changed the American political world: "In the life of Trump, 10 months is an eternity."
Happening tonight: "After five debates including at least 10 candidates, tonight’s face-off among seven Democrats will be the most intimate affair of the 2020 primary. The shrinking stage has not been without controversary: only one non-white candidate, businessman Andrew Yang, will be featured. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will stand smack center stage for the first time, given the odd-numbered lineup, but he may not be the one taking fire from both sides. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Elizabeth Warren have enough strength in Iowa, which votes first on Feb. 3, that they will likely be big targets, too. And Senator Bernie Sanders has shown such staying power, following a heart attack this fall, that he could face jabs as well." (New York Times)
--- Tonight's debate, co-hosted by PBS and Politico, will air at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
Top Trump ally to retire from Congress: "Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of President Trump’s closest allies and staunchest defenders in Congress, announced Thursday that he would not seek reelection next year but would instead stay 'in the fight' with Trump in an unspecified role." (Washington Post)
Today in Congress: "The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a nearly $1.4 trillion spending deal to keep the government funded and avert a shutdown at the end of the week." (CNN)
--- Meanwhile, the House is poised to vote on the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). One day after impeaching him, the chamber is expected to hand President Trump a signature legislative achievement, approval of his renegotiated North American trade deal.
Reminder: Barring any more breaking news, Wake Up To Politics will be going underground while I'm on winter break until the beginning of January. Wish me luck on my last final exam today, and Happy Holidays! — Gabe
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