Reckless actions make impeachment necessary, Trump gave us no choice, says Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, surrounded by leaders of several key committees, speaking to reporters after the House voted to impeach US President Donald Trump, at the Capitol, in Washington, on Wednesday. People demonstrating outside the Capitol in Wa
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, surrounded by leaders of several key committees, speaking to reporters after the House voted to impeach US President Donald Trump, at the Capitol, in Washington, on Wednesday. PHOTO: NYTIMES
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, surrounded by leaders of several key committees, speaking to reporters after the House voted to impeach US President Donald Trump, at the Capitol, in Washington, on Wednesday. People demonstrating outside the Capitol in Wa
People demonstrating outside the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, calling for US President Donald Trump to be impeached.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON • The US House of Representatives' centre of power took a seat towards the back of the chamber on Wednesday. Her golden mace brooch, symbol of the House and the Speaker's authority, glinted.

And when it was time to vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ascended the Speaker's chair and presided over President Donald Trump's impeachment, shooting jubilant Democrats a forbidding look to stop them from clapping.

Ms Pelosi, 79, second in line to the presidency, ended the day with uncharacteristic uncertainty, repeatedly refusing to say when - or whether - the House will send the articles to the Senate for trial.

She told reporters "we'll see" whether the Senate announces terms she considers fair.

Like it or not, Ms Pelosi's role leading Mr Trump's impeachment will dramatically shape her legacy after more than 30 years in Congress.

The House voted mostly along party lines on Wednesday night, making Mr Trump only the third president formally charged in American history.

That is Ms Pelosi's to keep.

"Today, as Speaker of the House, I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the President of the United States,"she said.

She spent much of the day within a few steps of the cloakroom door, away from better-lit seats where the managers and members were debating impeachment.

During the debate, Democrats characterised Mr Trump's impeachment as an urgent action to stop a corrupt president, whose misdeeds had unfolded in plain view, from damaging the country any further.

"Over the course of the last three months, we have found incontrovertible evidence that President Trump abused his power by pressuring the newly elected President of Ukraine to announce an investigation into President Trump's political rival," said Representative Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, who led the impeachment inquiry.

 
 

"The President and his men plot on," Mr Schiff said. "The danger persists. The risk is real. Our democracy is at peril."

Some Democrats drew from history, the founders and their own experiences, as minorities, women and some immigrants to the US spoke of seeking to honour their oath of office to uphold the Constitution.

Representative Lou Correa of California spoke in Spanish, asking God to unite the nation.

Mr Hakeem Jeffries of New York said: "In America, no one is above the law."

Ms Pelosi had earlier resisted impeachment until a whistle-blower's report revealed Mr Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. That, she said, the House could not ignore. But neither would they celebrate it.

"It is tragic that the President's reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice," Ms Pelosi, clad in black, said from the well of the House.

Still, not all Democrats were on board with impeachment.

Voting was conducted manually with ballots, to mark the moment.

On the first article, abuse of power, two Democrats, Mr Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who is considering switching parties to become a Republican, and Mr Collin Peterson of Minnesota voted against impeaching Mr Trump.

On the second article, obstruction, those two and freshman Representative Jared Golden of Maine voted against it.

 
 

Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is running for president, voted "present" on both.

Still, Mr Trump, insists he is the victim of Democrats who have wanted to impeach him from the start.

He weighed in on Ms Pelosi's legacy, too, predicting on Twitter that she will go down as history's "worst Speaker".

In a letter released on the eve of voting, he said Ms Pelosi "is after the entire Republican Party".

ASSOCIATED PRESS , NYTIMES

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2019, with the headline 'PELOSI: Reckless actions make impeachment necessary, he gave us no choice'. Print Edition | Subscribe