WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee, in a historic vote that fell along party lines, approved articles of impeachment Friday against President Donald Trump, charging he abused his power as president and obstructed Congress.
"Today is a solemn and sad day," Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said after the vote in brief remarks. "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."
The measures, which will most likely be voted on by the full House on Wednesday, were passed by the committee after weeks of damaging testimony about Trump's alleged conduct from past and present diplomats and other government officials, as well as legal scholars. They asserted the president had improperly withheld security aid to Ukraine for political reasons, including seeking an investigation of the Bidens.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said: "Rather than help Americans move into the future with confidence, Democrats are attempting to knee-cap our democracy. They're telling millions of voters that Democrats will work to overturn the will of the people whenever it conflicts with the will of liberal elites."
The votes on Friday followed 14 hours of debate Thursday on the articles and amendments offered by Republicans that sought to gut the resolutions. There was no further discussion of the impeachment articles on Friday morning before the two quick roll call votes, which lasted only a few minutes.
Lawmakers had expected to cast votes on the measures late Thursday night, but Nadler abruptly recessed the committee meeting shortly after 11 p.m. ET, catching Republicans off-guard and leaving them outraged at the surprise move.
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For Democrats, the vote was an expression of their belief that Trump had engaged in conduct that must be punished. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., a member of the committee, tweeted after the vote that it showed "no one is above the law."
I just voted to proceed on both articles of impeachment into Donald Trump.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a constitutional law and election law professor for nearly three decades, said more public engagement is needed to help convince the GOP-controlled Senate that Trump should be removed from office.
"The reason that the framers of the Constitution made impeachment a matter of legislative jurisdiction rather than within the courts is because they understood that there would be public opinion involved," Raskin said. "So we need an engaged public to deal with the president's crimes, to confront the reality of the president's misconduct."
Trump, speaking to reporters a couple of hours after the vote, called it a "sham," "witch hunt," and "hoax" and said it was "trivializing" impeachment, while Republicans on the Judiciary Committee condemned the action and blasted Democrats.
"This is an outrage," Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said after the impeachment vote Friday. "It sets the bar for any president, in any party, for the future to go through three years of hell like this president has."
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., told reporters, "This is really a travesty for America and it's really tearing America apart. I have never in my entire life seen such an unfair rigged railroad job against the president of the United States. ... They predetermined they were going to do it and they did it, come hell or high water."
On Thursday night, Nadler said that the committee would vote Friday morning in an effort to give lawmakers time overnight to contemplate how they plan to vote on such an important measure. Democrats also said the vote was so significant that it should take place during daylight hours when more people are likely to be watching.
"A vote on Articles of Impeachment is one of the most consequential and historic votes any member will cast. It should only take place in the light of day — not at 11:30 at night," Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., tweeted.
In the next step, a Senate trial about whether to convict Trump and remove him from office will be held, most likely beginning in early January. It is unclear how long the trial will last.
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Sean Hannity on Fox News on Thursday night that there was "no chance" Trump would be convicted in the Senate, which would require a two thirds vote.
"The case is so darn weak coming from the House. We know how it's going to end," McConnell said. "There's no chance the president's going to be removed from office. My hope is that there won't be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment, and, Sean, it wouldn't surprise me if we got one or two Democrats."
Rebecca Shabad is a congressional reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.