December 18, 2019 at 8:56 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
HISTORIC: House votes to impeach Trump
Donald Trump, gay news, Washington Blade
President Donald Trump is the third president in history the U.S. House has impeached. (Photo by palinchak via Bigstock)

In a historic move, the U.S. House voted Wednesday to impeach President Trump, accusing him of high crimes and misdemeanors as defined under the U.S. Constitution that warrant his removal from office.

The House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump, one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress. The vote for Article I: Abuse of Power was 230-197 and the vote for Article II: Obstruction of Congress was 229-198.

The votes were basically party-line with all Republicans unified in voting against impeachment and nearly all Democrats voting “yes.” Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), a former Republican, joined his Democratic colleagues in voting for impeachment.

The exceptions to the party-line votes were Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who voted “no”; and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), who also voted “no” and has announced plans to leave the Democratic Party.

Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) voted for the article on abuse of power, but not obstruction of Congress. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who has built a reputation for antagonizing her competitors in debates, voted “present” on both articles.

The charge of abuse of power is based on allegations Trump withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine to solicit from the nation’s president an investigation into Joseph Biden, Trump’s potential political opponent in the 2020 election, and whether Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for the systematic interference in the 2016 election.

But for the charge of obstruction of Congress, the House impeached Trump for refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry by responding to congressional subpoenas.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opened the debate on the House floor Wednesday before the impeachment proceedings began by saying Trump “gave us no choice” but to impeach him.

“Our founders’ 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’s tragic the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary.”

Speaking about the danger of foreign interference in U.S. elections, Pelosi pointed to a nearby white poster board she brought to the floor depicting an American flag and the words: “To the Republic for which it stands…”

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) the senior openly gay member of the House, didn’t hold back Wednesday on the House floor when he accused Trump of having “betrayed our national security and undermined the security of our elections.”

“This wasn’t an attack on Vice President Biden,” Cicilline said. “It was an attack on our democracy, and if we do not hold him accountable today, we will no longer live in a democracy. We will live in a dictatorship where any future president will be free to abuse their office in order to get re-elected.”

Also speaking out on the House floor in favor of impeachment was Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), another one of the seven openly gay members of the House.

“This is not about a single call or a single transcript,” Pocan said. “This is about a perfect storm — months of activity directly ordered by the President to his senior Cabinet and political appointees. Months of activity led by this President to pressure the Ukrainian government to conduct investigations into his political rivals.”

“There is no question about it: This was a clear and orchestrated plan laid out by this president, inviting a foreign power to interfere in our democracy,” Pocan concluded.

The night before impeachment vote was set to take place, the coalition group “Nobody Is Above The Law” held more than 600 rallies throughout the country in all 50 states in support of Trump’s impeachment.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, declared in a statement the nation’s leading LGBTQ rights group supports the impeachment of Trump, saying he “has proven time and again that he believes he is above the law and not beholden to the United States Constitution.”

“Trump’s ongoing efforts to undermine the 2020 election by soliciting foreign interference is unacceptable, deeply dangerous and an affront to the fundamental democratic principle of free and fair elections,” David added. “Because of these troubling facts, the Human Rights Campaign supports the impeachment of Donald Trump. The impeachment process is a constitutionally guaranteed process for preserving accountability and the integrity of our democracy. Now, Congress must ensure a conclusion consistent with law.

Any question about whether Democrats from more moderate districts would back impeachment faded away as many of them, including Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), signaled their support.

Among them was Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), the first lesbian mom in Congress, who declared she’d support impeachment in an open letter to constituents on Sunday.

“After reviewing the public testimony from non-partisan public servants and officials appointed to their roles by the President himself — as well as the final House Intelligence Committee report — I have decided that this week I will vote yes on both Articles of Impeachment,” Craig wrote. “No elected leader is above the law.”

But there was no question about disunity on the Republican side. Each of the Republicans has been lockstep behind Trump as the impeachment inquiry has proceeded.

Trump reacted to the impeachment in live time as spoke at a rally in Battle Creek, Mich., crowing in delight that “every single Republican voted for us.”

“The Republican party has never been so affronted but they have never been so united as they are right now,” Trump said.

Trump also counted three Democratic votes against impeachment as a victory for him.

“The Democrats always stick together,” Trump said. “Think of it: Three Democrats went over to our side,” he said. He added: “That’s unheard of.”

Charles Moran, managing director of Log Cabin Republicans, told the Washington Blade the Trump impeachment process in the House ignores reality.

“LGBTQ Americans are safer, more prosperous and have more opportunities now than any other time in history,” Moran said. “The Democrats in Congress announced their intent to impeach President Trump before he was even sworn in. The American people aren’t buying this sham impeachment, and come November, Democrats won’t have anything to show for it.”

The next step in the process is for the U.S. Senate to hold a trial based on the impeachment articles approved by the House. A conviction will result in Trump’s removal from office, but that requires a two-thirds vote of senators present — a high hurdle that would require 20 Republican senators in the chamber to defect.

It remains to be seen how impeachment will play out with the American public and the 2020 election. If the polls are any indication, Americans are divided on the issue and support for Trump has, in fact, been slightly increasing.

A Gallup poll on Wednesday found Trump has an approval rating of 45 percent, compared to 51 percent of the American public who say they disapprove of his job performance. That’s a six-point increase since the House began its impeachment inquiry this fall.

More Americans also opposed impeachment compared to those who support it, according to the poll.

Currently, 46 percent support impeachment and removal — a six-point decrease since Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry. Meanwhile, 51 percent oppose such action — a five percentage-point increase over the same period.

At the same time, the Gallup poll found Congress is enjoying one of its best ratings ever in the Trump era. The poll found 27 percent of the American public approves of the job Congress is doing, which is nine points up from September.

Only three U.S. presidents have been impeached in U.S. history. The first was President Andrew Johnson in 1868, the second was President Bill Clinton in 1998.

In 1974, it was widely believed President Richard Nixon would have been impeached over Watergate, but he resigned his office before that happened after the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him.

Other LGBTQ groups joined HRC in calling for Trump’s impeachment.

“Since his first day in office, President Trump and his administration have attacked the LGBTQ community,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur in a statement. “… The president has abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress. The Framers prescribed a remedy for such high crimes and misdemeanors, and the Constitution commands the Congress to pursue it. … On behalf of our members, we urge the United States House of Representatives to impeach the president and the United States Senate to remove him from office.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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