Without any Republican support, the House on Wednesday night voted to impeach President Trump for “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress” related to his dealings with Ukraine, making Trump the third American president ever to be impeached.
The separate votes on the two counts teed up an all-but-certain Senate acquittal, should House Democrats forward the charges to the GOP-controlled chamber. They also fulfilled a promise made by some Democrats ever since Trump’s inauguration to impeach him, even as polls have shown support for impeachment declining.
But, late Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, floated the possibility that the House would not send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., likely would oversee a strong defense of the president that could prove politically damaging for vulnerable Democrats.
“We’ll make a decision… as we go along.” Pelosi told reporters, adding that “we’ll see what the process will be on the Senate side.”
“We have acted,” Pelosi continued, repeatedly refusing to commit to sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. “Now, they’ll understand what their responsibilities are, and we’ll see what that is.” In 1998, after the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, the House sent the charges off to the Senate within minutes. This time around, the House may want to hold onto the articles as leverage to extract concessions from Senate Republicans — or to bury impeachment as it proves increasingly unpopular among moderates in key battleground states.
Pelosi insisted that Republicans would need to run a fair trial if the matter made its way to the Senate, without explaining what exactly she was seeking. Republicans, including McConnell, this week condemned Democrats for rushing to impeach and rejected the idea that they would do Democrats’ work for them in the Senate.
McConnell openly embraced his role as a partisan, saying House Democrats had paid only superficial lip service to the idea of fairness — even as they allowed a trove of hearsay evidence against the president, barred several proposed GOP witnesses, conducted hearings out of the public view, called a series of left-wing law professors to testify about their feelings on Trump, and prejudged the case publicly for months.
Meanwhile, conservative commentators slammed any delay in the Senate trial as crass partisan gamesmanship, noting that just this past March, Pelosi had vowed that impeachment would need to be a bipartisan effort. In the end, the only bipartisan aspect of the impeachment process was that a handful of Democrats joined Republicans to oppose it. All Republicans opposed both articles of impeachment.
That said, this special resolution which the House must approve is considered “privileged,” meaning that if any member wants to call up a vote to transfer it to the Senate, that must happen right away. But, the House can continue to hold onto the articles of impeachment if the resolution were defeated.
The historic impeachment votes were tallied as Trump was holding a rally on friendly turf in frigid downtown Battle Creek, Mich., where thousands lined up hours in advance — with some reportedly sleeping in tents beginning Tuesday night so that they could guarantee a seat.