Panel vote gets ball rolling on Donald Trump impeachment charges
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats propelled President Donald Trump’s impeachment toward a historic vote by the full U.S. House as the Judiciary Committee on Friday approved charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It's the latest major step in the constitutional and political storm that has divided Congress and the nation.
The House is expected to approve the two articles of impeachment next week, before lawmakers depart for the holidays.
The partisan split in the committee vote — 23 Democrats to 17 Republicans — reflects the atmosphere in Congress. The Democratic-majority House is expected to approve the charges against Trump next week, but the Republican-controlled Senate is likely to acquit him after a January trial.
Trump is accused, in the first article, of abusing his presidential power.
"Today is a solemn and sad day," Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., told reporters after the session, marking the third time in U.S. history the panel had voted to recommend impeaching a president. He said the full House would act "expeditiously".
After the milestone votes, Trump's press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, labeled the proceedings a “desperate charade” and 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.”
Voting was swift and solemn, with none of the fiery speeches and weighty nods to history that defined the previous two days of debate, including 14 hours that stretched nearly to midnight Thursday. Nadler abruptly halted that rancorous session so voting could be held in daylight, for all Americans to see.
Nadler, who had said he wanted lawmakers to “search their consciences” before casting their votes, gaveled in the landmark but brief morning session at the Capitol.
Lawmakers responded “aye” or “yes” for the Democrats, and simple: "no's" from the Republicans.
“The article is agreed to,” Nadler declared after each vote.
The top Republican on the panel Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia immediately said he would file dissenting views.
Minutes after the morning session opened, it was gaveled shut.
The president took to Twitter early Friday to praise the panel's Republicans as “warriors.” After the vote he said at the White House that Democrats were making fools of themselves, describing the proceedings as he often does: “a witch hunt”, “scam", and "hoax".
Trump insisted anew that when he asked Ukraine to "do us a favour", in the July phone call that sparked impeachment, he was referring to the U.S., not a political favor for himself. He derided the government officials who testified that he pressured Ukraine and claimed he was benefiting politically from impeachment.
The president has refused to participate in the proceedings, tweeting criticisms as he did Thursday from the sidelines, mocking the charges against him.
Democrats contend that Trump has engaged in a pattern of misconduct toward Russia dating back to the 2016 election campaign.