Trump becomes 3rd president impeached; AZ delegation splits on party lines




The House of Representatives debated two Articles of Impeachment of President Donald Trump at the US Capitol on Dec. 18, 2019. Photo by Samuel Corum | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday night, making him the third president to be impeached in U.S. history. 

Trump was impeached on largely party line votes on charges that he abused the power of the presidency and obstructed Congress. The charges surround allegations that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival in an effort to interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election and boost his re-election chances. 

No House Republicans voted to adopt either impeachment article. Two House Democrats voted against both articles of impeachment — Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. Van Drew is reportedly planning to switch parties to become a Republican. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) voted to impeach for abuse of power, but against the obstruction of Congress article. Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted “present” on both articles.  

Arizona’s delegation voted entirely along party lines.  Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego, Raúl Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, Tom O’Halleran and Greg Stanton voted in support of both impeachment articles. Republican Reps. Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, Debbie Lesko and David Schweikert voted against both articles. 

The vote came after a lengthy and heated debate on the House floor, as Democrats warned that Trump had trampled on the U.S. Constitution, while his GOP defenders accused the House majority of manufacturing a case for impeachment due to their disdain for Trump’s policies. 

“The founders’ great fear of a rogue or corrupt president is the very reason why they enshrined impeachment in the Constitution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “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.”

Only two other presidents had previously been impeached by the House: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both of those presidents were acquitted by the Senate. 

Trump also appears to be headed for acquittal in the GOP-led Senate. A trial, in which House Democrats will argue their case before the upper chamber of Congress, is expected to begin next month. 

Some senators have been cautious about stating whether they’ll vote to remove Trump from office, arguing that they’ll be jurors in the trial and don’t want to prejudge the outcome. But not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). 

McConnell told reporters Tuesday that he is “not at all impartial” on impeachment and that it is a “political process.”

And Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally appears to have changed her tone on impeachment. In October, she told multiple media outlets she was reticent to talk about the allegations Trump sought to use his office for personal political gain because she would be a juror if Trump was impeached by the House.

“I’m actually a juror … so my job is to be thoughtful, to look at the facts and to show good judgment…” she told ABC15.

But her campaign manager told the Associated Press on Dec. 16 that McSally has concluded Trump did nothing wrong in holding up congressionally approved military aid to an ally as leverage to force the public announcement of investigations into political rivals.

“Senator McSally takes her role as a juror seriously but hasn’t heard anything so far that would lead her to believe impeachment of the president is warranted, let alone removing him from office,” campaign manager Dylan Lefler said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The AP reported that a recording of McSally speaking recently to a GOP meeting in southern Arizona captured her speaking candidly about Senate Republicans “working closely with the White House” on the process for impeachment. She also said that Republicans were working through the best way to handle a trial “without inadvertently planting our own landmines and walking into a minefield.”

Arizona’s other senator, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, has been silent on impeachment.

As lawmakers prepared to vote on Wednesday, Trump wrote on Twitter: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!”

Trump held a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on Wednesday night. “By the way, it doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached, the country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like never before,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post.

Democrats delivered sharper rebukes of the president, arguing that failing to impeach Trump would set a precedent that other presidents could invite foreign interference in U.S. elections. 

“Trump has perverted the rule of law, abused his power and engaged in a cover-up,” Grijalva, D-Tucson, said in a floor speech. “The president leaves us no choice but to vote to impeach so that we can protect our democracy and correct the damage that’s already done.”   

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that in his nearly 40 years in the House under six presidential administrations, he never expected to “encounter such an obvious wrongdoing by a president of the United States. Nor did I expect to witness such a craven rationalization of presidential actions which have put our national security at risk, undermined the integrity of our elections and defied the constitutional authority of the Congress to conduct oversight.” 

Republicans, meanwhile, spent the debate accusing their Democratic colleagues of pursuing a political vendetta against the president, pointing frequently to statements Democrats had made supporting impeachment before the Ukraine investigation was launched. 

“Democrats have manufactured this sham and then argue that refusing to cooperate is impeachable,” said Biggs, R-Gilbert. “This process has been partisan, vindictive, dishonest.” 

Democrats vehemently denied GOP attacks that they were pursuing impeachment because they hate Trump’s policies or dislike him personally. Gallego, a Phoenix Democrat, accused Republicans of “grasping at straws while living in an alternative universe where facts don’t exist” in order to defend Trump.

“To those still unwilling to search their souls, ask yourself: Would you support a Democratic president using taxpayer dollars to pressure a foreign government to investigate a Republican political opponent based on false Russian conspiracy theories?” he said. “Of course not, that’s absurd.” 

One independent congressman, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, sided with Democrats to vote for both articles of impeachment. Amash, who helped found the conservative House Freedom Caucus, left the GOP earlier this year after calling for Trump’s impeachment. 

Trump’s “actions reflect precisely the type of conduct the framers of the Constitution intended to remedy through the power of impeachment, and it is our duty to impeach him,” Amash said Wednesday on the House floor.