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Impeachment charges head to House; Trump cries anew: ‘Hoax’

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., speaks from the podium after the House Judiciary Committee approved the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

By Associated Press Staff

WASHINGTON — Democrats propelled President Donald Trump’s impeachment toward a historic vote by the full U.S. House as the Judiciary Committee on Friday approved charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It’s the latest major step in the constitutional and political storm that has divided Congress and the nation.

The House is expected to approve the two articles of impeachment next week, before lawmakers depart for the holidays.

The partisan split in the committee vote — 23 Democrats to 17 Republicans — reflects the atmosphere in Congress. The Democratic-majority House is expected to approve the charges against Trump next week, but the Republican-controlled Senate is likely to acquit him after a January trial.

Trump is accused, in the first article, of abusing his presidential power by asking Ukraine to investigate his 2020 rival Joe Biden while holding military aid as leverage, and, in the second, of obstructing Congress by blocking the House’s efforts to probe his actions.

“Today is a solemn and sad day,” Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., told reporters after the session, marking the third time in U.S. history the panel had voted to recommend impeaching a president. He said the full House would act ”expeditiously.”‘

At the White House after the votes, Trump denounced the inquiry and actions against him, using the terms he’s relied on for months. He referred to the impeachment effort four times as a hoax, twice as a sham and once each as a scam, a witch hunt and a disgrace. He described his actions as perfect three times and said four times he did nothing wrong.

When he had asked Ukraine to “do us a favor” in the July phone call that sparked the impeachment inquiry, he said, the “us” referred to the U.S., not a political favor for himself.

Trump noted that he watched “quite a bit” of the previous day’s proceedings and determined Democrats were making fools of themselves. He derided the government officials who testified that he pressured Ukraine and he claimed he was benefiting politically from impeachment.

Voting was swift and solemn, with none of the fiery speeches and weighty nods to history that defined the previous two days of debate, including 14 hours that stretched nearly to midnight Thursday. Nadler abruptly halted that rancorous session so voting could be held in daylight, for all Americans to see.

Nadler, who had said he wanted lawmakers to “search their consciences” before casting their votes, gaveled in the landmark but brief morning session at the Capitol.

Lawmakers responded “aye” or “yes” for the Democrats, and simple:“no’s” from the Republicans.

“The article is agreed to,” Nadler declared after each vote.

The top Republican on the panel Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia immediately said he would file dissenting views.

Minutes after the morning session opened, it was gaveled shut.

Trump is only the fourth U.S. president to face impeachment proceedings and the first to be running for reelection at the same time. The outcome of the eventual House votes pose potentially serious political consequences for both parties ahead of the 2020 elections, with Americans deeply divided over whether the president indeed conducted impeachable acts and if it should be up to Congress, or the voters, to decide whether he should remain in office.

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., defended the president against what she called “unfair, rigged” proceedings. “They had no proof, no evidence, no crime, but they went ahead anyway and they’re tearing the country apart,” she said.

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