The House of Representatives began debate on Wednesday ahead of a historic vote on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump charging him with abusing his office and obstructing Congress that would make him the third U.S. president to be impeached.
The vote in the Democratic-controlled House is expected to fall almost entirely along party lines, underscoring the deep divide in Congress over Trump’s conduct – and the larger political schism within the nation itself.
Trump would become only the third American president to be impeached, an extraordinary check on presidential power spelled out in the U.S. Constitution for executives who commit “high crimes and misdemeanors.” No president has ever been removed from office under its terms.
The vote, expected in the afternoon or early evening, would result in a trial next month in the U.S. Senate in which House members would act as prosecutors. That chamber is controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, who have shown little interest in removing him from office.
Republicans signaled as soon as the day began that they intend to do everything possible to stall the proceedings. Representative Andy Biggs, a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, called for the House to adjourn immediately after the morning prayer and pledge of allegiance, leading to a vote on the House floor.
The president has denounced the probe as an “attempted coup” and has argued Democrats are trying to undo the results of the 2016 election in which he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG! A terrible thing,” Trump tweeted early on Wednesday morning. “Say a prayer!”
With Trump seeking a second term next year, impeachment has cleaved the public, with most Democratic voters supporting it and most Republicans opposed.
The first article of impeachment details the Democrats’ account of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The second article accuses Trump of obstruction of Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to comply with lawful House subpoenas for testimony and documents related to impeachment.
The Senate has yet to set its procedures for a trial on the charges, which would be overseen by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.
The chamber’s top Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has rejected Democratic proposals to call further administration officials to testify and has said there is “no chance” Trump will be removed from office.
“This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it,” he said. “Impeachment is a political decision.”