Trump impeached by the House on two counts over Ukraine dealings



WASHINGTON, Shabtai Gold and Eliyahu Kamisher (dpa)- US President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Wednesday for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings with Ukraine, following an emotive, heated and staunchly partisan debate between lawmakers.
Trump, who is only the third president to be impeached in the country's history, was holding a political rally for his re-election campaign in the northern state of Michigan as the historic votes took place in Washington.




"It doesn't really feel like we're being impeached," a flippant and often brutally angry Trump told an adoring crowd of thousands, many of whom lined up for hours in below-freezing weather to hear the president.
"We did nothing wrong," he said, attempting to frame impeachment as an effort to overturn the last election.
The first vote, on the count of abuse of power, passed with 230 in favour and 197 against. The second vote, on a charge of obstruction of Congress, came in at 229-198. No Republicans defected and uniformly voted to back their leader.
Democrats accuse the Republican president of abusing his office by soliciting Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden, and withholding aid and a key White House meeting as leverage. They say he then obstructed Congress' investigation of the affair.
"Right now, the president is impeached," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told reporters after the nearly 12-hour session ended. She has repeatedly insisted the president's own pattern of behaviour made impeachment inevitable.
However, she threw a surprise into the mix, declining to say when the House would send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial, arguing that Republican majority in the upper chamber was in "cahoots" with Trump. The trial was expected to begin in January.
No Republicans have admitted any significant wrongdoing by Trump, while Democrats are outraged that he appeared to ask a foreign country to interfere in domestic elections. Pelosi said the president is an "ongoing threat" to national security and the 2020 election.
The debate in the House played out over hours but swayed no one, with each side accusing the other of being derelict of duty and failing to heed the constitution, a document often viewed as sacrosanct.
One Republican lawmaker said Trump was treated less fairly than Jesus at the crucifixion, while another compared impeachment to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour during World War II. A third denounced the Democrats as "insidious forces that threaten our republic."
The case against Trump stems from the key accusation, which snowballed from an anonymous whistleblower complaint from within the government, that Trump pressured Ukraine to announce an investigation against Biden to weaken his rival.
It is apparent Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was running a back-door diplomatic channel to Ukraine to get dirt on Biden, a Democrat, and worked to oust the US ambassador to Kiev to smooth the way for the scheme.
Biden's son, Hunter Biden, served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. There is no evidence that the younger Biden did anything illegal. Joe Biden is running to oppose Trump next year.
The impeachment followed weeks of contentious hearings, in which more than a dozen high-ranking career diplomats and national security officials testified that they were concerned by Trump's behaviour on Ukraine, with some saying they saw a threat to national security.
The House has the power to impeach with a simple majority, but the trial in the Senate will require a two-thirds majority to remove a president from office, making the prospect very unlikely.
Public opinion is sharply divided over impeachment, with neither side enjoying a clear majority, let alone overwhelming support, highlighting the current polarized nature of US political life.
Trump's approval rating stands at about 43 per cent, low for most presidents, but around his historical average, having rebounded from personal lows in September when the Ukraine affair hit the news cycle.
Over in Michigan, a battleground state, Trump spoke for more than two hours, in an often rambling hodgepodge of usual talking points mixed with particular bile towards his opponents, even taking a dig at a deceased lawmaker. But he also attempted to exude confidence.
"I'm having a good time... I'm not worried," he said.
The White House issued a statement calling impeachment a "travesty" and expressing complete faith in the Senate that it will exonerate the president.
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Thursday, December 19th 2019
Shabtai Gold and Eliyahu Kamisher (dpa)
           


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