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    House of Representatives impeaches President Donald Trump

    December 19, 2019

    Nancy Pelosi confirms Trump is impeached - and warns Democrats not to celebrateDonald Trump has become the third US president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, setting up a trial in the Senate that will decide whether he remains in office.The House voted on two charges - that the president abused his power and that he had obstructed Congress.Both votes fell along party lines with nearly all Democrats voting for the charges and all Republicans against.As voting took place, President Trump was addressing a campaign rally.He told a cheering crowd in Battle Creek, Michigan: "While we're creating jobs and fighting for Michigan, the radical left in Congress is consumed with envy and hatred and rage, you see what's going on."The White House released a statement saying that the president was "confident that he will be fully exonerated" in a Senate trial.
    The proceedings on Wednesday began with members of Mr Trump's Republican Party calling for votes on procedural issues in an effort to frustrate the process.That was followed by a vote on the rules to be set out for the impeachment, which kicked off 10 hours of partisan debate on the merits of the two impeachment charges against President Trump.
    At about 20:30 local time (01:30 GMT), the House called for votes on the two charges: first, abuse of power, stemming from Mr Trump's alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into his Democratic political rival, Joe Biden; and second, obstruction of Congress, because the president allegedly refused to co-operate with the impeachment inquiry, withholding documentary evidence and barring his key aides from giving evidence.The vote for the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, was passed 230-197 and the second, for obstruction of Congress, 229-198.Being impeached places Donald Trump alongside only two other presidents in the nation's history - Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton - and sets up a trial in the Senate for his presidency.
    And so it is done. Donald Trump now becomes the third member of the exclusive club that no-one wants to be a member of.But the framers of the constitution with its impeachment provision could never have imagined the hyper-partisanship - on both sides - that has been witnessed during today's sterile House proceedings. Each side with its own narrative, neither side listening to the other. And one can say with some certainty - I would bet all my yet-to-be-gifted Christmas presents - that it will be much the same once this becomes a trial in the Senate in the New Year.Donald Trump will be acquitted. He won't be forced from office. So what changes? Well, Donald Trump will have a place in the history books - and for a man with such a huge sense of self that will hurt. Acutely. But 2020? Far from this being a killer blow against President Trump, it might turbo charge his bid for a second term. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was always wary about going down the impeachment route. We'll discover next November whether that concern was well founded.
    During the House debates, Mr Trump tweeted several times, calling the Democratic arguments "ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT" and an "ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!".The Republican Party has a majority in the Senate, making it highly unlikely the president will be removed from office when senators cast their votes. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week said that Republican senators would act in "total co-ordination" with the president's team during the trial, outraging Democrats who pointed out that Senators are obliged to act as impartial jurors.Mr McConnell will be the one who decides the rules for the trial and which witnesses will testify. He is due to address the Senate later on Thursday.Ms Pelosi has yet to name the case managers who will act as prosecutors during the trial.
    Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the debate on Wednesday."For centuries Americans have fought and died to defend democracy for the people, but very sadly now our founder's vision of a republic is under threat from actions from the White House," she said,"If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the president's reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice."A debate or a shouting match - key moments from impeachment debate Democratic representative Joe Kennedy, a grand-nephew of President John F Kennedy, used his speech to address his children directly, explaining his decision to vote for impeachment. "Dear Ellie and James: This is a moment that you'll read about in your history books," the Massachusetts congressman said, going on to accuse the president of "using his power as a weapon against his own people".
    Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, accused Democrats of conducting an unfair and illegitimate inquiry."This is an impeachment based on presumption. This is a poll-tested impeachment about what actually sells to the American people," Mr Collins said.Republican Barry Loudermilk compared the impeachment process to the fate of Jesus Christ. "During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded this president in this process," Mr Loudermilk said."Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president" Democrats were reportedly instructed by Ms Pelosi to treat the process solemnly. She told reporters outside the chamber she was "sad" about the proceedings, and a number of Democrats reflected on their disappointment at being involved in the impeachment.Across the country in the 24 hours leading up to the vote, pro-impeachment protesters took to the streets. Hundreds of people gathered in Times Square in New York on Tuesday night, chanting: "Tell me who's above the law? Nobody is above the law!"Protesters marched in support of impeachment across the country
    A man displays a pro-Trump sign near the Capitol on Wednesday The president had made an extraordinary intervention on the eve of Wednesday's vote, penning an irate six-page letter to Ms Pelosi accusing her of declaring "open war on American democracy". In the letter, which was published by the White House, the president claimed he had been "deprived of basic Constitutional Due Process from the beginning of this impeachment scam". He was in fact publicly invited by the Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee to give evidence, a move that would also have allowed his legal team to question witnesses, but he declined.
