Embattled President Donald Trump (left) and House Leader, Nancy Pelosi
The United States of America House voted Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time in a swift and bipartisan condemnation of the President’s role inciting last week’s riot at the US Capitol.
The House voted 232 to 197 to impeach Trump exactly one week after rioters forced lawmakers to flee from the very chamber in which they cast ballots in the fourth presidential impeachment in US history — and the first time a President has been impeached twice. Ten Republicans, including the House’s No. 3 Republican, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, joined with Democrats to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection.”
While the vote won’t force Trump from office — the Senate trial isn’t expected to begin until after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in next week — the vote was a visceral response from lawmakers in both parties furious at Trump after a deadly pro-Trump mob overran Capitol Police, ransacked the US Capitol and put the lives of Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers in danger last week.
“We know that the President of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
The speed of the vote and the Republican support underscores the fury that lawmakers feel about Trump’s role inciting the rioters who overtook the Capitol, who were fueled by Trump’s months of false rhetoric about the election being stolen from him. Cheney’s statement was cited by impeachment supporters and detractors alike Wednesday after she charged that Trump “summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday that Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” urging the President to accept his share of responsibility and “quell the brewing unrest.” McCarthy, however, argued the House should create a bipartisan commission instead of impeachment. “I believe impeaching the President in such a short timeframe would be a mistake,” McCarthy said. “No investigations have been completed. No hearings have been held.”
The division within the Republican Party starkly contrasts the House Democrats’ 2019 impeachment of Trump, when House Republicans were united in opposition. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not planning to bring the Senate back for a trial before January 19, meaning the trial won’t begin until Trump is out of office and Biden has been sworn in. In a note to his GOP colleagues Wednesday afternoon, McConnell wrote, “I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.”
McConnell has indicated he believes impeaching Trump will make it easier to get rid of the President and Trumpism from the Republican Party, sources said Tuesday. McConnell is facing a delicate balance — a number of his GOP colleagues have made clear they oppose impeachment and the Kentucky Republican famously loathes anything that divides his conference, according to a source familiar with the matter.
But the source says McConnell is also keenly aware of the moment in history — and the moment for the Republican Party. McConnell’s shift against Trump has been apparent for those watching him closely. He cut off contact with Trump weeks ago and has made clear he has no plans ever to speak to him again.
For House Democrats, the disagreements that divided their caucus on impeachment in 2019 simply never materialized. Democrats quickly coalesced around using impeachment in the final days of Trump’s presidency to serve as a proper response to the President’s conduct and as a way to push for his removal from office before the end of his term, although that scenario looks unlikely.
Pence sent a letter ahead of the vote saying he would not seek to invoke the 25th Amendment as Democrats had urged, and Trump is not considering resigning.
Pelosi has brushed aside Republican efforts to take a different action, such as censure, in response to Trump’s role in the riot. She named impeachment managers on Tuesday evening, a team of nine Democrats who will be led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, ahead of a likely trial in the days after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said late Tuesday the House would send the articles to the Senate immediately.
Democrats have only grown more resolute in their push to impeach Trump over the riot as more information has come out about the attack on the Capitol, including violent images of Capitol Police officers being attacked, and the death of a Capitol Police officer. Wednesday’s vote occurred while thousands of National Guard troops were present every nook of the Capitol complex ahead of next week’s inauguration, and they slept on the floors of the Capitol building the night before the impeachment vote.
Trump has showed no contrition for his role in last week’s Capitol riot, railing against impeachment on Tuesday in his first public remarks since the incident. A source close to the President said he’s not considering resigning.
“It’s been analyzed,” Trump said of his remarks last week to the crowd before the riots. “People thought what I said was totally appropriate.”
Trump, unable to post his thoughts on Twitter after his account was permanently suspended in the fallout from the riots, released a statement just before Wednesday’s vote saying, “In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.”
Wednesday’s impeachment vote will complicate the opening days of the Biden administration, both in his efforts to reach out to Republicans and because the Senate is likely to be tied up with a trial just as Biden is taking office.
Both Biden and Schumer have argued that the Senate will try to divide its days while conducting the trial, so the Senate can confirm Biden’s nominees and consider Covid-19 stimulus legislation while also carrying out the impeachment trial.