US House of Reps votes to impeach Donald Trump

A majority of lawmakers in the US House of Representatives voted on Thursday (AEST) to impeach President Donald Trump on a charge of abusing his power by trying to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

As voting continued, supporters of impeachment crossed the 216-vote threshold needed to secure a majority in the House.

The vote on the first article was ultimately passed 230-197. A vote on a second article concerning the obstruction of Congress also passed 229 votes to 198.

This doesn’t mean Donald Trump is no longer president. This was the first step in a two step process in the US congress.

Trump has become the third sitting president to be impeached. Source: AAP

Only a simple majority was required to pass the two articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives. Now the process will head to the US senate where a trial will take place in which the charges will be assessed.

The jurors are the 100 senators in the upper chamber of the US Congress, which is currently controlled by Trump’s Republican party as there are 53 Republican senators, 45 Democratic senators and two independents.

No Republicans voted for impeachment in the House.

In the senate, a two-thirds majority is needed to convict the president on the abuse of power charges used as the basis for impeachment. If that were to happen, he would be removed from office.

We don’t have a date for the senatorial trial but it would likely take place early next year.

Regardless of the final outcome, it is a historic day as only two previous US presidents have been impeached – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 were both impeached. Meanwhile President Richard Nixon resigned before he was impeached over the Watergate scandal.

People watch the vote count on a television monitor at a bar near Capitol Hill in Washington. Source: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

The articles voted on Wednesday (local time) accuse Trump of abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. Trump is alleged to have withheld US$391 million in military aid to the country as he sought to get Ukraine's president to announce an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner. 

After hours of fierce debate, the vote was passed along party lines, alleging abuse of power arising from the president's actions toward Ukraine.

The day-long debate saw Democrats calling the president a threat to democracy and Republicans describing the proceedings as a partisan coup.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, announces the passage of the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, against President Donald Trump. Source: AP

House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, argued that the president had left them with "no choice" but to impeach him.

"If we do not act now we would be derelict in our duty," Pelosi said. "It is tragic that the president's reckless actions make impeachment necessary."

An indignant and defiant President Donald Trump flew to Michigan for a campaign rally just as the House was preparing to vote on his impeachment.

Pictures from that rally appear to show the president watching the vote unfold with a crowd of supporters during the speaking event before dismissing the significance of it all.

- With Reuters

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