And so, the vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump unfolded in the manner in which every informed observer knew it would:
Along party lines, underscored by partisan rancour and fuelled by bunker-mentality bitterness the likes of which had rarely been seen in American politics during the republic’s first two centuries but has become, sadly, status quo in the age of irreparably divided and internet-poisoned public discourse.
Democrats, who control the House, voted overwhelmingly to impeach on two counts — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — related to the president’s efforts to coerce Ukraine’s new president to interfere, to Mr. Trump’s benefit, in the 2020 U.S. election. Democrats described their votes as the reluctant execution of a solemn constitutional duty.
"If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday before calling for votes on the articles of impeachment. "It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice."
Republicans, of course, took a different view, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell describing the House impeachment proceedings as "the most rushed, least thorough and most unfair" in modern history.
Despite a constitutional imperative that all Senate members deliver "impartial justice" in an impeachment trial, Mr. McConnell has stated openly that he has no intention of fulfilling the oath he will be required to swear before the Senate trial begins. Rather, the majority leader has pledged to work closely with Mr. Trump’s White House to co-ordinate strategy for the inevitably partisan proceeding.
Outrageous as that might seem, Mr. McConnell’s posture is among the more measured Republican responses. During the hours-long debate preceding Wednesday’s impeachment votes, House Republicans compared the "injustices" being heaped upon Mr. Trump to, among other things, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and Jesus Christ’s treatment at the hands of Pontius Pilate.
"Before you take this historic vote... I want you to keep this in mind: When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers," said Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia. "During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process."
Several religious leaders — albeit none from the evangelical community that has remained steadfast in supporting Mr. Trump despite his penchant for behaviour that might charitably be described as un-Christian — were quick to point out the lunacy of the Georgia congressman’s remark.
"Pilate had Jesus beaten and whipped, thrown into jail overnight, marched through the streets carrying his cross, and then nailed to that cross until he died," Jesuit priest James Martin rebutted on Twitter.
"Comparing the treatment received by the president to what Jesus suffered is absurd. Also, only one of them is sinless."
On the issue of due process (and its purported denial), House judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler offered this response: "The president was given the opportunity to come and testify before the judiciary committee, to send his counsel, to question witnesses. He declined to do so."
Whether the Senate impeachment trial will include the testimony of witnesses — including the likes of current and former administration officials Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, as well as Mr. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani — remains to be seen. Ms. Pelosi has, strategically and perhaps wisely, stated she may delay remanding the articles of impeachment to the Senate until the procedures to be followed in the trial are laid out.
Due process awaits.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.