A Nation Divided: House Impeaches President Donald J. Trump

WASHINGTON — A bitterly divided U.S. House of Representatives, reflecting a country equally split over the conduct of its president, voted Wednesday to impeach Donald J. Trump on charges of abusing his office by attempting an arms-for-dirt scheme against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and of obstructing Congress for trying to cover up his actions.

All but two Democrats voted in favor of impeaching on the abuse of office charge, and all but three voted for impeaching for abuse of power. All Republicans voted against both articles. The tallies were 230-197 on abuse and 229-198 on obstruction.

Trump, the nation’s 45th president, became only the third person in the office to be impeached. He now faces trial in the Senate and the prospect, however unlikely, of being removed from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Trump Michigan Rally As Impeachment Vote Unfolded

Just prior to the vote to impeach him, Trump remained defiant, accusing Democrats of “declaring open war” on democracy and criticizing House members in personal terms, making references to “Crooked Hillary,” “Crazy Pocahontas” and “Crazy Nancy” and implying that former Michigan Congressman John Dingell was in hell.

“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” Trump told a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan. “The country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong. We have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we’ve never had before.”

At one point the crowd yelled the now-familiar chant, “Lock her up” in reference to Hillary Clinton.

Patch readers, polled through Patch Facebook pages when the outcome of the vote appeared certain, are every bit as divided as the House of Representatives. Some support Trump. Some want him removed from office. Some shared stories about how they navigate the topic within their families and with their friends.

(You can join in the conversation below.)

The views of Patch readers reflect how the country at large is split on the issue. The number of people nationwide who favor removing the president is effectively the same as the number who want him to remain in office, according to an average of seven impeachment polls calculated by the political website RealClearPolitics. The site found that 46.7 percent of those asked favored removing Trump from office, and just over 47 percent were against such a move.

A number of them cited the strong economy for their support of the president.

“Trump is best on economy/jobs and pro-life! I don’t see evidence of grounds for any impeachment and believe Nancy Pelosi when she said they were trying to impeach since the beginning of his term,” wrote Karen Hayes, on the Palos, Illinois, Patch Facebook page. “It’s tragically all politics. Don’t impeach; Re-elect.”

“The Dems have given the general (voting) public reasons to re-elect,” wrote Joan Marion of Fall River, Massachusetts. “They should have let the election process run its course. Now Trump looks like the victim and will enjoy more support than he otherwise would have.”

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In Joliet, Illinois, reader Keith W. Johnson said that if Trump had done anything seriously wrong, he’d be in favor of impeachment but the threshold hasn’t been met.

“Democrats have been pushing a guilty verdict in search of a crime since the 2016 Election shocked the nation!” he wrote. “Well, half of them. What happened to quid pro quo? What happened to bribery and extortion? Nothing in the articles of impeachment rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.”

President Donald Trump arrives at W.K. Kellogg Airport to attend a campaign rally Wednesday, in Battle Creek, Mich. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Reader Jen MacLachlan Taylor in Brick, New Jersey, supports Trump, too.

“There is not one eye witness that can say he did anything wrong,” she wrote. “Only conjectures and assumptions. All the people when questioned directly if anything was done or said in front of them have all had to say no. There is no evidence whatsoever. Based on how this has been done, anyone at anytime can be accused and be found guilty. These Democrats are nuts and need to be gone.”

And from Levittown, Pennsylvania, reader Andy DeMaria said the Democrats botched impeachment from the beginning.

“If you read up on how impeachment is supposed to be handled from a legal standpoint you will see why the Democrats failed miserably in their attempt,” he wrote. “They went about it all wrong from the beginning and they only have themselves to thank for that.”

One reader, Don Glass, simply pointed out that emotion has overtaken intellect among many people.

“It’s really obvious that a lot of those replying don’t understand impeachment at all,” he wrote. “It’s really kind of sad. This is part of what causes the rifts: lack of intelligent conversation coupled with bias and cognitive dissonance. We can’t even agree on basic facts and instead rely on emotion.”

Justine Cooper, who didn’t share which Patch town she’s in, is battling to understand friends and family and their support for Trump.

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“We’re way past the impeachment,” she wrote. “I can’t stand how a few of my friends and family don’t see a problem with him in general. As for the impeachment I truly don’t think it’s going to happen. It was a waste of taxpayer money. But I have taken a very hard look at my friends and family that are followers as I call them. Shaking my head thinking what the h*** is wrong with you?”

And reader Dawn Baffa sees Trump as his own worst enemy.

“The things that make me angry about Trump are things he has said himself,” she wrote. “Making an inappropriate comment about the young lady on time magazine. Verbally making inappropriate comments about different people. To me his biggest problem has been not keeping his mouth shut on social media. He has created his own drama/problems.”

Another reader in Joliet said the president has problems other than the Ukraine scandal.

