Like most of Congress, Va. delegation splits down party lines on impeaching Trump
The U.S. Capitol on December 18, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday night, making him the third president to be impeached in U.S. history.
Trump was impeached on largely party line votes on charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress. The charges surround allegations that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival in an effort to interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
“To extort a foreign country to investigate your political opponent is an unconstitutional abuse of power. To solicit foreign interference in an American election is an unconstitutional abuse of power. The need to protect against just such abuses prompted our founders to grant the sole power of impeachment to this House,” said U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Northern Virginia.
“Today we must put country over party, conscience over complicity. Today we must assert: No one is above the law. Today we’re summoned by history to do the right thing.”
No House Republicans voted to adopt either impeachment article. Two House Democrats voted against both articles of impeachment — Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. Van Drew was reportedly planning to switch parties to become a Republican. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) voted yes on the first article but against the obstruction of Congress article. Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted “present” on both articles.
Virginia’s delegation split entirely along party lines, with all seven Democrats voting for both articles and the state’s four Republicans voting against.
“Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are not around to see what their creation has become, but I don’t think they would be pleased to see Congress subverting the will of democracy by holding an impeachment vote because the majority party simply cannot accept the 2016 election,” said U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Nelson.
The vote came after a lengthy and heated debate on the House floor, as Democrats warned that Trump had trampled on the U.S. Constitution, while his GOP defenders accused the House majority of manufacturing a case for impeachment due to their disdain for Trump’s policies.
“The founders’ great fear of a rogue or corrupt president is the very reason why they enshrined impeachment in the Constitution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.”
Only two other presidents had previously been impeached by the House: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both were acquitted by the Senate.
Trump also appears to be headed for acquittal in the GOP-led Senate. A trial, in which House Democrats will argue their case before the upper chamber of Congress, is expected to begin next month.
Some senators have been cautious about stating whether they’ll vote to remove Trump from office, arguing that they’ll function like jurors in the trial and don’t want to prejudge the outcome. But not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
McConnell told reporters Tuesday that he is “not at all impartial” on impeachment and that it is a “political process.”
As lawmakers prepared to vote on Wednesday, Trump wrote on Twitter: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!”
Trump held a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on Wednesday night. “By the way, it doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached, the country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like never before,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post.
Democrats delivered sharper rebukes of the president, arguing that failing to impeach Trump would set a precedent that other presidents could invite foreign interference in U.S. elections.
“I know the president said that he can get away with anything he wants to. I come today to tell you that no, he cannot, because no one is above the law and he shall be held accountable,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who was involved in the House investigation of the Ukraine scandal.
Rep. Elaine Luria of Norfolk, one of two potentially vulnerable Virginia Democrats going into 2020, said her oath gave her resolve. “Resolve to do what is right and not what is politically expedient,” she said. “Resolve to stand with the president at the White House last week and resolve to stand up to the president in this House today. I ask my colleagues to have the same strength and the same resolve.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that in his nearly 40 years in the House under six presidential administrations, he never expected to “encounter such an obvious wrongdoing by a president of the United States. Nor did I expect to witness such a craven rationalization of presidential actions which have put our national security at risk, undermined the integrity of our elections and defied the constitutional authority of the Congress to conduct oversight.”
Republicans, meanwhile, spent the debate accusing their Democratic colleagues of pursuing a political vendetta against the president, pointing frequently to statements Democrats had made supporting impeachment before the Ukraine investigation was launched.
“Why do we keep calling this a solemn occasion, when you’ve been wanting to do this ever since [Trump] was elected?” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
“Today, we take a step further toward losing the republic that our Founding Fathers envisioned by engaging in activity that they specifically warned against: the misuse of the Constitutional power of impeachment for one party’s political gain,” said U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Botetourt.
Democrats vehemently denied GOP attacks that they were pursuing impeachment because they hate Trump’s policies or dislike him personally.
“I don’t hate the president, but I love my country and I have no other choice,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). “Voting for these articles of impeach is the only moral course of action, the only way to honor our oath of office. I have no doubt that the votes I cast today will stand the test of time.”
One independent congressman, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, sided with Democrats to vote for both articles of impeachment. Amash, who helped found the conservative House Freedom Caucus, left the GOP earlier this year after calling for Trump’s impeachment.
Trump’s “actions reflect precisely the type of conduct the framers of the Constitution intended to remedy through the power of impeachment, and it is our duty to impeach him,” Amash said Wednesday on the House floor.
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