US President Donald Trump was impeached by the Congress that voted on mainly partisan lines. The second stage of the impeachment process will now unfold in the Senate, where Republicans are expected to close ranks behind the President. Trump, meanwhile, lashed out at his detractors and predicted the demise of the Democratic party while speaking at a boisterous election rally in Michigan.
The Congress passed the abuse of power article, one of the two articles of impeachment, on a 230-197 vote while the obstruction of Congress article was passed by 229-198. While all Republicans voted opposing the impeachment, two Democrats voted in favour of the president. Another Democrat lawmaker voted for Trump on one article and against him on another.
"This lawless, partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democrat Party," the president said at the re-election rally while the Congress voting was underway. "They've been trying to impeach me from day one. They've been trying to impeach me from before I ran," he added.
'High crimes and misdemeanours'
House Democrats sought to remove Trump from office as they believe that the president violated his constitutional position when he pressured Ukraine to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden. Under the Constitution, the House has the right to impeach a president for "high crimes and misdemeanours." Though the impeachment process was passed in the House, the Senate is unlikely to ratify it and convict Trump.
A two-thirds majority is required in the Senate to remove the president from power. Impeachment was instituted by the founding fathers of the United States as a measure of caution against any president assuming authoritarian powers. Though the impeachment proceedings were initiated against three presidents in the US history, none was ever removed from office.
Other presidents to be impeached
President Richard Nixon resigned following the impeachment bid over the Watergate investigation, while President Bill Clinton was acquitted in the Senate after his impeachment in Congress over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In the last century, President Andrew Jackson was impeached in Congress but the Senate acquitted him by one vote.
While the Republicans tore into the democrats over the impeachment, Democrats lauded the decision. "President Trump abused his power, violated his oath of office, and betrayed our nation ... In the United States of America, no one is above the law — not even the president," former vice-president and presidential aspirant Joe Biden said.
"We are here to defend democracy for the people ... If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the president's reckless actions make impeachment necessary," veteran House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spearheaded the impeachment proceedings against the president, said.
Widening partisan divide
Earlier, during discussions over the motion, Republicans accused Democrats of trying to remove the president and nullify his 2016 election through unfair means. They also warned the democrats that the would have to pay the price in the upcoming 2020 elections. "The matter before the House today is based solely on a fundamental hatred of our president. It's a sham, a witch hunt - and it's tantamount to a coup against the duly elected president of the United States," Representative Mike Rogers said, according to Reuters.