“Why should he be president?” asked Tresea M. Lollar. “He’s supposed to set examples on how to respect one another and bring a nation together not divide it like he’s done! And of these kids who aren’t even old enough to vote such as my kids and they see he’s mean and bully what’s that tell you?”

And we’ll end the reader comments on a hopeful note: “We are all grown adults,” wrote someone who goes by the name John Anthony Eubanks. “And we can disagree with each other without hating each other.”

Whatever readers think, Trump’s fate will be decided in a Senate trial expected to begin in early January. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial while senators ultimately will act as both judge and jury.

“President Trump has placed his personal, political interests above our national security, our free and fair elections, and our system of checks and balances,” argued a 658-page report published Monday by the House Judiciary Committee. “He has engaged in a pattern of misconduct that will continue if left unchecked. Accordingly, President Trump should be impeached and removed from office.”

The House was voting on two articles of impeachment: One charged that Trump abused the power of the presidency by enlisting Ukraine to tarnish Biden and draw questions about Ukraine influence in the 2016 election; the other charged the president obstructed Congress by blocking witnesses from testifying and refusing to provide documents.

No evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and no evidence that Ukraine meddled in the election has been uncovered.

“Today, as speaker of the House, I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said as the House opened debate Wednesday morning. “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.”

House and Senate Republicans have shown no sign of wavering in support for their party’s leader.

“This is an impeachment based on presumption,” said Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, in remarks on the House floor prior to Wednesday’s votes. “We win on process and we win on the facts. Why? Because the American people will see through this.”

Whatever the feelings on impeachment, it seems clear Election 2020 will be held with Impeachment 2019 as a backdrop.

The Judiciary Committee report arguing for Trump’s removal included a 20-page dissent from Collins. In the same harsh language that became a hallmark of committee hearings in the House, Collins accused Democrats on the panel of conducting an unfair process in a partisan attempt to drive Trump from office because of their dislike of him and his policies.

“The case is not only weak but dangerously lowers the bar for future impeachments,” Collins wrote. “The record put forth by the majority is based on inferences built upon presumptions and hearsay. In short, the majority has failed to make a credible, factually-based allegation against this president that merits impeachment.”

Two-thirds of the Senate would have to split from the president to remove him from office.

At this point, while the outcome seems all but certain, the process for getting there has yet to take shape.

Pelosi warned the House may not immediately transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate out of concerns Republicans won’t conduct impartial proceedings at a trial. She refused after the impeachment votes to commit to any timeline for sending the articles, which is required to begin the impeachment trial.

“So far, we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters shortly after the House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump. “But right now, the president is impeached.”

Democrat Charles Schumer, the Senate minority leader, has asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call four witnesses who did not testify during the House hearings: Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget; Robert Blair, Mulvaney’s chief of staff; Michael Duffy, a budget office appointee who Democrats say was authorized to withhold aid to Ukraine; and John Bolton, the former national security adviser, who has said he knows more about the Ukraine situation than has been made public.

McConnell said on the eve of the vote that the Senate will call no witnesses. He has said he is coordinating trial strategy with the White House, much to the consternation of leading Democrats.

As The New York Times reported, there are no set rules for a Senate trial on impeachment. Rather, the Senate passes a resolution first laying out trial procedures.

The Republican majority in the Senate could vote to immediately dismiss the case without any consideration of the evidence if it wanted, the Times reported.

Decisions on whether to call witnesses are not final. Trump had called for witnesses during the House hearings, but Republicans have reportedly settled on a strategy of breezing through any trial and bank on a majority of senators willing to vote against removing the president from office without hearing from witnesses the Democrats have called for — or anybody else.

The Constitution is vague on impeachment proceedings and only mandates that the House has the “sole power of impeachment,” acting as grand jury and bringing charges that are delivered to the Senate. The Senate is given “the sole power to try all impeachments” and convict a president of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Senate Democrats are hoping to pluck a handful of Republican senators who may be willing to insist on hearing from witnesses who may have insight into the administration’s decision to hold up nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

A frequent Trump opponent, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), declined to comment Monday on the issue of witnesses. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also did not elaborate beyond saying she hoped McConnell and Schumer would be able to work together. Similarly, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also did not weigh in, saying she would reserve comment until McConnell and Schumer have had a chance to speak privately on procedure.

Collins, though, also distanced herself from McConnell and his comments proclaiming that he was closely coordinating with the White House on trial strategy, telling reporters: “That would not be the approach I’ve taken.”

In its Monday report, the Judiciary Committee argued Trump committed “multiple federal crimes,” including bribery and wire fraud, in explaining the articles of impeachment.

Wednesday morning, the president tweeted or retweeted more than 50 times.

“They want to Impeach me (I’m not worried!),” he wrote in one post. “And yet they were all breaking the law in so many ways. How can they do that and yet impeach a very successful (Economy Plus) President of the United States, who has done nothing wrong? These people are Crazy!”

At the rally in Michigan, Trump went after Michigan’s Rep. Debbie Dingell.

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