    What you need to know about the Senate trial
    The US House of Representatives has impeached President Donald Trump, setting the stage for the third-ever Senate impeachment trial.Here's what you need to know about that.A trial in the Senate will follow the vote to impeach the president in the House, as decreed in the Constitution.The House's articles of impeachment level two accusations against the president: that he solicited a foreign country to help him politically and that he obstructed Congress. The Republican president has denied any wrongdoing, calling the inquiry a "witch hunt".
    Mr Trump is accused of withholding millions in military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting with Ukraine's president as bargaining chips to push Ukraine into investigating his Democratic rival Joe Biden. Democrats say this amounts to an abuse of presidential power.As the White House refused to allow staff to testify during impeachment hearings in the House, Democrats have also accused Mr Trump of obstructing Congress.The Constitution is admittedly vague when it comes to impeachment - simply mandating that the House has the "sole power of impeachment", acting as grand jury and bringing charges. The Senate is given "the sole power to try all impeachments" and convict a president of "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours".
    There are general rules largely based on President Andrew Johnson's trial, but ultimately, Republican leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic counterpart Chuck Schumer will have to determine the guidelines for evidence, witnesses, duration and arguments.While Mr McConnell has the final say over the format as the Republican Senate leader, he could find his options limited if Democrats pressure moderate Republicans to vote with them on any changes to the rules. At any point, senators can call for votes on trial procedures that would need a simple majority to pass.After lawmakers hear from both sides - House prosecutors and White House counsel - and any witnesses, they will be given a full day to deliberate before a vote on conviction is held.A two-thirds majority is required to convict and oust Mr Trump. Given that Republicans control the 100-seat chamber with a 53-47 majority, the president is widely expected to be acquitted.
    Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial in the Senate, but the senators ultimately will act as both judge and jury.Justice Roberts is there to make sure the trial adheres to the predetermined rules, but if any vote during the trial ends in a tie, he has the final say.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will also select a group of Democrats to act as impeachment managers - essentially prosecutors for the House. These lawmakers will present the lower chamber's case for impeachment to the Senate.Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler would be the most traditional choices, US media report, though it is unclear who else might make the cut.During Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, Republicans had 13 such managers; staunch Trump ally Lindsey Graham was one.Mr McConnell, the majority leader, will ultimately have sway over the format and guidelines of the trial.He sparked condemnation from Democrats over recent comments to Fox News, saying: "Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can."Senators can ask questions of witnesses or counsellors, but only by submitting them in writing to Justice Roberts.Witnesses may not necessarily appear on the Senate floor. They can be interviewed by a committee of lawmakers with footage of the testimony aired during the trial instead.Democrats want several senior White House officials to testify, including acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and ex-adviser John Bolton.But there may not be any witnesses at all if Republicans decide they would rather keep the trial short, despite Mr Trump's calls for the Bidens and the whistleblower who sparked the Ukraine inquiry to appear.Speaking on the senate floor on Tuesday, Mr McConnell suggested as much, saying the senate's duty is to "act as judge and jury to hear a trial, not to rerun the entire fact-finding investigation"."We do not need jurors to start brainstorming witness lists for the prosecution," he added. Mr Clinton's trial had no live witnesses.
    While the president could choose to appear before the Senate himself, it is much more likely he will have White House lawyer Pat Cipollone speak on his behalf.Mr Cipollone, like the impeachment managers, will be able to question witnesses and deliver opening and closing statements.US media report Mr Trump may also bring some House conservatives onto his defence team, like Ohio congressman Jim Jordan or John Ratcliffe of Texas.That will depend on what Mr McConnell chooses for the trial format. US media report Republicans are still debating if it is worth it to summon the Democratic former vice-president and his son as the president wants.
    Mr Biden has dismissed calls for his testimony, telling NPR it is an attempt by the president to "divert attention" from the accusations against him."This is a Trump gambit he plays," Mr Biden said. "I will not yield to what everybody is looking for here. And that is to take the eye off the ball."After the House presents the articles of impeachment to the Senate, they must consider them in session every day, except Sunday, until the final decision.Mr Schumer has offered a tentative schedule for the trial, which would be the first order of business in the new year. In total, he has suggested some 126 hours of proceedings.
    18 December - House votes on articles of impeachment
    6 January - Start of Senate trial, guidelines and other housekeeping measures finalised
    7 January - Swearing in of senators as jurors and Chief Justice Roberts
    9 January - House prosecutors and White House counsel each have 24 hours to present arguments
    The trial is likely to take weeks but how many is anybody's guess. Democrats will hope it is all done by the time the 2020 primary elections begin in February.
    Who's who in the Ukraine story?
    A mystery whistleblower, a former comedian and the president of the United States.These are some of the main players in a story that is becoming ever more complex, and has now led to the president being impeached.

