December 19, 2019 (AO) – The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted largely along party lines on Wednesday to impeach US President Donald Trump for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power over his dealings with Ukraine.
Trump is only the third United States president to be impeached. No president has ever been removed from office via the impeachment process.
The landmark votes set up a likely January trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Trump is expected to be acquitted.
As politicians move to the trial phase, here’s what to expect next:
1. On what charges was Trump impeached?
Trump has been impeached on charges that he abused his power in office and obstructed Congress during the impeachment investigation.
Democrats accuse Trump of pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation into the president’s political rival and former vice president, Joe Biden, who is also a frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. They also charge that the president obstructed their investigation by refusing to comply with subpoenas and directing members of his administration to do the same.
The impeachment inquiry, launched in September following a whistle-blower complaint, was centred on a July 25 phone call during which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to open an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
At the time of the call, the Trump administration was withholding nearly $400m in Congress-approved military assistance from Ukraine.
Citing testimony by current and former US officials, Democrats also accuse Trump of leveraging a White House meeting that Zelenskyy wanted in exchange for the investigations.
2. What is a Senate trial?
The articles of impeachment are now expected to be sent to the Senate, where senators will consider evidence, hear witnesses and vote to acquit or convict the president. The chief justice of the US Supreme Court presides over the trial.
A two-thirds majority vote is required in the 100-member Senate to convict and remove a president from office. A conviction appears unlikely in the case of Trump.
The Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. At least 20 Republicans would have to vote with all Democrats and the two independents to remove the president from.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he would like swift proceedings, but the president has said he would not mind a robust trial, with testimony from a number of witnesses, including Biden and the whistle-blower whose complaint led to the impeachment inquiry.