19/12/2019 8:36 AM AEDT

Pelosi Opens Impeachment Debate To Applause After Searing Words Rebuking Trump

The House speaker called Trump "an ongoing threat to our national security,” and urged fellow lawmakers to “defend democracy for the American people.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earned applause from fellow Democrats in the chamber on Wednesday after calling President Donald Trump “an ongoing threat to our national security” whose actions “gave us no choice” but to move forward with impeaching him.

As she “solemnly and sadly” opened the House debate on two articles of impeachment, the Californian recited the Pledge of Allegiance while calling on fellow lawmakers to “defend democracy for the American people.”

″‘The republic for which it stands’ is what we are here to talk about today. A republic, if we can keep it,” she said after reciting the pledge.

SAUL LOEB via Getty Images
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as she headed toward the House floor on Wednesday to open the chamber's debate on impeaching President Donald Trump.

Trump is expected to become the third U.S. president to be impeached on Wednesday, a decision that has sparked fury from him and his fellow Republicans. And the 228-197 passage Wednesday morning of the measure setting the rules for the impeachment debate underscored the stark partisan divide ―  Democrats were joined by one independent in supporting it, while just two Democrats sided with Republicans in opposing it.

The vote indicated likely passage later in the day of the impeachment articles. The Senate, controlled by the GOP, is then expected to acquit Trump in a trial next month.

“We gather here today under the dome of this temple of democracy to exercise one of the most solemn powers that this body can take, the impeachment of the president of the United States,” Pelosi told the House from the floor’s lectern.

“It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice. What we are discussing today is the established fact that the president violated the Constitution,” she said.

Pelosi ― who donned a broach resembling the Mace of the Republic, which symbolizes the House’s legislative authority ― went on to outline the two articles against Trump: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

Trump’s dealings with the president of Ukraine and his obstruction of the House investigation jeopardized the country’s national security for his own personal gain, she said.

“It is a matter of fact that the president is an ongoing threat to our national security and the integrity of our elections, the basis of our democracy,” she said citing supporting testimony from U.S. diplomats, decorated military members, legal scholars, prosecutors and some of the president’s own appointees.

“If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty,” she said.