WASHINGTON (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — Members of Congress on Wednesday voted to impeach President Donald Trump – charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
When the total hit 216 – the majority needed – the House officially voted for President Trump’s impeachment.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Freezing Overnight
Democratic lawmakers handed down the severest form of punishment available to the House under the Constitution, approving two articles of impeachment after a marathon debate on Wednesday. Article I passed by a vote of 230-197-1, with one member voting “present.” The second article passed by a margin of 229-198-1.
Mr. Trump becomes just the third president in the 231-year history of the republic to be impeached, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, both of whom were acquitted in subsequent Senate trials. Mr. Trump appears headed for the same fate, with Republicans in the upper chamber eager to clear him of wrongdoing when Congress returns in the new year.
The impeachment votes are the culmination of months of investigation by House Democrats into the president’s efforts to pressure the government of Ukraine to pursue investigations that would benefit him politically, including a probe into a company that employed the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the president’s chief potential rivals in his 2020 reelection bid.
The White House refused to cooperate with the inquiry in any capacity, a position that formed the basis for the second article of impeachment.
As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, the vote and impeachment in the House followed hours and hours of debate.
Democrats portrayed the president as a threat, while Republicans defended him and called the process a partisan witch hunt.
“In Chicago, someone asked a question – what is our position on impeachment?” said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis.
Davis (D-Illinois) summed up his thoughts on the two articles of impeachment before him.
“When I speak, I speak for the people of the 7th District of Illinois and my vote will be, impeach! Impeach! Impeach!” Davis said.
Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois) said she was casting her voice for people who have entrusted her to be their voice.
“I vote yes for Sarah in Chicago, Doug in Kankakee. Diane in Flossmoor. Yes, for Kathy in Momence, Katherine in Crete, and Jimmy in Park Forest. The facts are simple,” Kelly said. “The path forward is clear. Impeachment is not an option, it is an obligation, because no one is above the law.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said her son is the reason she will vote “yes” to impeach President Trump.
“He reminded me of the oath I have taken eleven times now, to support and defend the constitution of the United States,” Schakowsky said.
Schakowsky said doing the right thing was more important than the “final outcome.” The Republican-controlled Senate is not expected to convict Trump and remove him from office.
“(My son) said: ‘This has nothing to do with the final outcome. It’s about doing the right thing even if others don’t!'” she said.
First term Rep. Sean Casten (D-Illinois) said each vote is about America and democracy.
“When you vote in a few hours, don’t vote your party. Vote your character. That’s how you’re going to be judged and that’s how we’re all going to be judged,” he said.
While some have questioned the wisdom of launching impeachment proceedings against President Trump so soon before the 2020 election, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) said the sanctity of the election was part of the point.
“Some of my colleagues have asked, why not wait? Why are we proceeding? That’s very simple – because nothing could be more urgent. We are on the precipice of the 2020 election, and Congress has ultimate responsibility to protect the state equalizer – our right to vote,” Quigley said. “To defend the integrity of our elections, and to fulfill our duty to the Constitution, I will be voting in favor of impeachment today.”
Quigley outlined the allegations against Trump.
“We have since learned from numerous national Security Council and state department officials, the president didn’t even expect Ukraine to open these investigations,” Quigley said. “Rather he just wanted them announced, so he could smear his rival.”READ MORE: Emmett Till's Cousin Reacts To Conviction Of Derek Chauvin And Today's State Of Racial Justice; George Floyd's Brother Said Till Was 'The First George Floyd'
But Rep. Jim Baird (R-Indiana) debated the merit of the case against Mr. Trump.
“The president committed no crime, broke no laws and there was no quid pro quo,” he said. “I look forward to doing the right thing, representing the Hoosiers in my district and voting against this impeachment charade.”
Other Republican lawmakers accused the Democrats of having it in for President Trump for partisan political reasons out of personal contempt, or still being angry that Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in 2016.
“This impeachment is not about anything that happened on a phone call. This impeachment is about what President Trump has done,” said Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wisconsin). “President Trump doesn’t want people coming here and going on welfare and you hate him for it. President Trump wants able-bodied people on food stamps to work and he’s hated for it.”
Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Michigan) said as votes are cast, the future tone of the House and politics in the nation, must be carefully considered.
“The issue is not whether we agree with or like the president’s rhetoric, political tactics, use of Twitter, policy choices, or his political rallies,” he said.
Meanwhile, Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii explained in an email to supporters that she decided to vote “present” on the two articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump because she “could not in good conscience vote either yes or no” after reviewing House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment report.
“I am standing in the center and have decided to vote present,” Gabbard said in a statement released after she cast her votes. “I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing. I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting president must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.”
Gabbard, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, voted in support of the House’s resolution formalizing the steps in the impeachment inquiry in late October, but decried that in the weeks since then, the process has become a “partisan endeavor.”
She has instead called for Mr. Trump’s censure.
“A house divided cannot stand. And today we are divided,” Gabbard said. “Fragmentation and polarity are ripping our country apart. This breaks my heart, and breaks the hearts of all patriotic Americans, whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the day of debate by saying the president brought impeachment on himself, describing him as a threat to the Constitution whose conduct must not go unpunished.
“It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice,” she said on the House floor.
Following the impeachment, Pelosi said she would not select impeachment managers for the Senate trial until she sees a “fair” Senate trial process. But it’s unclear when that might be.
“So far, we have not seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters in a news conference after the vote.
Pelosi sidestepped the question when a reporter asked if she might never send the articles to the Senate.
“That would have been our intention, but we’ll see,” Pelosi said, asked if she will guarantee that she will send the articles to the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham have said they don’t consider themselves to be impartial in any Senate trial.
Meanwhile, responding to his impeachment for the first time, Mr. Trump pointed to Republican unity on both articles of impeachment, given that no Republicans broke with their party.
“Every single Republican voted for us,” the president said on stage at his rally in Battle Creek, Michigan. “So we had 198, 229, 198. We didn’t lose one Republican vote.”
Mr. Trump added that the Republican Party “has never been so affronted” but has “never been so united.”
The president called it “unheard of” that three moderate Democrats voted against impeachment.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot and Tara Molina, and CBS News’ Grace Segers, Rebecca Kaplan, Kathryn Watson, Stefan Becket, and Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.MORE NEWS: Rev. Jesse Jackson After Chauvin Verdict: 'We Must Learn To Live Together As Brothers And Sisters And Not Die Apart'
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