A House of Representatives committee has approved two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The abuse of power charge stems from Mr Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president pressuring him to announce an investigation of Democrats as he was withholding US aid.
The obstruction charge involves the US president’s blocking of House efforts to investigate his actions. He has denied wrongdoing.
The vote on the House Judiciary Committee was split along party lines, with 23 Democrats voting in favour and 17 Republicans opposed.
The full, Democratic-majority House is expected to approve the two articles of impeachment next week before legislators depart for the Christmas break, but the Republican-controlled Senate is likely to acquit him after a January trial.
Mr 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.
“No one is above the law; the president will be held accountable for his abuse of power and for his obstruction of Congress,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday as the Judiciary panel argued over the charges.
After Friday’s votes, Mr Trump’s press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, labelled the proceedings a “desperate charade” and said: “The president looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House.”
Voting was swift and solemn, with none of the fiery speeches and commentary with weighty nods to history that have defined the days of debate, including 14 hours that stretched nearly to midnight on Thursday.
Mr Trump took to Twitter early on Friday to praise the panel’s Republicans, saying “they were fantastic yesterday”.
The Republicans House members were fantastic yesterday. It always helps to have a much better case, in fact the Dems have no case at all, but the unity & sheer brilliance of these Republican warriors, all of them, was a beautiful sight to see. Dems had no answers and wanted out!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2019
Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler said late on Thursday, after presiding over the two-day session: “I want the members on both sides of the aisle to think about what has happened over these past two days and to search their consciences before they cast their final votes.”
The Republicans on the panel, blindsided by the move, were livid. When Mr Nadler announced that the committee would not vote until Friday morning, gasps were heard and Republicans immediately started yelling “unbelievable” and “they just want to be on TV”.
Congress was to be out of session on Friday, and many legislators had other plans, some outside Washington.
“This is the kangaroo court that we’re talking about” stormed Republican Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel, who said he had not been consulted on the decision. “They do not care about rules, they have one thing, their hatred of Donald Trump.”
Trump is only the fourth US president to face impeachment proceedings and the first to be running for re-election at the same time.
The outcome of the eventual House votes poses potentially serious political consequences for both parties ahead of the 2020 elections, with Americans deeply divided over whether the president conducted impeachable acts and if it should be up to Congress, or the voters, to decide whether he should remain in office.