The House on Wednesday voted 232-197 to impeach Trump, with 10 Republicans joining with Democrats to charge him with incitement of insurrection.
The House passed a single article of impeachment – a formal charge – accusing Trump of “incitement of insurrection,” focused upon an incendiary speech he delivered to thousands of supporters shortly before the pro-Trump mob rampaged through the Capitol.
The mob disrupted the formal certification of Biden’s victory over Trump in the November 3 election, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead, including a police officer.
During his speech, Trump repeated false claims that the election was fraudulent and exhorted supporters to march on the Capitol.
With a large presence of rifle-carrying National Guard troops inside and outside the Capitol, an emotional debate unfolded in the same House chamber where lawmakers had crouched under chairs and donned gas masks on January 6 as rioters clashed with police officers outside the doors.
“The president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said on the House floor before the vote. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
No US president has been removed from office through impeachment. Three – Trump in 2019, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 – previously were impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.
Some Republicans argued the impeachment drive was a rush to judgment that bypassed the customary deliberative process such as hearings and called on Democrats to abandon the effort for the sake of national unity and healing.
“Impeaching the president in such a short time frame would be a mistake,” said Kevin McCarthy, the House’s top Republican. “That doesn’t mean the president is free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.”
Ten Republicans backed impeachment, including Liz Cheney, the No.3 House Republican.
“I am not choosing a side, I’m choosing truth,” Republican Jamie Herrera Beutler said in announcing her support for impeachment, drawing applause from Democrats. “It’s the only way to defeat fear.”
In a break from standard procedure, Republican House leaders refrained from urging their members to vote against impeachment, calling the vote a matter of individual conscience.
Under the US Constitution, impeachment in the House triggers a trial in the Senate. A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove Trump, meaning at least 17 Republicans in the 100-member chamber would have to join the Democrats.
Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there is “no chance” that the Senate will be able to hold a “fair or serious” trial on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in next week.
McConnell told his GOP colleagues in a note earlier on Wednesday that he had not yet decided on whether he would vote to convict.
After the vote, he said that a trial would last longer than the seven days Trump has in office.
McConnell noted that three previous impeachments “have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days respectively”.
McConnell says he thinks the nation is best served if “Congress and the executive branch spend the next seven days completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power to the incoming Biden administration”.
The Capitol siege raised concerns about political violence in the United States once considered all but unthinkable. The FBI has warned of armed protests planned for Washington and all 50 US state capitals before Biden’s inauguration.
Following the impeachment vote, Trump released a video on Twitter using the White House account, as the social media platform banned the President’s personal account after the Capitol riot.
In the video, Trump calls for calm and non-violence and defends free speech, but does not mention his impeachment.
“I want to be very clear, I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week. Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement,” he said.
Trump also said he had directed federal agencies “to use all necessary resources to maintain order in Washington, DC” over the next week.
The House impeached Trump after he ignored calls for his resignation and Pence rebuffed Democratic demands to invoke a constitutional provision to remove the president.
The House previously voted to impeach Trump in December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from his request that Ukraine investigate Biden and his son Hunter ahead of the election, as Democrats accused him of soliciting foreign interference to smear a domestic political rival. The Senate in February 2020 voted to keep Trump in office.
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