    1) Donald Trump
    The president of the United States of America.
    What's his role?
    Without him, there would be no story. Here's what we know about his involvement:
    Mr Trump himself has acknowledged that he personally blocked nearly $400m in military aid to Ukraine
    At about the same time, he spoke by phone with Ukraine's new president
    In the call, Mr Trump pushed Ukraine's president to investigate a leading domestic political rival, Joe Biden
    A complaint by a whistleblower in the intelligence community, who spoke with White House sources about the call, alleges Mr Trump used "the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the US 2020 election"
    Mr Trump says the investigation is part of a "witch hunt" against him, and he denies that military aid was withheld in order to put pressure on Ukraine. He has also demanded to know who gave information to the whistleblower, saying the source was "close to a spy".

    After his impeachment, the next step is a trial in the Senate in 2020.

    2) Volodymyr Zelensky
    Image copyrightAFP/GETTY IMAGES
    Who is he?

    Like Mr Trump, he's a former TV star. A one-time comedian with more than nine million Instagram followers (who now see fewer of his exercise videos, but more photos of him meeting world leaders), he was elected president of Ukraine in a landslide win in April 2019.

    What's his role?

    The man on the other end of that 25 July phone call. As our man in Kiev explains, the contents of the call proved to be a bit embarrassing for Mr Zelensky when they were released.

    Not only were there a number of attempts to flatter Mr Trump, but it appeared that Mr Zelensky was willing to open an investigation into Mr Biden's son, at Mr Trump's request.

    The big question - and one US investigators may be keen to ask Mr Zelensky and his associates - is whether the call (the two presidents' first detailed conversation since the Ukraine election) took place with a pre-condition that the Biden case be discussed.

    3) Joe Biden
    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    Who is he?

    The vice-president during Barack Obama's presidency for eight years, he is now one of the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election.

    What's his role?

    The fact that Mr Biden was, at the time of the Trump-Zelensky call, leading polls to be the Democratic candidate is the most relevant detail here. If chosen, he will be the man facing Mr Trump for the presidency in November 2020. Polls have suggested Mr Biden would win in this scenario.

    In brief: Mr Trump alleges Mr Biden abused his power while in office. He suggests Mr Biden put pressure on Ukraine to back away from a criminal investigation that could implicate his son, Hunter (more on him later).

    The issue is that if Mr Biden was just a retired member of society right now, Mr Trump's request to Ukraine would be of little consequence. But because Mr Biden is (for now, at least) one of his biggest rivals for the presidency, it opens Mr Trump up to claims he was working with a foreign power to influence the election.

    "This isn't about me," Mr Biden said in September. "It's a tactic that's used by this president to try to hijack an election so we do not focus on the issues that matter in our lives."

    4) Hunter Biden

    Media captionWhat we know about Biden-Ukraine corruption claims
    Who is he?

    Mr Biden's 49-year-old son, who has worked as a lawyer and lobbyist.

    What's his role?

    His part in this convoluted saga relates to his position on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, which he held for almost five years from 2014.

    While Joe Biden was vice-president, Ukraine's most senior prosecutor was investigating the company but was then dismissed. Mr Trump and his allies have suggested that Joe Biden encouraged the prosecutor to be fired.

    But there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden. The Ukrainian prosecutor who replaced the one who was fired (and continued his investigation into Burisma) told the BBC there was no reason for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and that any corruption within Burisma happened before Hunter Biden joined the board.

    5) The whistleblower
    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    Who are they?

    Exactly.

    What is their role?

