WASHINGTON (CN) – The House Judiciary Committee hurtled President Donald Trump toward impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress with a pair of 23-17 party-line votes Friday.
“Aye,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler voted, kicking off an anticlimactic, if historic, coda to three days of bitter debate inside his committee.
California Representative Ted Lieu, recovering from heart surgery, could not join his Democratic colleagues for the vote, a penultimate step to making the 45th U.S. president the third in history to be impeached.
“We did the right thing,” Representative Steve Cohen said in an interview. “I wish it would have been unanimous and we got it passed.”
The committee made quick work of approving the articles when it reconvened Friday after a 14-hour marathon markup that ran late into Thursday night.
Nadler split the vote into two, giving members a chance to be recorded on each article Democrats have filed against Trump. A clerk called each members’ name down the dais for each article, with all Democrats responding with a solemn “aye” or “yes” and Republicans with “no.” The entire proceeding lasted less than 15 minutes, a sharp departure from the all-day sessions that have typified impeachment hearings to this point.
More than 100 hours of testimony from 17 congressional witnesses bolstered Democrats’ allegations that Trump attempted to strong-arm neophyte Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do him a political favor in return for military assistance that his country desperately needed and secure a sought-after visit to the White House.
Trump sent his attorney Rudy Giuliani to push Zelensky to gin up investigations of his political opponent Joe Biden and sow doubt into the conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in U.S. elections.
Denounced by Democrats as solicitation of a foreign government's interference in an election, Trump’s actions in Ukraine form the basis of an article for abuse of power, and the president’s instructions to government employees and agencies not to testify or provide documentation support the obstruction charge.
The vote arrived the morning after two days of hearings that stretched from the start of the business day well into the late evening, filled with bitter recriminations from the Judiciary Committee’s Republican minority attacking the impeachment process as unfair. Heated historical analogies abounded: The committee’s top Republican Doug Collins claimed that impeachment rested on “The Big Lie,” evoking the Nazis’ propaganda technique. Representative Louie Gohmert repeatedly invoked Stalinist Russia and likened the quest to remove Trump from office to the trial of Socrates.
On the Democratic side, Representative Cedric Richmond compared House Republicans to Judas Iscariot, only instead of seeking 30 pieces of silver, the legislators coveted Trump tweets to help their re-election campaigns.
The committee’s approval of the articles sets up a vote before the full House of Representatives, likely to take place in the middle of next week. Democrats hold a 36-seat majority in the chamber and are expected to pass the articles over unified Republican opposition.