Panel Approves Impeachment Articles and Sends Charges for a House Vote

The House Judiciary Committee voted over Republican objections to advance two articles of impeachment accusing President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

A fiercely divided House Judiciary Committee pushed President Trump to the brink of impeachment on Friday, voting along party lines to approve charges that he abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress.

After a fractious two-day debate steeped in the Constitution and shaped by the realities of a hyperpartisan era in American politics, the Democratic-controlled committee recommended that the House ratify two articles of impeachment against the 45th president. In back-to-back votes just after 10 a.m., they adopted each charge against Mr. Trump by a margin of 23 to 17 over howls of Republican protest.

The partisan result and the contentious debate that preceded it were harbingers of a historic proceeding and vote on the House floor, expected next week, to impeach Mr. Trump, whose nearly three-year tenure has exacerbated the nation’s political divisions.

Mr. Trump, who insists he did nothing wrong, is now only the fourth American president in history to face impeachment by the House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and possible conviction and removal from office by the Senate.

The House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment charging President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. See them with context and analysis by The Times’s chief White House correspondent.


At the White House, Mr. Trump was defiant, denouncing impeachment as a “witch hunt,” and a “sham” that would come back to bite Democrats the next time their party held the presidency.

“I think it’s a horrible thing to be using the tool of impeachment, which is supposed to be used in an emergency,” Mr. Trump told reporters shortly after the Judiciary Committee votes, during a meeting in the Oval Office with President Mario Abdo of Paraguay.

“It’s a very sad thing for our country,” Mr. Trump added, “but it seems to be very good for me politically.”

The charges ratified on Friday arise from a House Intelligence Committee investigation that concluded this fall that the president has manipulated his administration to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his political rival, and a theory that Democrats conspired with Ukraine to interfere in the 2016 election. He did so, Democrats allege, using as leverage nearly $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine’s fight against Russia and a coveted White House meeting for its president.

Mr. Trump then sought to conceal the scheme from Congress, the committee charged, ordering unprecedented, across-the-board stonewalling of its investigation unlike any “in the history of the Republic.” It amounted to an effort by the president to undermine the separation of powers and limit his accountability, they said.

Shortly after the votes, Stephanie Grisham, the White house press secretary, issued a short statement saying the president was eagerly anticipating vindication in a Senate trial.

“This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end,” she said. “The president looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House.”

The vote took place in the Ways and Means Committee room the morning after a contentious 14-hour session in the Judiciary Committee that stretched past 11 p.m. on Thursday as Democrats turned back a number of Republican efforts to gut or weaken the charges and members of both parties feuded over impeaching the president. Republicans argued not only that Mr. Trump’s conduct was not impeachable, but that his actions were entirely justified and explained by more innocent intentions.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, abruptly paused the session late Thursday night before bringing the articles to a final vote, saying he wanted members to take the time to “search their consciences” before the historic roll-call. After Republicans had dragged out the debate for hours, Democrats said they did not want such a consequential vote to occur in the dark of night, when the American public was unlikely to be watching.

On Friday morning, 40 members of the panel solemnly took their places on the wood-carved dais and voted without any further debate. After a week of accusations and recrimination, the vote took fewer than 10 minutes.

“Today is a solemn and sad day,” Mr. Nadler said in a brief statement afterward. “For the third time in a little over a century and half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House will act expeditiously.”

Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 were both impeached on largely partisan votes, but were later acquitted by the Senate. Richard M. Nixon resigned in 1974 after the Judiciary Committee had approved charges against him, and just before the House could take a final vote to impeach him.

Talk of impeaching Mr. Trump began among some liberals as early as his Inauguration Day in 2017, and intensified this year when Democrats reclaimed control of the House amid a swirl of speculation about whether a special counsel investigation would conclude that Mr. Trump’s campaign had conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

But in the end, the impeachment of Mr. Trump has unfolded rapidly and on grounds that emerged only a few months ago. The Judiciary Committee votes came almost exactly four months after an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower submitted a complaint alleging a systematic campaign by the president to solicit Ukraine’s help in the 2020 election. The House opened its inquiry in late September.

On Friday, the Judiciary Committee endorsed the charge that Mr. Trump abused the powers of his office by pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations of his political rivals, using official acts as leverage as he sought advantage for his 2020 re-election campaign.

Though Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have explicitly connected the Ukraine matter to Mr. Trump’s embrace of Russian election assistance during the 2016 campaign, accusing the president of a broad and dangerous pattern of conduct, they elected not to include additional charges outside of it.

Republicans, who have defended Mr. Trump’s conduct and accused Democrats’ evidence of falling woefully short, declared Friday that Democrats had “tried to railroad the president.”

“It’s so unnecessary,” said Representative Steve Chabot, Republican of Ohio. “It was kind of preordained, I’m afraid, when this president got elected, because there were a group of people and they convinced a majority here on the Democratic side that this president needed to go.”

Democratic leaders have indicated the full House will debate and vote on the articles next week, with final approval likely falling on Wednesday, just before Congress recesses for Christmas and New Year’s. They were lining up two more consequential votes to help soften the political liability for moderate Democrats in swing districts, including approval of Mr. Trump’s new trade deal with Canada and Mexico and a massive defense bill.

After the Judiciary Committee adjourned, the Rules Committee sent notice that it would meet on Tuesday morning to make the final preparations for the House vote.

Impeachment votes by the House Judiciary Committee have brought past presidents to their knees. Nixon resigned days afterward. Mr. Clinton promptly apologized for his actions and offered to accept a censure resolution by the House in lieu of impeachment.

Mr. Trump has remained defiant, insisting he had done nothing wrong. He was expected to meet Friday at the White House with his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, whose intense public pursuit of the investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals provided the kindling that helped fuel the impeachment inquiry.

Over the last two weeks, the president declined to send his lawyers to participate in the hearings or offer a White House defense before the House, breaking with the approach of Nixon and Mr. Clinton. He did not want to lend the proceedings legitimacy and argued he would get a fairer trial in the Senate.

Republican leaders in the upper chamber indicated on Thursday, in the run-up to the vote, that they wanted a speedy trial and would work hand-in-glove with Mr. Trump’s defense team — an announcement that quickly drew a rebuke from Democrats who pointed out that senators take an oath to “do impartial justice” in an impeachment trial.

Asked on Friday if he wanted a short trial, Mr. Trump said, “I’ll do whatever I want.”

He added, “We did nothing wrong, so I’ll do long or short.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, predicted there was “no chance” 67 senators — the two-thirds majority needed for a conviction — would vote to remove Mr. Trump in an election year.

Unlike during Watergate, when the public came to broadly support removal, or in 1998, when a clear majority opposed it, public polling in recent weeks suggests that Americans are as divided as their elected lawmakers with little signs of change. Some polls show a slight majority of the public supports impeachment and removal, roughly the same fraction who voted against Mr. Trump three years ago.

Still, the echoes of history were hard to miss. The charges against Mr. Trump paralleled some of the articles drawn up against Nixon. And Thursday’s vote fell almost exactly 21 years after the Judiciary panel voted to recommend the impeachment of Mr. Clinton, on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power.

The Intelligence Committee’s conclusions were reached based on documents and testimony from more than a dozen senior American diplomats and White House officials who said that over the spring and fall, Mr. Trump empowered his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and a group of allies inside the government to toss out official American policy toward Ukraine and supplant it with his personal interests.

However, the House never heard from some of those closest to Mr. Trump, who could have shed further light on the scheme and the president’s thinking, based on the White House’s orders not to comply. During the debate this week, Republicans accused Democrats of rushing to conclusions without all the facts.

Related Articles

Back to top button