    The whistleblower first wrote to the chairmen of Senate committees on 12 August expressing concern over Mr Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president on 25 July.

    They also alleged that the White House had acted to "lock down" all details of the phone call between Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky, and that the call transcript was not stored in the usual computer system.

    All we know about the whistleblower is that they are a US intelligence officer - or at least were, when they wrote their letter. They specify in their letter to Senate officials that they do not work in the White House, but it is clear they are well connected to people who do. US media have reported they are a CIA officer who once worked at the White House.

    Their lawyers then said a second whistleblower from the intelligence community had come forward (reportedly with direct knowledge of the allegations related to the Trump-Zelensky call). Lawyers then said "multiple" whistleblowers had emerged, though little has been heard about them since then.

    6) Nancy Pelosi

    Media captionPelosi: "The president must be held accountable; no-one is above the law."
    Who is she?

    The woman who, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, holds the key to Donald Trump's future in her hands.

    What's her role?

    After Democrats retook control of the House last November, Ms Pelosi resisted calls by some within her party to start impeachment proceedings against Mr Trump.

    That changed on 24 September, when she announced the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry, saying the president "must be held accountable". In early December, she led the impeachment of the president.

    Why has Nancy Pelosi made her move now?
    Impeachment isn't the same as a criminal conviction, and it doesn't necessarily mean Mr Trump would be removed from office.

    Mr Trump was formally impeached in mid-December, becoming only the third US president to suffer the same fate. He next faces a trial in the Senate.

    But the proceedings are expected to stall there, where the president's Republican Party holds enough seats to prevent him from being removed from office by a two-thirds majority.

    7) Rudy Giuliani
    Image copyrightREUTERS
    Who is he?

    The former mayor of New York and, most relevantly to this story, President Trump's personal lawyer.

    What's his role?

    Mr Giuliani, one of Mr Trump's most vocal cheerleaders, has been central in pushing the suggestion that the Bidens were involved in wrongdoing in Ukraine. He has been speaking to Ukraine's prosecutors - past and present - about the case since late 2018.

    In an interview with the Atlantic, Mr Giuliani said he was simply "straightening out government" by calling for investigations into the Bidens.

    "It is impossible that the whistleblower is a hero and I'm not," he said. "And I will be the hero! These morons - when this is over, I will be the hero."

    8) Viktor Shokin
    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    Who is he?

    The prosecutor fired by Ukraine's former government.

    What's his role?

    Joe Biden has been quite open about the role he played in getting Viktor Shokin dismissed, saying there were concerns he was not doing enough against corruption.

    Mr Biden even said he threatened to withhold $1bn in aid to Ukraine unless Mr Shokin (the man who, at the time, was investigating his son's company) was fired. In January 2018, he recounted a conversation with Ukraine's government.

    "I said, you're not getting the billion," Mr Biden said. "I'm going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: 'I'm leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money.'... He got fired."

    Mr Biden was not the only political figure to demand Mr Shokin be dismissed, however, and other Western nations and the International Monetary Fund had criticised the prosecutor's inaction on corruption.

    9) Kurt Volker
    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    Who is he?

    Until recently, he was the US government's special envoy to Ukraine.

    What's his role?

    He was the middleman between the White House and Zelensky's government, and appears to have helped urge the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens.

    After Mr Volker gave evidence to lawyers in Congress in early October, the details of text messages (some of which involved Mr Volker) were released. In one, he indicates a visit by Mr Zelensky to Washington would happen only if he agreed to an investigation into the Bidens.

    "Heard from White House - assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate / "get to the bottom of what happened" in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington," the message said.

    Another message shows he suggested what Mr Zelensky should say in a public statement.

