WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers are poised to formally charge President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress with a history-making impeachment vote Wednesday by the full House of Representatives.
The House likely will vote almost totally along party lines to approve each of the two articles of impeachment, prompting a Senate trial next year and making Trump only the third president to be impeached in the history of the United States.
The vote is being held over strong objections by Trump and Republicans in Congress. They insist that Trump did nothing wrong and accuse Democrats of depriving him of due process and of violating House procedures in a rush to impeach without evidence of a crime.
But Democrats assert that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election by probing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for his own benefit, and blocking attempts by the House to investigate his misdeeds.
As the House prepares to take this next step in the impeachment process, Americans remain deeply and evenly divided — strongly along partisan lines — about convicting and removing Trump from office for high crimes and misdemeanors, according to recent polls.
About 8 of 10 Democrats support impeachment and 9 of 10 Republicans oppose it, according to an average of polls by the analytical news site FiveThirtyEight. Independents are divided, with slightly more opposed to impeachment than for it.
Representatives will take up a House resolution containing the two articles of impeachment after the House convenes at 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to the procedure approved by the House Rules Committee Tuesday night.
The House will spend an hour debating the rules for the impeachment debate before taking a procedural vote. Then the House will debate for six hours, split evenly between the two sides, on the two articles of impeachment. Then a final vote will be held on those articles.
It will take a simple majority to approve the rule and the articles.
Article I charges Trump abused his powers by soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election by pressuring Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation of Biden and Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. election by withholding a coveted White House meeting and $391 million in security aid.
Article II charges Trump with obstruction of Congress for ordering unprecedented defiance of an impeachment inquiry, blocking nine key witnesses from testifying and refusing to turn over any documents the House subpoenaed.
Ahead of the debate and vote, Trump vented his anger in a six-page letter Tuesday, saying his treatment is worse than in the Salem Witch Trials. He called his impeachment an “illegal, partisan attempted coup” and accusing Democrats of “abuse of power.”
But at the hearing Tuesday to set the ground rules and parameters for House consideration of the articles, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the Rules Committee chairman, said “the actions of the president” make impeachment necessary.
“It’s clear that this president acted in a way that not only violates the public trust, he jeopardized our national security, and he undermined our democracy,” McGovern said. “This is about President Trump using his office to try and rig the next election.”
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the top committee Republican, criticized the Democrats’ process and outcome as “flawed and partisan from day one,” and said, “When half of Americans are telling you what you’re doing is wrong, you should listen.”
Cole also accused Democrats of rushing ahead “regardless of the needless drama or the damage to the institution and to the country knowing full well that at the end of the day, the president will remain in office.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has said the Senate will not convict Trump, on Tuesday rejected the proposal by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for the Senate trial to call four witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
“The fact that my colleague is already desperate to sign up the Senate for new fact-finding … suggests something to me,” McConnell said. “It suggests that even Democrats who do not like this president are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the House’s rushed process has been.”
Schumer defended the House investigation and approval of charges.
“The witnesses we have chosen have direct eyewitness knowledge of the facts at issue in the House impeachment charges,” he said, referring to the withholding of U.S. aid to Ukraine.
“What is Leader McConnell afraid of? What is President Trump afraid of?” Schumer asked.