Trump on brink of impeachment as House readies for historic vote | CBC News

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Trump on brink of impeachment as House readies for historic vote | CBC News

U.S. President Donald Trump is on the cusp of being impeached by the House of Representatives, with a debate set for Wednesday on charges he abused his power and obstructed Congress ahead of votes that will leave a defining mark on his tenure at the White House.

Trump, who would become just the third U.S. president to be impeached, on Tuesday fired off a furious letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denouncing the “vicious crusade” against him, but he also acknowledged he was powerless to stop the expected outcome.

“When people look back at this affair, I want them to understand it, and learn for it, so that it can never happen to another president again,” he wrote.

Pelosi, who warned earlier this year against pursuing a strictly partisan impeachment, nonetheless has the numbers from Democrats to approve it. According to a tally compiled by The Associated Press, Trump is on track to be formally charged by a House majority.

The rare undertaking to impeach a president, set to unfold over more than six hours of debate Wednesday, is splitting the lawmakers in Congress much the way Americans have different views of Trump’s unusual presidency and the articles of impeachment against him.

CBC News explains how the impeachment process works:

Impeachment is the political process of removing from office certain elected or public officials accused of wrongdoing. The process is more difficult than you might think. 2:01

From Alaska to Florida, tens of thousands of Americans marched Tuesday evening in support of impeachment, from a demonstration through a rainy Times Square to handfuls of activists standing vigil in small towns. They carried signs saying “Save the Constitution — Impeach!!!!” and “Criminal-in-Chief.”

“I really believe that the Constitution is under assault,” said one protester, Glenn Conway, 62, of Holly Springs, N.C., attending his first political rally in 30 years. “I think we have a president at this point who believes he’s above the law.”

Trump ‘betrayed the nation’

The House impeachment resolution says Trump abused the power of his office and then tried to obstruct the investigation in Congress like “no other” president in history.

Trump “betrayed the Nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections,” the resolution says. “President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”

‘In America, no one is above the law,’ U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said about Trump. (Susan Walsh/The Associated Press)

Ahead of House votes, one by one, centrist Democratic lawmakers — including many first-term freshmen who built the House majority and could risk their reelection in districts where the president is popular — announced they would vote to impeach.

Many drew on the Constitution and the intent of the country’s founders as they considered the role of Congress to conduct oversight in the nation’s system of checks and balances.

Members of the House rules committee voted 9-4 along party lines to pass legislation that provides for six hours of debate, with final votes to follow on the charges. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Rep. Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat from Iowa, referred to the oath she took in January as she was sworn into office as guiding her decision. She announced support for both articles of impeachment to “honour my duty to defend our Constitution and democracy from abuse of power at the highest levels.”

Republicans disagreed, firmly.

Lawmakers crossing party lines, meanwhile, face consequences. One freshman Democrat, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, is indicating he will switch parties to become a Republican after opposing impeachment. Earlier this year, Michigan conservative Rep. Justin Amash left the Republicans when he favoured impeachment.

One new Democrat congressman, Jared Golden of Maine, said he would vote to impeach on abuse of power but not obstruction.

What would come next?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the partisan tone for the next step, as attention will shift to the Senate which, under the Constitution, is required to hold a trial on the charges. That trial is expected to begin in January.

“I’m not an impartial juror,” McConnell declared. The Republican-majority chamber is all but sure to acquit the president.

Hoping to dispatch with lengthy Senate proceedings, McConnell rejected Senate Democrats’ push for fresh impeachment testimony and made a last-ditch plea that House Democrats “turn back from the cliff” of Wednesday’s expected vote.

“Impeachment is a political decision,” McConnell said. “The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.”

McConnell’s remarks Tuesday effectively slapped the door shut on negotiations for a deal proposed by the Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who wants to call top White House officials for the Senate trial.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, left, rejected a push to call top White House officials for a potential Senate trial from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. (Aaron P. Bernstein, File/Reuters)

Schumer’s proposal was the first overture in what were expected to be negotiations between the two leaders. Trump wants a relatively broad, perhaps showy, Senate proceeding to not only acquit but also vindicate him of the impeachment charges.

McConnell and most other Republican senators prefer a swift trial to move on from impeachment. Still, Schumer wants to hear from John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney and other current and former Trump officials who were instructed by the president not to appear for House proceedings.

“Why is the leader, why is the president so afraid to have these witnesses come testify?” asked Schumer from the Senate floor. “They certainly ought to be heard.”

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