Donald Trump's impeachment shows poison and vitriol surrounding US politics

At 8.33pm, under the great dome of the Capitol, there was no turning back.

The history books will have to be updated.

Andrew Johnson in 1868.

Bill Clinton in 1998.

And now Donald J Trump in 2019.

Three American presidents have been impeached.

Whatever you think of America’s 45th President - whether you regard him as a dangerous rogue or a man who is heroically draining the Washington swamp - this vote is a stain on his legacy that cannot be erased.

In the end, the vote was almost entirely down party lines.

The first Article of Impeachment - abuse of power - passed by 230 votes to 197.

The second Article - obstruction of Congress - passed by 229 to 198.

I watched the final hour of the debate from the chamber’s gallery.

The House was packed and members of Congress were functioning as two excitable and hostile tribes.

Resounding cheers and mocking jeers echoed around the chamber.

There were passionate closing speeches and heartfelt appeals from the floor.

Democrats speak after the impeachment vote. Credit: AP

But nothing can disguise the fact that America’s political system is in danger of collapsing in acrimony.

Other than declaring war, impeachment is the gravest action by Congress.

It is meant to be a bipartisan and thoughtful process; the Legislative branch holding the Executive to account.

That was what the Founding Fathers intended.

Instead, we have witnessed two parties operating in different universes, both regarding the other as dangerous and out of control.

Facts don’t matter.

There is poison and vitriol in the air.

Americans watch as the proceedings unfold. Credit: AP

And it is likely to get more toxic as we enter a presidential election year.

While the Democrats in the House of Representatives were using their majority to pass Impeachment, Donald Trump was at a rally in Michigan.

He accused Democrats of possessing a “deep hatred and disdain for the American people” and added: “This lawless partisan impeachment is a political suicide march” for his opponents.

It was one of the great split-screen moments in the history of American television and politics.

On one half of Americans’ TV screens last night was the historic rebuke unfolding in Congress.

The other half showed Trump being cheered to the rafters by a raucous crowd of supporters.

It was a suitably dramatic image for this moment in American politics.