    10) Gordon Sondland
    Who is he?
    The US ambassador to the European Union, appointed by President Trump.
    What's his role?
    Mr Sondland, a hotelier who donated $1m to the president's inauguration committee, was appointed EU ambassador in 2018.
    He first came under scrutiny after text messages surfaced that showed him discussing an effort to put pressure on Ukraine.
    Mr Sondland gave closed-door testimony to Congress in which he denied that military aid was withheld from Ukraine for political reasons.
    But, in a major reversal, he later revised his testimony and said he had told a Ukrainian official that the aid "likely" hinged on the country opening a political inquiry.
    It was a significant revelation given that Mr Trump has denied using the aid as a bargaining chip.
    Trump’s man in Brussels in eye of the storm
    On 20 November, in televised testimony to Congress, Mr Sondland said he was working at the "express direction" of Mr Trump when pressure was put on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.He added that the president and Mr Giuliani had sought to link a White House visit for Mr Zelensky with Ukraine publicly announcing a probe.
    11) William 'Bill' Taylor
    Who is he?
    A senior diplomat and the acting US ambassador to Ukraine.
    What's his role?
    Mr Taylor told a private hearing that it was his "clear understanding" that the president had withheld military aid because he wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.He also said that Mr Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was behind the drive to get Ukraine to announce an investigation.
    Mr Taylor was the first official to testify in public televised hearings in Congress.

    Trump's blistering letter to Pelosi: Five key quotes
    Anthony Zurcher
    North America reporter
    @awzurcheron Twitter
    17 December 2019
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    Related TopicsTrump impeachment inquiry
    Image copyrightREUTERS
    Donald Trump has some words for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the congressional Democrats on the eve of his impeachment. Over six pages, on White House letterhead, the president piles adjectives like cords of wood, fires rhetorical fusillades in all directions and invokes the judgement of the American people, the nation's founding fathers and history itself.

    It's a presidential airing of grievances six days before Festivus (that mythical rage-fuelled holiday immortalised by the TV show Seinfeld).

    Here are five choice lines from a president whose capacity for the extraordinary and unprecedented is ever-expanding.

    Read the letter
    A bumpy ride for Democrat backing impeachment
    Rudy Giuliani 'forced Ukraine ambassador out'
    "You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!"

    Donald Trump's defenders have warned that Democrats are lowering the bar for impeachment and inviting a future in which the process is used by House majorities to bully and bedevil a president of an opposing party. That's the gist of what Trump is saying here, although suggesting one can "cheapen" an already "ugly" word is an interesting take.

    "Even worse than offending the Founding Fathers, you are offending Americans of faith by continually saying 'I pray for the president', when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in the negative sense."

    Nancy Pelosi's temper flared a few weeks ago when a conservative journalist suggested that she hated the president. The House speaker, a practising Catholic, has frequently referred to her faith as a guide and said that, while she is acting against the president's interests, she does so with remorse, not vindictiveness. Trump - who rarely practises and seldom talks of his religion - wants everyone to know he thinks Pelosi's assertions are bunk.

    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    "You are turning a policy disagreement between two branches of government into an impeachable offence - it is no more legitimate than the Executive Branch charging members of Congress with crimes for lawful exercise of legislative power."

    This sounds like a threat. Is it a threat? The process of impeachment was designed by the American founders to be a component of the checks-and-balances system that created tension between the executive and legislative branches of government. (The third branch, the judiciary, will have its own role to play, as the chief justice oversees a presidential trial in the Senate following impeachment.)

    The founders left the grounds for what constituted an impeachable offence relatively open and undefined. It is what a majority of the House says it is, and its legitimacy is derived from the will of that majority.

    "You know full well that Vice President Joe Biden used his office and $1bn of US aid money to coerce Ukraine into firing the prosecutor who was digging into the company paying his son millions of dollars."

    While Biden, now a Democratic candidate for president, did pressure Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor and even bragged about it in the video Trump references, the prosecutor was not actively investigating the company on whose board Biden's son served.

    What's more, Biden was acting at the behest of the Obama administration, other Western governments and Ukrainian government reformers, who viewed the prosecutor as corrupt. Biden has been criticised for an appearance of a conflict of interest because of his son's Ukraine ties - there has been no evidence of misconduct by the then-vice-president.

    "I write this letter to you for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record. One hundred years from now, when people look back at this affair, I want them to understand it, and learn from it, so that it can never happen to another president again."

    The last few pages of Trump's letters are a collection of allegations against Democrats, the FBI and the impeachment process, along with a 214-word sentence boasting of his presidential accomplishments. His concluding lines, however, reveal the reason for this most unorthodox letter.

    At the White House on Tuesday President Trump said that impeachment was a disgrace and a "mark on our country". With his six-page letter, he sounds more concerned that it will be a mark on his presidency.

    The man who regularly heralds his three years in office as the greatest, the most successful, the most extraordinary reign of any American chief executive will now have to explain why he is only the third president to face a Senate trial with his tenure in office at stake.

     

     

     

     

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