Trump blasts impeachment: ‘You are declaring war’

 

Donald Trump has become just the third US president in history to be impeached, after the House of Representatives found him guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The House voted 230-197 to charge Mr Trump with abuse of power and 229-198 to charge him with obstruction of Congress.

Mr Trump is accused of using his position to pressure a foreign counterpart to investigate his political rival in return for hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid.

Two Democrats, New Jersey's Jeff Van Drew, who's in the process of becoming a Republican and Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson, who represents what's considered the country's most conservative Democratic district, voted against both charges.

Democratic candidate for the 2020 race, Tulsi Gabbard, sensationally decided to vote "present," which means she did not take a position, on both charges.

Maine Democrat Jared Golden of Maine voted against the second count of obstruction.

All 197 House Republicans voted along party lines and opposed both charges.

Mr Trump hit back against the impeachment vote at a rally in Battle Creek Michigan, directing his anger at Democrats.

"You are declaring open war on American democracy," he said. "You are the ones obstructing justice, you are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our republic".

US President Donald Trump has lashed out at the impeachment vote. Picture: AP
US President Donald Trump has lashed out at the impeachment vote. Picture: AP

The House's lone independent, former Republican Justin Amash of Michigan, voted with the Democrats to impeach Mr Trump on both charges.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement after the House vote that the action "marks the culmination in the House of one of the most shameful political episodes in the history of our nation."

"Without receiving a single Republican vote, and without providing any proof of wrongdoing, Democrats pushed illegitimate articles of impeachment against the president through the House of Representatives," Ms Grisham's statement said. "Democrats have chosen to proceed on this partisan basis in spite of the fact that the president did absolutely nothing wrong. Indeed, weeks of hearings have proved that he did nothing wrong.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi said after the vote that it was "a great day for the constitution of the United States, a sad one for America".

Impeachment proceedings will now move to a Senate trial in early January and is expected to be held six days a week for six weeks.

A two-thirds majority of those present in the 100-member Senate would be needed to convict Mr Trump and remove him from office, meaning at least 20 Republicans would be required to cross the floor, which is unlikely.

Trump: ‘It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached’
Trump: ‘It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached’ AP Photo - Manuel Balce Ceneta

 

"Throughout the House Democrats' entire sham impeachment, the president was denied fundamental fairness and due process under the law," Grisham claimed. "The House blatantly ignored precedent and conducted the inquiry in secrecy behind closed doors so that Chairman Adam Schiff and his partisan political cronies could selectively leak information to their partners in the media to push a false narrative.

"When public hearings were held before Chairman Schiff's committee, Democrats continued their games and denied the president the ability to cross-examine witnesses or present witnesses or evidence. The proceedings in the Judiciary Committee included no fact witnesses at all and consisted solely of a biased law seminar and a staffer rehashing the slanted report that was produced by Chairman Schiff's rigged proceeding. This unconstitutional travesty resulted in two baseless articles of impeachment that lack any support in evidence and fail even to describe any impeachable offense.

 

"All of these antics make clear that Democrats have lost sight of what this country needs, which is a Congress that works for the people. Their boundless animus for President Trump fuels their desire to nullify the 2016 election results, and improperly influence the 2020 election.

"The American people are not fooled by this disgraceful behavior. They understand fairness, due process, and substantial, reliable evidence are required before any American should be charged with wrongdoing - and certainly before impeaching a duly elected President.

The President is confident the Senate will restore regular order, fairness, and due process, all of which were ignored in the House proceedings," Grisham's statement concluded. "He is prepared for the next steps and confident that he will be fully exonerated. President Trump will continue to work tirelessly to address the needs and priorities of the American people, as he has since the day he took office."

TRUMP ACCUSATIONS

Mr Trump is accused of using his position to pressure a foreign counterpart to investigate his political rival in return for hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid.

He denies that a July 25 phone call with newly elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was improper and that his request was to ensure an investigation into the family of leading 2020 US presidential candidate Joe Biden on behalf of the country.

In a display of Washington's duelling realities, where impeachment is playing along strict party lines, Mr Trump has released a transcript of a contentious phone call between the two leaders which he claims exonerates him, but which Democrats say proves he committed "high crimes and misdemeanours" and should be removed from office.

 

Mr Trump has reacted with growing fury to the impeachment process, releasing a blistering six-page public letter to top Democrat and House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday (local time), posting dozens of social media defences and holding several press conferences in which he described the process as a "sham" and an "attempted coup".

On Wednesday morning (local time), he called on his supporters to "say a prayer" as debate in the House continued about how proceedings will play out.

"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!" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.

 

In an hours long debate, Mrs Pelosi said the US President "gave us no choice" but to act.

"As speaker of the House I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States. 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,' she said in her speech in the well of the House, standing next to a sign with a picture of the American flag and reading 'to the republic for which it stands.'

Earlier in a letter to Mrs Pelosi, he described a "vicious crusade" against him which offered less due process than the Salem witch trials of the 17th century.

"When people look back at this affair, I want them to understand it, and learn for it, so that it can never happen to another president again," he wrote.

Mrs Pelosi, who had resisted her colleagues calls for impeachment from day one of Mr Trump's presidency and warned of the dangers of it being a partisan process, commenced an impeachment inquiry in November, after the US President released the transcript of his contentious call with Mr Zelensky.

 

"Very sadly, the facts have made clear that the President abused his power for his own personal, political benefit and that he obstructed Congress," Mrs Pelosi wrote to colleagues on Wednesday.

"In America, no one is above the law. During this very prayerful moment in our nation's history, we must honour our oath to support and defend our Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic."

The vote was anticipated to take place around 7pm Washington time (11am AEDT).

The trial in the Republican-controlled Senate is anticipated early in the new year.

On current numbers it is all but guaranteed to fail, with a two-thirds majority in the Senate required to remove Mr Trump from office.

The articles of impeachment against US President Donald Trump. Picture: AP
The articles of impeachment against US President Donald Trump. Picture: AP

This would require at least 20 Republicans to cross the floor.

Although two other presidents - Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson - have faced Senate trials, neither were removed from office.

Disgraced leader Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before a final House vote to impeach him over the Watergate scandal.

 

Republicans will control the format of the Senate trial and it could run six days a week for more than a month, although indications are that it will be shorter, with Republicans even considering voting on a verdict before hearing any evidence.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell refused Democrat demands to call several Trump administration officials as witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Picture: AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Picture: AP

 

"It is not the Senate's job to leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to "get to 'guilty,'" Mr. McConnell said in the Senate on Tuesday.

"That would hardly be impartial justice. If House Democrats' case is this deficient, this thin, the answer is not for the judge and jury to cure it here in the Senate. The answer is that the House should not impeach on this basis in the first place."

US Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over the trial.

 

 



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