US President Donald Trump is expected to be impeached on Wednesday by the Democratic-led House of Representatives for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power related to his dealings with Ukraine.
Wednesday’s historic votes on impeachment follow a more than two-month inquiry by House Democrats, who accuse the president of pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation into the president’s political rival and former vice president, Joe Biden, who is also a frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. They also charge that the president obstructed their investigation by refusing to comply with subpoenas and directing members of his administration to do the same.
If the articles of impeachment are approved, as expected, Trump will become only the third president in United States history to be impeached.
Wednesday’s votes set the stage for a trial in the Republican-led Senate in January. No president has ever been removed from office via the impeachment process set out in the Constitution, and Republican senators have given little indication of changing that.
As the House prepares for the landmark impeachment vote, here are all the latest updates as of Wednesday, December 18:
#MerryImpeachmas trends on Twitter as House prepares vote
Impeachment supporters used #MerryImpeachmas on Wednesday morning to demand that Trump be impeached.
“#MerryImpeachmas everyone! The actions taken today will live on in the history books for a long time. May we learn from our mistakes and never allow the most powerful position in the free world to be taken by a pseudo Dictator,” tweeted one Twitter user.
#MerryImpeachmas everyone! The actions taken today will live on in the history books for a long time. May we learn from our mistakes and never allow the most powerful position in the free world to be taken by a pseudo Dictator. pic.twitter.com/3XvOsyepJh
— Matt Hogan (@3_Hogan) December 18, 2019
“I have been praying for your impeachment for over a year now. Prayers answered. #MerryImpeachmas,” tweeted another.
I have been praying for your impeachment for over a year now. Prayers answered. #MerryImpeachmas
— Sara Clark (@sjeffriesclark) December 18, 2019
Trump: Can you believe that I will be impeached today
Trump on Wednesday again denied any wrongdoing, tweeting: “I DID NOTHING WRONG”
“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!” Trump said on Twitter.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2019
House impeachment votes: What to watch for
- Spoiler alert – Trump is headed for a near-certain impeachment
- Any defections? – Expect most Democrats to vote for impeachment and all Republicans to vote against it. One freshman Democrat, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, has indicated he will oppose impeachment, then switch parties to become a Republican. Earlier this year, Justin Amash left the Republican party when he favoured impeachment. He is expected to vote yes to impeach. And one new Democratic congressman, Jared Golden of Maine, said he would vote to impeach on abuse of power but not obstruction.
- Will Wednesday’s debate change American minds? – That is still unclear. According to latest polling, the Democrats’ more than two months of investigation, including hours of public hearings did little to sway Republican voters to support impeachment.
- What about Trump? – the US president will likely continue tweeting throughout Wednesday’s vote. On Tuesday, he sent a scathing letter to House Democratic leaders, accusing them of “bring pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish, personal political gain”.
- Next stop: Senate – We may see more jabs traded in the Senate as leaders try to agree on next steps with a Senate trial.
Refresher: What is impeachment?
The founders of the US included impeachment in the US Constitution as an option for removal of presidents by Congress. Delegates to the constitutional convention of 1787 in Philadelphia agreed that presidents could be removed if found guilty by Congress of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.
The sole authority under the Constitution to bring articles of impeachment is vested in the House of Representatives where proceedings can begin in the Judiciary Committee. If the House approves articles of impeachment, or “impeaches” a president, he or she would then be subject to trial in the US Senate.
Read more on the US impeachment process here.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) December 18, 2019
House prepares for historic votes
Wednesday’s proceedings will kick off at 9am (14:00 GMT) with debate on the rule governing the longer impeachment debate. After the rule is approved, there will then be six hours of debate, divided equally among Democrats and Republicans. The final votes are expected in the afternoon or early evening.
Read more here.
Tuesday, December 17:
Thousands rally across US in favour of impeachment
A coalition of liberal groups organised rallies across the US in favour of impeachment.
Rallies were held from Washington, DC, to New York City and St Paul, Minnesota to Phoenix, Arizona, with protesters demanding Trump be impeached over his dealings with Ukraine.
“No one is above the law,” read one sign in Salt Lake City, Utah. “We already went over this, America does not want a king,” read another in Chicago, Illinois.
Read more here.
House panel sets rules for debate
The House Rules Committee approved the rules for Wednesday’s debate on the two articles of impeachment against Trump.
The panel approved six hours of floor debate on the resolution, which will be divided equally among Democrats and Republicans and led by the House Judiciary Committee leaders.
There will also one hour of debate prior to a procedural vote to approve the rule governing debate.
Trump sends blistering letter to Pelosi
In a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, Trump accused Democrats of pursuing an “illegal, partisan attempted coup” and declaring war on American democracy.
The rambling, six-page letter on White House letterhead largely restated the president’s objections to the impeachment inquiry but did so in accusatory and sometimes spiteful language that attacked Pelosi, congressional Democrats, Trump ‘s political rival Joe Biden and institutions such as the FBI.
“This is nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup that will, based on recent sentiment, badly fail at the voting booth,” Trump’s letter stated.
“By proceeding with your invalid impeachment, you are violating your oaths of office, you are breaking your allegiance to the Constitution, and you are declaring open war on American Democracy,” Trump wrote.
“You view democracy as your enemy!” he added.
Read the full letter here.
Duelling speeches in Senate over impeachment next steps
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday brushed aside a Democratic request to call four current and former White House officials as witnesses in a Senate impeachment trial expected next month, sending another clear signal that he expects senators not to remove Trump from office.
Speaking from the Senate floor, McConnell said he would not allow a “fishing expedition” after a “slapdash” House impeachment process.
In his speech from the Senate floor, however, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said a trial without witnesses would be a “sham” and suggested Trump’s fellow Republicans favoured a cover-up.
Sparring over rules
At the Capitol, Democrats and Republicans sparred over the rules of debate on Tuesday with legislators arguing over the parameters for the debate.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to be here today, but the actions of the president of the United States make that necessary,” said Chairman Jim McGovern. “The evidence is as clear as it is overwhelming.″
He said the president “jeopardised our national security. and he undermined our democracy” and added that “every day we let President Trump act like the law doesn’t apply to him, we move a little closer” to rule by dictators.
Republicans disagreed, firmly.
The top committee Republican, Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, said the split view among Americans over impeachment should be reason enough not to proceed with the rare action. “When half of Americans are telling you what you are doing is wrong, you should listen,” he said.
Senate trial: Democrats want four witnesses
Top Democrat in the Senate Chuck Schumer said he wants the trial to consider documents and hear testimony from four witnesses: Former National Security Adviser John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney aide Robert Blair and budget official Michael Duffey. Schumer has argued that such testimony could sway Republicans in favour of removing Trump.
Trump has refused to cooperate with the House impeachment process and ordered current and former officials like those mentioned by Schumer not to testify or provide documents.
McConnell took aim at Schumer and Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that spearheaded the impeachment inquiry launched in September.
Giuliani: Trump ‘relied on’ on his claims
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, said in an interview with the New York Times published on Tuesday that he provided the president with information that the US ambassador to Ukraine was impeding investigations that could benefit Trump politically. Within weeks, she was recalled from her post.
In the interview, Giuliani portrayed himself as directly involved in the effort to remove Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and he provided details indicating Trump’s knowledge of that effort.
Giuliani said he passed along information to Trump “a couple of times” about how Yovanovitch had frustrated efforts that could help Trump, including efforts to have Ukraine investigate political rival, Joe Biden.
Read more here.