Washington: A fiercely divided House Judiciary Committee pushed President Donald Trump to the brink of impeachment 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, the Democratic-controlled committee recommended that the House ratify two articles of impeachment against the 45th president. In back-to-back morning votes, they adopted each charge against Trump by a margin of 23-17 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 Trump. 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 charges ratified 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 Joe Biden, 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.
Trump then sought to conceal the scheme from Congress, the committee charged, ordering unprecedented, across-the-board stonewalling of its investigation.
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. 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 so much that Trump's conduct was not impeachable, but that his actions were justified and explained by more innocent intentions.
Trump has remained defiant, insisting he had done "NOTHING wrong" and lambasting Democrats Friday morning as "the Party of lies and deception!" Firing off a series of tweets hours before the vote, Trump praised Republicans for their defense of him and declared "Republicans are the Party of the American Dream!"
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, predicted there was "no chance" 67 senators - the two-thirds majority needed for a conviction - would vote to remove Trump in an election year.