House kills attempt to impeach Trump for 'disgracing' presidency

Tom McCarthy in Washington
Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The House of Representatives killed an attempt to impeach Donald Trump on Wednesday, with 137 Democrats joining Republicans to table a vote on articles of impeachment brought by the congressman Al Green of Texas.

Ninety-five Democrats voted to advance the impeachment resolution, which blasted Trump for bringing “disgrace” on the presidency by issuing racist tweets last Sunday aimed at four congresswomen of color. “Tabling” the impeachment articles means they are in effect dead.

Many Democrats said they agreed with the sentiment, but the caucus followed the lead of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who said Wednesday morning that multiple investigations into the president, his associates and their activities should play out before impeachment could be considered.

“We have six committees working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest that the president may have engaged in,” Pelosi said Wednesday morning. “That is the serious path we’re on – not that Mr Green is not serious, but we’ll deal with that on the floor.”

Green, who represents the southern Houston suburbs, has made two prior attempts to get impeachment rolling on the House floor.

“In my opinion, it didn’t fail,” Green said. “In my opinion, we got 95 votes this time, 66 the last time. So that’s a plus. But whether we get 95 or five, the point is we have to make a statement.”

Green argued Wednesday that Trump must be impeached “so that he will understand that there are some boundaries”, an apparent reference to tweets sent by Trump on Sunday in which he told the four congresswomen, three of whom were born in the United States, to “go back” to other countries.

The resolution drafted by Green charged that Trump “has, by his statements, brought the high office of the President of the United States in contempt, ridicule, disgrace, and disrepute, has sown seeds of discord among the people of the United States, has demonstrated that he is unfit to be President, and has betrayed his trust as President of the United States to the manifest injury of the people of the United States, and has committed a high misdemeanor in office”.

In a reversal of his previous votes on the question of impeachment, Representative Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the judiciary committee, voted against killing the resolution. Nadler said that the initiative should be referred to his committee, which would traditionally originate articles of impeachment.

Separately on Wednesday afternoon, the House voted in a largely symbolic move to hold the attorney general, William Barr, and the commerce secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of congress for their failure to reply to requests for documents and testimony pertaining to the Trump administration’s efforts to include a citizenship question on the 2020 US Census.

The White House replied to the vote with a statement calling it “another lawless attempt to harass the President and his Administration”.

Speaking before a campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Wednesday evening, Trump called the derailed effort to impeach him the “most ridiculous project I’ve ever been involved in”.

The vote provided an early snapshot of just how divided Democrats are over ousting Trump, as the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns heat up. The question has split the Democratic caucus between the progressive wing, which has called for it forcefully, and the leadership, which has cautioned that impeachment could backfire. Some Democratic strategists think impeaching Trump could galvanize Republicans and increase his chances of re-election.

The release of the Mueller’s report, which detailed 11 instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump or his associates, escalated calls for impeachment among progressive Democrats. But Pelosi, aware that her majority in the House is less than a year old, has counseled a slower approach, in which investigations of the president by various subcommittees could produce grounds for impeachment.

That slower approach could be obviated by a Democratic victory in the 2020 presidential election – or Trump’s re-election could fundamentally change the political calculus.