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A House divided: Trump impeached after bitter debate on partisan vote

After more than eight hours of debate, where House members repeated arguments hardened in two months of hearings, the full House — and the Utah delegation — voted on party lines

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President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Kellogg Arena, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, in Battle Creek, Mich.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives has approved articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, making him the third president in history to be impeached.

Both articles passed on mostly party-line votes after more than eight hours of debate, where House members repeated arguments hardened during more than two months of hearings over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

The first article on abuse of power passed 230-197, with two Democrats joining Republicans voting no. A third Democrat voted against the obstruction of Congress article, which passed 229-198. Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii voted present.

As expected, Utah Republicans Chris Stewart, John Curtis and Rob Bishop voted against and Democrat Ben McAdams voted for both articles of impeachment.

Stewart was the only member of the delegation to speak during the floor debate impugning the motives of Democrats who he said “hate this president” and warning the impeachment imperils future presidencies.

“It erodes our republic in ways that our Founding Fathers recognized. They got it right — high crimes and misdemeanors,” he said. “Other than that, let the American people decide.”

Watching the debate from his office while he got other work done, McAdams called the event “a sad day for our country.”

“I’m at peace with the decision I’ve made, I think it’s the right decision,” he said. 

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Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, speaks as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019.

House Television via Associated Press

Bishop said the vote was driven by animosity toward Trump not by facts.

“Feelings ought to be irrelevant to this debate, and the facts certainly don’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense,” he said in a statement. “For this reason, I voted no in the hopes of ending this farce and moving America forward.”

Curtis also expressed relief the impeachment is “behind us” and looked forward to Thursday’s vote on a new trade pact with Canada and Mexico.

“I call on my colleagues on both sides to work together to find answers to the difficult issues of our day such as immigration, instability around the world, health care and the environment,” Curtis said in a statement. 

The vote triggers a January trial in the Senate, where a vote of two-thirds would be necessary for conviction. Republicans control the Senate, where few, if any, are expected to vote against the president. While three presidents have been impeached, none have been removed from office.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who was on the House floor during the closing speeches and final votes, had no comment, nor did Utah’s other Republican Sen. Mitt Romney.

Letter from President Donald J. Trump to the Speaker of the House of Representatives

Trump, who traveled to Michigan during the debate for a campaign rally, took to Twitter to express his anger over an impeachment that will tarnish his record.

“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG! A terrible Thing. Read the Transcripts. This should never happen to another President again. Say a PRAYER!” he tweeted an hour before the historic hearing began.

But the Associated Press reported the president was upbeat at the rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he pumped his fist before an enthusiastic crowd and said “by the way it doesn’t feel like I’m being impeached.”

Offering the traditional daily prayer to open the House session, the Rev. Patrick Conroy, the House chaplain, asked God to give members “wisdom and discernment.” 

“Help them to realize that your constituency is wider and broader than ever we could measure or determine,” he prayed. “Help them and help us all to put away any judgments that belong to you and do what we can to live together in harmony.”

Shortly after, Republicans moved to adjourn and then to approve a resolution condemning the process. Both attempts to derail and delay the proceedings failed on party-line vote.

Following the example of their leadership, Democrats mostly urged members to fulfill their oath to defend the Constitution against a president they said poses an ongoing threat to national security and the integrity of the country’s elections.

“No member, regardless of party or politics, comes to Congress to impeach a president,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “But very sadly now, our founders’ vision of a republic is under threat from actions from the White House. That is why today, as speaker of the House, I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States. If we don’t act now, we would be derelict in our duty.”

Republicans responded by mocking claims of constitutional duty and characterized the impeachment process as part of a political vendetta against Trump that started before he was elected.

“I’m about to say something my Democratic colleagues hate to hear. Donald J. Trump is president of the United States,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “And he will be president when this impeachment is over.”

Democrats limited their remarks to rehearsing allegations spelled out in the two articles of impeachment against Trump. The first article charges him with abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democrats, including potential 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden, while withholding military aid to the foreign ally. The second article charges him with obstructing Congress by ordering his administration to defy subpoenas and requests for documents from House investigators.

“President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” the impeachment resolution said.

Several Republicans were pointed and personal in describing Democrats’ motives in pursuing impeachment and the process that led to Wednesday’s historic vote. 

“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,” Stewart said. 

Other Republicans invoked the Bible in condemning Democrats. 

“Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded this president in this process,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga. 

And Rep. Fred Keller, R-Pa., recited Jesus’ words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Democrats audibly gasped at Louisiana Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham’s call for Pelosi’s removal from the House for allowing “this witch hunt.”

In a rare moment of levity, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., elicited a few chuckles in his response to Stewart’s charge that the impeachment was an effort to “fix” an election that Hillary Clinton should have won.

“I remind the gentleman that if President Trump is impeached and removed, the new president would be Mike Pence, not Hillary Clinton,” he said.

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., also referenced Stewart’s remarks, saying his vote to impeach will not be an expression of “hate” for the president.

“I rise today not to disparage and embarrass the president of the United States, but to defend our precious democracy,” Richmond said. “I speak today not because I hate this president, but because I love this body, the people’s House.”

While the debate showcased a partisan divide apparent throughout the impeachment proceedings, McAdams said he chatted with Curtis before boarding a plane Monday that carried the entire Utah House delegation to Washington.

“We talked about getting through this week and then continuing to work together,” said McAdams, whose office is across the hall from Curtis. The pair became friends while serving as mayors — McAdams in Salt Lake County and Curtis in Provo.

McAdams said he was thinking of Curtis — along with a brother-in-law and friends — when he told reporters Monday that he had reached a decision that differed from others he respected. The acknowledgment was important to him on a personal level.

“We still have so much more that brings us together than divides us and and I think what comes next is a time of healing and coming together,” McAdams said.

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The Washington Monument is visible at sunset as the House of Representatives takes up articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Andrew Harnik, Associated Press