Where do we go from here?

Impeachment before and since the Dec. 18 House vote

On Dec. 18, Donald Trump became the third president in the 231 years since the ratification of the United States Constitution to be impeached.

On Dec. 18, Donald Trump became the third president in the 231 years since the ratification of the United States Constitution to be impeached.

official white house photo by Shealah Craighead

On Dec. 18, Donald Trump became the third president in the 231 years since the ratification of the United States Constitution to be impeached when the House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

This, of course, came after a formal House inquiry that lasted from September to November found that Trump had solicited foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election and had then obstructed the inquiry into this matter by telling his administration officials not to testify and to ignore subpoenas for documents. The House inquiry found that, after a July 25 call with with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump had asked Zelensky to announce an investigation of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and to promote a discredited theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, behind interference in the 2016 presidential election, the Trump's administration then withheld military aid as well as an invitation to the White House for the Ukrainian President.

After the House Intelligence Committee finished with several hearings in which witnesses testified publicly, the committee voted on Dec. 3 along party lines (13-9) to adopt a final report. Impeachment hearings before the House Judiciary Committee began on Dec. 4, and—on Dec. 13—it voted 23–17 in another party-line vote to recommend the two articles of impeachment.

The committee released its report on the impeachment articles on Dec. 16, and two days later the full House approved both articles in near, though not entirely, party-line votes.

Prior to the votes, there were six hours of debate among the House members during which Republicans took the opportunity to draw comparisons between the impeachment and all manner of things and events—seemingly egged on by President Trump's own comparison in a Dec. 17 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the impeachment to the Salem Witch Trials of the late 17th Century. In it, he wrote that the accused witches had been afforded more due process.

A new email obtained by the Center for Public Integrity and released Saturday, Dec. 21, showed that Michael Duffey, associate director for National Security Programs at the Office of Management and Budget, informed the Pentagon of the freeze on $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine a mere 91 minutes after President Trump's call to Zelensky on July 25. In light of that, it seems worthwhile to reflect upon some of the more fiery and outlandish comparisons made by House Republicans prior to the vote.

Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania: “You know, December is such a great month, and there's so many great dates in December, and we talk about the wonderful things that have happened in Decembers of the past. There's also in addition to Christmas being something we celebrate, the Boston Tea Party took place in December. But also on December 7, 1941 a horrific act happened in the United States. … President Roosevelt said, this is a date that will live in infamy. Today, December the 18th, 2019 is another date that will live in infamy. When just because you hate the president of the United States and you can find no other reason other than the fact that you're so blinded by your hate that you can't see straight that you've decided the only way we can make sure this president doesn't get elected again is to impeach him.”

Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah: “I discovered something recently. It's shocking, I know. But it turns out that some people don't like President Trump. They think he's loud. They think he can be arrogant. They think sometimes he says bad words and sometimes he's rude to people. And to their sensitive natures, they've been offended. I get that. I really do. But let's be clear. This vote, this day has nothing to do with Ukraine. It has nothing to do with abuse of power. It has nothing to do with obstruction of Congress. This vote, this day is about one thing and one thing only. They hate this president. They hate those of us who voted for him. They think we're stupid. They think we made a mistake. They think Hillary Clinton should be the president and they want to fix that. That's what this vote is about. They want to take away my vote and throw it in the trash. They want to take away my president and delegitimize him so that he can not be reelected. That's what this vote is about.”

Rep. Stewart was, of course, reminded after his statement that were Trump to be successfully impeached, it would be Vice President Mike Pence who would assume the office of president.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia: “The Constitution also guarantees that the accused can call witnesses to testify on their behalf, but the Republicans and the president were continually denied that right throughout this process. The 6th Amendment guarantees the right of the defendant to face their accuser, but not only have the Democrats prohibited Republicans and the president from questioning the so-called whistleblower, his identity has been kept secret. Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind. When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face His accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.”

Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, responded to Loudermilk on the floor saying, “The president was given the opportunity to come and testify … to send his counsel, to question witnesses. He declined to do so.”

The articles must be submitted to the Senate to initiate a trial which will decide Trump's fate as president. That trial could begin as early as next month; however, House Speaker Pelosi's decision to wait to deliver the two Articles of Impeachment to the Senate until that body has laid out the rules for the trial—saying it needs to be known, “what sort of trial the Senate will conduct”—has for now created an impasse. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called Pelosi's reasoning for delaying the transmission of the articles from the house to the Senate “absurd.”