WASHINGTON — A bitterly divided House of Representatives voted Thursday to endorse the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry into President Trump, in a historic action that set up a critical new public phase of the investigation and underscored the political polarization that serves as its backdrop.
The vote was 232 to 196 to approve a resolution that sets out rules for an impeachment process for which there are few precedents, and which promises to consume the country a little more than a year before the 2020 elections. It was only the third time in modern history that the House had taken a vote on an impeachment inquiry into a sitting president.
Having resisted such a vote for months, Democrats muscled through their resolution over unanimous Republican opposition with only two of their members breaking ranks to vote no. The tally foreshadowed the battle to come as Democrats take their case against the president fully into public view, sending both parties into uncharted territory and reshaping the nation’s political landscape.
On the House floor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi presided over the vote in an unusually packed chamber, after a debate that was fraught with the weight of the moment. Ms. Pelosi read from the preamble of the Constitution, a picture of the American flag by her side, and declared somberly, “What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.”
Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, quoted Alexander Hamilton, who warned in the Federalist papers against impeachment as a partisan tool. Lawmakers listened from their seats, stone-faced and somber, while members of the public watched from the crowded gallery above.
众议院少数党领袖、加州共和党人凯文·麦卡锡(Kevin McCarthy)援引了亚历山大·汉密尔顿(Alexander Hamilton)在《联邦党人文集》中的警告，称不能把弹劾作为党派工具。表情肃穆严峻的议员们坐在自己的座位上倾听，公众则在上面拥挤的廊台观望。
“We don’t know whether President Trump is going to be impeached but the allegations are as serious as it gets: endangering national security for political gain,” Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, thundered from the House floor, adding, “History is testing us.”
Minutes after the vote, Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, denounced what she said was “a sham impeachment” and “a blatantly partisan attempt to destroy the president.” In a statement, she added, “The president has done nothing wrong and the Democrats know it.”
Mr. Trump weighed in on Twitter: “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!”
The day was a stunning turn in a drama that has riveted Capitol Hill, and the nation, since Ms. Pelosi announced last month that House Democrats would begin an impeachment investigation into whether Mr. Trump abused his power to pressure Ukraine to smear his political rivals, declaring that he had betrayed his oath of office.
Practically speaking, the resolution adopted Thursday outlines the rights and procedures that will guide the inquiry, including the public presentation of evidence and how the president and his legal team will be able to eventually mount a defense.
But its significance was more profound: After five weeks of private fact-finding, Democrats signaled that, despite Republican opposition, they now had enough confidence in the severity of the underlying facts about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, and enough public backing for pursuing their inquiry, to start making their case for impeachment before the American people.
If Mr. Trump is impeached, he will almost certainly be acquitted by a Republican-led Senate. And House Republicans are still strongly behind him. One by one, they came to the floor on Thursday to denounce an inquiry that they view as secretive and unfair, and to accuse Democrats of shredding important precedents in their zeal to oust a duly elected president.
“Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn’t make it any less of a sham,” said Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, while Representative Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said the panel had turned into “a cult.”
“试图给一个虚假的程序系根彩带，并不会让它的虚假减少分毫，”俄亥俄州共和党众议员吉姆·乔丹(Jim Jordan)说，众议院情报委员会共和党领袖、加利福尼亚州众议员德文·努尼斯(Devin Nunes)则表示，调查小组已经变成了一个“邪教组织”。
While Republicans have assailed the process, Mr. Trump’s defense of himself has been more blunt force, describing the inquiry as a “coup,” branding veteran officials who have cooperated “Never Trumpers,” and accusing Democrats of lying about what took place as he insists over and over again that his call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was “perfect.”
Democrats urged Republicans to view Thursday’s vote as a turning point, the moment when every House member must begin engaging with the evidence itself.
At least some Republicans seemed ready to do so, and were forming the core of their defense that Mr. Trump was only doing his job, and was justified both in pushing Ukraine to examine allegations of corruption and in withholding military assistance to ensure taxpayer dollars were wisely spent.
“Bring it on about substance, because our president was right — he was concerned about corruption,” Representative Lee Zeldin, Republican of New York, said at a crowded news conference after the vote.
Though it is not a perfect comparison to votes taken to authorize impeachment inquiries into Mr. Clinton and President Richard M. Nixon, Thursday’s outcome underscored the depth of partisan polarization gripping American politics. Democrats delivered a show of unity that just weeks ago seemed improbable, with even many moderate lawmakers who are facing difficult re-election races in conservative-leaning districts voting in favor of moving forward.
The two Democrats who voted against the resolution — Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey — are both centrists in tight races. The House's lone independent, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a former Republican who left the party after openly criticizing the president, supported it.
投票反对该决议的两名民主党人——明尼苏达州的科林·彼得森(Collin C. Peterson)和新泽西州的杰夫·范德鲁(Jeff Van Drew)，都是身处激烈选情的中间派。众议院唯一的无党派人士、密歇根州众议员贾斯汀·阿玛什(Justin Amash)投了赞成票。他以前是共和党人，在公开批评特朗普后退党。
“Everything has been so divisive and toxic,” Mr. Van Drew, who has long opposed impeachment, lamented after the vote. “We’re so focused on these issues we’re not going to have the focus on issues you all care about so much, like health care, like prescription drugs, like infrastructure, that we really need to focus on.”
The House is scheduled to recess for one week beginning Friday. Lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry intend to use that time to begin to wrap up closed-door witness depositions with government officials. Their targets remain ambitious, if perhaps unattainable, including John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.
众议院计划从周五开始休会一周。领导弹劾调查的议员们打算利用这段时间，完成对政府官员的闭门取证。他们的目标依然远大——尽管可能无法实现，包括传召特朗普的前国家安全顾问约翰·博尔顿(John R. Bolton)。
The resolution adopted Thursday lays out rules for public hearings, directs the Intelligence Committee to produce a public report of its findings and authorizes it to share all evidence collected with the Judiciary Committee, where lawmakers from both parties will weigh the strength of the evidence and debate whether it amounts to high crimes and misdemeanors. It also gives Mr. Trump’s lawyers rights to intervene in those proceedings and present a defense.
But the inquiry remains a high-stakes gamble for Democrats just over a year from the 2020 balloting, as their presidential contenders — some of whom would act as jurors in a Senate trial should the House vote to impeach — are already deep into their campaigns to try to defeat Mr. Trump.