The bitterly divided US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The vote counts in the Democrat-majority House were almost identical: 230-197 and 229-198.

The 45th US president is just the third occupant of the White House in US history to be impeached. Trump will now face a trial in the Senate, where Republicans have a majority and removal from office is unlikely.

In the debate leading up to the vote a Republican lawmaker said  Trump, undergoing impeachment proceedings led by Democrats, had been treated worse than Jesus before his crucifixion. The remark caused a stir on social media.

“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,” Congressman Barry Loudermilk, who hails from the deeply conservative Bible Belt state of Georgia, told fellow lawmakers.

“During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats afforded this president and this process,” Loudermilk said, referring to the Roman governor of Judea who approved the death sentence.

Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, shot back that the president had been “given the opportunity to come and testify before the Judiciary Committee…. He declined to do so.”

“Trump to Jesus” was soon trending on Twitter, but Loudermilk was hardly the only lawmaker to reference Jesus’ crucifixion during the day’s proceedings.

From the House floor, Republican congressman Fred Keller of Pennsylvania quoted the words of Jesus from the cross –”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” – in referencing those voting against the president.

In this file photo, a supporter of President Trump shows an artwork depicting Martin Luther King, Jesus and Donald Trump at the 2018 Politicon in Los Angeles, California on October 20, 2018. Photo: AFP

James Martin, a Jesuit priest and US author, posted on Twitter that he believed there were some differences between Trump’s treatment and that of Jesus: “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.”

“Comparing the treatment received by the President to what Jesus suffered is absurd. Also, only one of them is sinless,” he said.

Charlotte Clymer, press secretary for US LGBT civil rights organization Human Rights Campaign, said there might be confusion “because of Trump’s tendency to turn anything into whine.”

According to the Bible, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding.

In the Senate, where the charges are to be tried, Trump’s Republicans hold a 53-47 seat edge that makes his removal from office unlikely.

Trump, hearing the news of his impeachment, railed against a Democratic Party “consumed with hatred.”

“While we’re creating jobs and fighting for Michigan, the radical Left in Congress is consumed with envy and hatred and rage, you see what’s going on,” the Republican leader seethed at campaign rally in the state. “These people are crazy.”

Trump said the Democratic Party, which controls the House of Representatives where the votes took place, was “trying to nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans.”

Here is a chronology of events leading to the impeachment.

July 25 call

Trump holds a 30-minute telephone conversation with Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky, a former professional comedian who was elected in May.

Earlier in July, Trump – without explanation – suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine which had been approved by Congress.

Aug. 12: whistleblower

An anonymous whistleblower in the US intelligence community files an internal complaint about the Trump-Zelensky call, describing it as a matter of “urgent concern.”

Sept. 11: payment

The military assistance to Ukraine is released by the White House.

Sept. 24: investigation

Following days of reports that Trump pushed Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential election, and his son Hunter, Democrats in the House of Representatives announce the opening of an impeachment inquiry for abuse of power.

Sept. 25: transcript

The White House releases a rough transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call.

It confirms that the president repeatedly asked the Ukrainian leader to probe the Bidens and to “look into” the matter with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and with Attorney General Bill Barr.

Sept. 26: release

The House Intelligence Committee releases the whistleblower’s complaint, which accuses Trump of “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election.”

It also accuses White House officials of seeking to “lock down” access to the call transcript because of its politically sensitive nature.

Nov. 13-21: hearings

Following witnesses’ closed-door testimony in October, the House Intelligence Committee begins public hearings.

Those testifying on live television included top envoy to Ukraine William Taylor, former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and White House National Security Council member Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

US envoy to the European Union and Trump ally Gordon Sondland tells lawmakers he followed Trump’s orders in seeking a “quid pro quo” deal.

Dec. 3: report

A final, 300-page report on the House investigation into Trump finds “overwhelming” evidence of misconduct in office and obstruction by the president.

Dec. 10: charges

The House Judicial Committee unveils two articles of impeachment against Trump – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – in a momentous step asserting that the US president abused his office and deserves to be removed.

Dec. 18: impeached

Trump is impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in a historic vote in the Democratic-majority House of Representatives, setting up a Senate trial on removing him from office after three turbulent years.

The vote makes Trump just the third president in US history to be impeached.

– AFP