Pelosi opens impeachment debate: ‘Today we are here to defend the Democracy for the people’

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Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House counsel didn’t take lead on Trump letter to Pelosi: reports House panel sets guidelines for historic impeachment vote Protesters rally against Trump in multiple cities on eve of impeachment vote MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday kickstarted the hours-long impeachment debate with a speech stating that the House must move to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel didn’t take lead on Trump letter to Pelosi: reports Trump endorses Riggleman in Virginia House race Lisa Page responds to ‘vile’ Trump attacks: ‘Being quiet isn’t making this go away’ MORE in order to protect the republic.

Pelosi described the role of the House as being the “custodians of the Constitution,” saying that Trump put his own interests ahead of those of the nation when he invited a foreign nation to interfere in an upcoming presidential election that would benefit him politically.

“Our Founder’s vision is under threat from actions at the White House,” Pelosi said on the House floor, wearing all black as she faced her colleagues on both sides of the aisle. “That is why today as Speaker of the House, I sadly and solemnly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States.”

Pelosi began her floor speech by asking House members to recall the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag, emphasizing that the debate over two articles of impeachment charging Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors will center around the line in the pledge: “The Republic for which it stands.”

And she concluded her remarks by praising the legacy of the late House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsPelosi announces Porter, Haaland will sit on Oversight panel Congressional investigation finds Coast Guard leadership fell short on handling bullying Trump request for Ukrainian ‘favor’ tops notable quote list MORE (D-Md.), who died earlier this year, as well as praising other members for showing courage with their vote to impeach Trump.

“Today we are here to defend the democracy for the people,” she concluded.

As the speaker walked off the House floor, Democrats rose in a standing ovation.

Democrats argue that Trump dangled the promise of a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in critical U.S. aid as leverage to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse panel sets guidelines for historic impeachment vote Schumer on Trump’s Pelosi letter: ‘He’s obviously under a great deal of duress’ Pelosi calls Trump impeachment letter ‘ridiculous’ and ‘really sick’ MORE and unfounded claims that Ukraine also interfered in the 2016 election.

Republicans, on the other hand, have described the impeachment as a “sham” and “hoax” designed by Democrats to boot Trump from office because they cannot beat him at the ballot box.

Democrats and Republicans are expected to spend roughly six hours on the House floor debating the propriety of Trump’s contacts with Ukraine, before the final votes on the articles of impeachment are taken up by the lower chamber.

The two impeachment articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — are expected to pass largely along party lines, making Trump the third president in the nation’s history to be impeached and the first to run for reelection after such a vote takes place.

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