WASHINGTON: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday called US President Donald Trump an ongoing threat to American democracy who left Congress no choice but to impeach him as bitterly divided lawmakers debated before historic votes on charges accusing the Republican of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
With billowing partisan differences on full display, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives launched a planned six hours of debate on two articles of impeachment - formal charges - arising from the president’s actions toward Ukraine, with time equally divided between the parties and no amendments.
Trump would become only the third US president to be impeached. That would set the stage for a trial in the Republican-led Senate, with House members acting as prosecutors and senators as jurors. Republican senators have shown little interest in convicting Trump, which would result in his ouster.
On the House floor, Pelosi read the Pledge of Allegiance, then said, “today we are here to defend democracy for the people,” to applause from fellow Democratic lawmakers.
As the debate unfolded, Trump on Twitter called the proceedings “AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA” and on his party. Trump has denied wrongdoing.
While the House twice previously has voted to impeach presidents _ Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 _ no president has ever been removed from office via impeachment.
The votes are expected to fall almost entirely along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
In speeches on the House floor, Republicans defended the president and accused Democrats of seeking to use an unfair and rigged process to nullify the results of the 2016 election in which Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton. The House voted down a Republican bid to adjourn and a motion accusing Democrats of violating the chamber’s rules.
“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,” Pelosi added.
“He gave us no choice. What we are discussing today is the established fact that the president violated the Constitution. It is a matter of fact that the president is an ongoing threat to our national security and the integrity of our elections - the basis of our democracy,” Pelosi said.
Following Pelosi, Representative Doug Collins, the House Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, said: “This is an impeachment based on presumption. This is basically also a poll-tested impeachment on what actually sells to the American people. Today’s going to be a lot of things. What it is not, is fair. What it is not, is about the truth.”
Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2019