WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bitterly divided U.S. House of Representatives engaged in an impeachment debate before historic votes on two charges accusing President Donald Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
U.S. President Donald Trump exits the Oval Office as he departs for campaign travel to Michigan from the White House in Washington, U.S., December 18, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Here are some highlights from the contentious back-and-forth between Democratic and Republican lawmakers ahead of the vote:
A NATIONAL CIVICS LESSON
Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened six hours of impeachment debate in the Democratic-controlled House by saying, “Today is a national civics lesson, though a sad one.”
“If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty,” the Democratic leader said.
PATRIOTS SHALL PREVAIL
Republican Representative Clay Higgins warned that “America is being severely injured by this betrayal,” referring to the impeachment proceedings.
“We will never surrender our nation to career establishment D.C. politicians and bureaucrats. Our republic shall survive this threat from within. American patriots shall prevail,” Higgins said.
Democratic Representative John Lewis recalled his participation in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and said today did not bring him a similar joy.
“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. Our children and their children will ask us, what did you do? What did you say? For some, this vote may be hard, but we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history,” he said, his voice ringing out in the hushed House chamber.
Republican Representative Mike Kelly compared the impeachment vote to Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941 — a date President Franklin Roosevelt said would “live in infamy.”
“Today, Dec. 18, 2019, is another date that will live in infamy,” Kelly said.
Republican Representative Chris Stewart, one of Trump’s most emphatic defenders during the impeachment investigation, said Democrats despise Trump and his supporters. “This day is about one thing and one thing only. They hate this president. They hate those of us who voted for him. They think we are stupid.”
He warned “gleeful” Democrats of dangerous precedent. “If you set this bar as being impeachable, every president in our future will be impeached,” Stewart said.
Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren worked as a Judiciary Committee staffer on the impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon and as a member for the impeachment investigations of President Bill Clinton and Trump. She was one of many lawmakers who brought up the past.
“George Washington would be astonished, since he warned against the insidious wiles of foreign influence,” she said.
Republican Representative Barry Loudermilk said Jesus was treated more fairly ahead of his crucifixion than Democrats have treated Trump during the impeachment proceedings.
“During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded this president in this process,” Loudermilk said.
Reporting by Amanda Becker in Washington; additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Andy Sullivan, Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler