The US House of Representatives on Wednesday approved charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress against President Donald Trump, opening the way for a Senate trial for his removal.
Controlled by the Democratic opposition, the lower house thus made Trump the third president in the history of the United States to be brought to political trial, after Andrew Jonhson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
Trump was accused of abusing his position by asking Ukraine to investigate his possible electoral rival in 2020 Joe Biden, and to block lawmakers' efforts to investigate his actions. The House of 435 members approved the first position by 230 votes against 197, while the second was adopted by 229 against 198.RELATED
Trump will face a Senate trial, where at least 67 votes are needed to remove him from office. This is unlikely to happen because in the upper house their Republican allies hold 53 of the 100 seats.
The president received the result surrounded by his supporters at a rally in Michigan, from where he denounced that the Democrats are "consumed by hatred" and accused them of trying to "nullify" their electoral victory.
A threat to national security
During the debate, the president of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said her Democratic co-religionists had no choice but to launch the impeachment process and called Trump "a continuing threat to national security."
"What is at risk is the very idea of what the United States is," said Adam Schiff, the legislator who led the investigation against Trump, before the vote.
Dozens of people gathered outside the Capitol on Wednesday to ask for the president's exit: "Trump has to leave."
"I feel we have to show people in there that this matters to us," said Jill Watson, a 72-year-old retiree in favor of the process against the president.
A tense debate
On both sides of the hemicycle lawmakers agreed on the diagnosis that this is a sad day for the country, but the rest of the debate reflected the polarization in the United States.
Republican representative Barry Loudermilk complained he regretted during the session that even Pontius Pilate had granted Jesus more rights in the process against him. And his co-religionist Gregory Murphy said that "there are individuals who hate the president more than they love the country."
In the speeches of the Democrats, where constitutional appointments and references to the founding fathers of the country abounded, the notion that they had no choice was repeated. "Looking the other way when the president committed crimes against our nation is not an option," said Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
The president is now looking to turn the process against him into an element that attires his bases and gives him a boost for re-election. Aware of the electoral risk, Pelosi long restrained calls to initiate a process against Trump, until the Ukrainian scandal broke out.
He finally launched the investigation at the end of September, after hearing the complaint of an unidentified official about the alleged inappropriate conduct of the president during a telephone call on July 25 with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodimir Zelenski.
Several witnesses confirmed before the Judicial Committee of the Lower House the pressures to force Kiev to announce the opening of a corruption investigation against Biden and his son.
The White House refused to cooperate with the investigation, calling it "unconstitutional," and prohibited several of its advisors from testifying. For this reason, the Democrats accuse him both of having abused his power for personal gain and of having obstructed the work of Congress.