President Donald Trump will likely be only the third president in U.S. history to face an impeachment vote on the floor of the House, after the Judiciary Committee on Friday approved articles that charge him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines, 23-17, on each of the two articles. The approval clears the way for a full House vote, expected next week.
Broadcast networks broke into regular programming to cover the vote, along with cable news networks. As a clerk read through each name, members announced their “yea” or “nay” in serious and almost subdued tones, the only moment of levity coming when Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asked to make sure that his vote was recorded as a “No.”
Afterward, Republicans gathered in the entrance lobby of the Longworth Office Building on Capitol Hill and, one by one, told reporters of a process they see as unfair, a sham or even “rigged,” as one said.
“For Democrats, impeachment is their drug. It is their obsession and it is their total focus,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). “And it is deeply disappointing that they failed to meet the standard that they set for themselves.”
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement after the vote, “This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end. The president looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) made a very brief statement, telling reporters, “Today is a solemn and sad day. For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House will act expeditiously.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) told reporters, “What we did today was a commitment to the nation.”
On broadcast networks, coverage focused in part of on the tone of the moment. CBS News’ Major Garrett noted that “it seemed like grim resignation on the faces of everyone, Republicans and Democrats. They spent the better part of the evening [on Thursday] at each other’s throats, rhetorically at least. There seemed to be a sense not only of the heft of the moment but kind of a resignation that it has come to this point.”
Nadler made the surprise decision to delay a vote until Friday morning, after members debated in a marathon session that stretched out over nearly 14 hours. It was clear throughout that neither side was convincing the other, as members were perhaps mindful that their remarks would be digested by many viewers in short clips or viral moments. The cable news networks covered the debate throughout the day and the evening, but the broadcast networks did not.
Republicans were irate after the vote delay, but Democrats saw it as a way to hold the historic vote at a time when more people are watching. Had Nadler not switched the time of the vote, it would have taken place close to midnight ET.
President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House in 1868, but acquitted after a Senate trial. Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, but the Senate declined to convict him the next year. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before a full House vote.
At their press conference following the vote, Republicans also were asked about Trump’s Twitter barrage on Thursday, which included a tweet attacking 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, recently named by Time as Person of the Year. Last week, Gaetz and other members decried one of the witnesses in the impeachment proceedings, constitutional scholar Pam Karlan, for mentioning the name of Barron Trump, the Trump’s teenage son, as he is still a minor.
Asked by Deadline about Trump’s tweet about Thunberg, Gaetz said, “My comment is we don’t impeach for mean tweets. I haven’t been focused on what anybody said on their Twitter feed. I have been focused on the impeachment hearing.”