By Benjamin Siegel and Stephanie Ebbs / ABC News
Donald Trump became only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached when the House on Wednesday approved an article accusing him of abuse of power.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the historic and mostly party-line vote, setting up a Senate trial in January.
The House was voting on a second article Democrats have proposed accusing him of obstruction of Congress.
The House action came as Trump was speaking at campaign rally in Michigan.
The House Intelligence Committee chairman, who led the impeachment inquiry, is the last speaker for the Democratic side.
“What is at risk here is the very idea of America,” he says, calling America “a nation of laws not of men.”
The Minority Leader opens by saying he’s warning Democrats.
“I’m about to say something my Democratic colleagues hate to hear: Donald J. Trump is president of the United States. He is president today. He’ll be president tomorrow. And he will be president when this impeachment is over. Madam speaker, when they accept that, maybe this house can get back to work for the American people.”
“Democrats have wanted to impeach President Trump since the day he was elected,” he argues.
“This impeachment is unfounded and improper,’ he says.
The historic vote split along party lines, much the way it has divided the nation, over the charges that the 45th president abused the power of his office by enlisting a foreign government to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election. The House then approved a second charge, that he obstructed Congress in its investigation.
The articles of impeachment, the political equivalent of an indictment, now go to the Senate for trial. If Trump is acquitted by the Republican-led chamber, as expected, he would have to run for reelection carrying the enduring mark of impeachment on his purposely disruptive presidency.
Democrats led Wednesday night’s voting, framed in what many said was their duty to protect the Constitution and uphold the nation’s system of checks and balances. Republicans stood by their party’s leader, who has frequently tested the bounds of civic norms. Trump called the whole affair a “witch hunt,” a “hoax” and a “sham,” and sometimes all three.
The trial is expected to begin in January in the Senate, where a vote of two-thirds is necessary for conviction. While Democrats had the majority in the House to impeach Trump, Republicans control the Senate and few if any are expected to diverge from plans to acquit the president ahead of early state election-year primary voting.
Pelosi, once reluctant to lead Democrats into a partisan impeachment, now risks her majority and speakership to hold the president accountable.
“Today we are here to defend democracy for the people,” Pelosi said opening debate.
Trump, who began Wednesday tweeting his anger at the proceedings, scheduled an evening rally in Battle Creek, Michigan.
He pumped his fist before an enthusiastic crowd, boasted of “tremendous support” in the Republican Party and said, “By the way it doesn’t feel like I’m being impeached.”
What Pelosi called a sad and solemn moment for the country, coming in the first year that Democrats swept control of the House, unfolded in a caustic daylong session that showcased the nation’s divisions — not only along party lines, but also by region, race and culture.
The House impeachment resolution laid out in stark terms the two articles of impeachment against Trump stemming from his July phone call when he asked the Ukraine president for a “favor” — to announce it was investigating Democrats ahead of the 2020 election. He also pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to probe unsubstantiated corruption allegations against Joe Biden, the former vice president and 2020 White House contender.
Republicans argued that Democrats are impeaching Trump because they can’t beat him in 2020.
“This vote is about one thing, and one thing only: They hate this president,” said Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “They want to take away my vote and throw it in the trash.”
But Democrats warned the country cannot wait for the next election to decide whether Trump should remain in office because he has shown a pattern of behavior, particularly toward Russia, and will try to corrupt U.S. elections in 2020.
“The president and his men plot on,” said Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of the Intelligence Committee that led the inquiry. “The danger persists. The risk is real.”
The outcome brings the Trump presidency to a milestone moment that has building almost from the time the New York businessman-turned-reality-TV host unexpectedly won the White House in 2016 amid questions about Russian interference in the U.S. election — and the rise of the “resistance.”
Democrats drew from history, the founders and their own experiences, as minorities, women and some immigrants to the U.S., seeking to honor their oath of office to uphold the constitution. Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., spoke in Spanish asking God to unite the nation. “In America,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., “no one is above the law.”
Republicans aired Trump-style grievances about what Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko called a “rigged” process.
“We face this horror because of this map,” said Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Ala., before a poster of red and blue states. “They call this Republican map flyover country, they call us deplorables, they fear our faith, they fear our strength, they fear our unity, they fear our vote, and they fear our president.”
The political fallout from the vote will reverberate across an already polarized country with divergent views of Trump’s July phone call when Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats in the 2016 election, Biden and his son, Hunter, who worked on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was the vice president.
Trump has repeatedly implored Americans to read the transcript of the call he said was “perfect.” But the facts it revealed, and those in an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that sparked the probe, are largely undisputed.
More than a dozen current and former White House officials and diplomats testified for hours. The open and closed sessions under oath revealed what one called the “irregular channel” of foreign policy run by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, which focused on investigating the Bidens and alternative theories of 2016 election interference. (with AP report)