With his impeachment by the House of Representatives yesterday, US President Donald Trump becomes only the third president in 240 years of US history to be impeached.
The Democratic-led House passed the abuse of power article of impeachment on a largely party-line 230-197 vote. The House then proceeded with a vote on the second article of impeachment charging him with obstruction of Congress. The second article was passed by a 229-198 vote.
Yesterday night’s voting framed in what many Democrats said was their duty to protect the Constitution and uphold the nation’s system of checks and balances. Republicans stood by their party’s leader, who has frequently tested the bounds of civic norms.
Trump called the whole affair a “witch hunt,” a “hoax” and a “sham,” and sometimes all three.
Trump faced impeachment on two grounds:
(1) Trump has been accused of abusing his office by asking Ukraine to start corruption investigations against Joe Biden, a former US vice-president who is also the leading Democratic contender in the 2020 US Presidential election. This in effect means trying to influence the election by pressuring a foreign country to investigate his rival candidate and smear his image;
(2) The President has been accused of obstructing Congress from investigating this case.
The first charge that Trump faces is that he abused his power. In the present context (i.e. impeachment), abuse of power means that as President of the United States of America, he used the immense powers vested in his office for personal benefit.
According to the US Constitution, a President can be removed from office on grounds of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours”.
A day before the House of Representative voted in favour of his impeachment, Donald Trump wrote a strong-worded letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the letter, Trump said that the impeachment proceedings against him are a “total sham”. He accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of engaging in “perversion of justice” by allowing the impeachment proceedings.
Denouncing the investigation, Trump said it is an “attempted coup” and said the Democrats are doing it to undo the 2016 US Presidential election in which he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Pelosi wrote a letter to all 232 Democratic members and urged them to abide by the constitution. The letter read: “Very sadly, the facts have made clear that President Donald Trump abused his power for his own personal, political benefit and that he obstructed Congress as he demanded that he is above accountability above the Constitution and above the American people.”