House Democrats voted Wednesday to send a pair of articles of impeachment to the Senate, a move that launches a trial in the upper chamber and ends the weeks-long wait for phase two in the Democrats' effort to remove President Trump from office.
The vote, scheduled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after a month of speculation over timing, cut virtually across party lines, with 227 Democrats supporting the resolution and 192 Republicans opposing it.
The final vote tally, however, was 228-193 with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who voted against the impeachment articles, being the only Democrat to buck the party line and vote against the resolution. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), who switched from Republican to Independent last year, voted in favor of the resolution.
Aside from transmitting the articles, the resolution also provides funding for the impeachment process and officially appoints the seven Democrats who will serve as impeachment managers, whom Pelosi named shortly before Wednesday’s vote.
These members will act essentially as prosecutors, making their case before the GOP-controlled Senate that Trump should be removed from office. The articles focus on two separate charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — related to Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukrainian leaders to find dirt on his domestic political rivals.
Democrats voted largely along party lines to impeach Trump on these two impeachment articles on Dec. 18.
Shortly after that historic vote — which made Trump just the third U.S. president to be impeached — Pelosi chose to withhold the articles from the upper chamber as leverage to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow witnesses and other new evidence to be considered as part of the trial.
The move triggered a clash of the political titans, with both leaders using the undefined constitutional rules of impeachment to their strategic advantage.
A break in the stalemate came when Pelosi, facing pressure from both parties in the Senate, chose to transmit the articles even as McConnell indicated he had the Republican votes to adopt a set of trial rules that excluded guaranteed votes on potential witnesses, as Democrats have demanded.
In a separate controversial move, McConnell had also endorsed a GOP resolution that would change the Senate rules to allow a vote dismissing the articles without a trial — if Pelosi did not turn them over to the upper chamber by a specified date.
McConnell has indicated he does not want to call in witnesses and rather focus on a speedy trial that is widely expected to acquit the president in the GOP-controlled Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required to remove a sitting president. The Republican leader has said he’s simply adopting the Clinton impeachment model, where senators vote first on a resolution to start the trial and then later on requests to bring in potential witnesses.
Democrats believe McConnell will bury the second resolution by arguing the trial has already gone on too long.
Still, Pelosi’s political gamble helped Democrats reap some fire power.
John Bolton announced last week that he would be willing to testify publicly if the Senate subpoenaed him, sparking a wave of Democrats — and even a few Republicans — saying they want to hear the former national security adviser speak.
And on Tuesday, Democrats on the Intelligence panel released new information on Lev Parnas, a close associate of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The documents include text messages, notes and other communications he had with Giuliani and other Trump officials, which further highlighted efforts to push out former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
Senate Democrats need at least four Republicans to vote in favor of witnesses. So far, only three have emerged to express any interest in that strategy.