President Donald Trump on Wednesday became the third U.S. president in history to be impeached, as the Democratic-led House of Representatives approved abuse-of-power and obstruction-of-Congress charges against the Republican leader.
Voting after a day of rancorous partisan debate, the House backed the articles of impeachment against Trump largely along party lines. No Republicans supported either charge and only a few Democrats broke ranks on both articles.
The evening votes followed a months-long investigation into Trump, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing and called the proceedings a “witch hunt.”
Investors have largely ignored the impeachment drama in Washington. Stocks finished Wednesday trading mixed, but equities have notched solid gains this year, with the S&P 500
up more than 27% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average
up over 21%. The Nasdaq Composite
has advanced around 33%.
The Democrats’ impeachment case rests on what they call Trump’s abuse of power by withholding aid to Ukraine to pressure Kyiv to announce investigations that could politically benefit him. Democrats also charged Trump with obstructing Congress, by instructing his top advisers to defy subpoenas.
“If we don’t act, we would be derelict in our duty. He gave us no choice,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, in remarks on the House floor.
The matter now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where a trial is expected to begin in January. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told Fox News last week that there is “no chance” Trump will be removed from office. A January trial would come shortly ahead of the first presidential primaries of the 2020 election season, with Democrats choosing from a wide field of contenders seeking to take on Trump in November.
Opening a “Keep America Great” rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on Wednesday night, Trump brushed off the action in the House. “It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” he told supporters. Earlier in the day he called the Democrats’ efforts “an assault on America,” in a tweet.
Tweeting Wednesday morning, Trump said, “Read the Transcripts,” referring to records of conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “This should never happen to another President again. Say a PRAYER!”
In a July call with Zelensky, Trump asked him to investigate Democrats and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking his party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Trump has defended that call as “perfect.”
The daylong House debate featured Republicans like Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top GOP member on the House Judiciary Committee, charging Democrats with trying to fulfill a goal originating in November 2016.
“You’ve been wanting to do this ever since the gentleman was elected,” said Collins.
Democrats rejected that argument. “We will clarify that in America, no one is above the law,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island said, “this is not about making history, this is about holding a lawless president accountable.”
Another Republican, Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, likened the proceedings to the trial of Jesus Christ. “During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded this president in this process,” he said.
Pelosi formally opened the impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24. In a letter to the speaker on Tuesday, Trump said she and her party were “declaring war” on American democracy. Pelosi called the president’s six-page letter “really sick.”
Two Democrats — Reps. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota — voted against the abuse-of-power charge. Van Drew is about to switch parties; Peterson hails from a district Trump won overwhelmingly and has said impeachment is a waste of time since the Senate is unlikely to remove him. Van Drew and Peterson also voted against the obstruction article, as did Jared Golden, a Democrat from a conservative Maine district. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat running for president, voted “present” on both articles.
The vote on abuse of power was 230-197 and on obstruction of Congress it was 229-198.
As the House was debating Wednesday, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note
rose three basis points to 1.93% and the U.S. dollar
was up less than 1% against a basket of its major rivals.
“So far, impeachment has had essentially no market impact as traders do not expect the president will be removed from office,” said Chris Low, chief economist of FHN Financial, in a note.