A majority of the US House voted for impeachment President Donald Trump for a second time, just a week after urging loyalists to “fight like hell” against the election results – a speech followed by a crowd of his supporters storm the US Capitol. The House vote on an indictment article for “incitement to insurgency” was still pending Wednesday afternoon.
During the pre-vote debate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Republicans and Democrats to “search their souls.” Trump would be the first US president to be impeached twice.
Trump “has to go,” Pelosi said. “He represents a clear and present danger to the nation we all love.”
Actual withdrawal appears unlikely before President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Republican leader would not agree to bring the chamber back immediately, while ensuring that a Senate trial could not begin until at least January 19 .
Yet McConnell did not rule out voting to convict Trump in case of trial. In a note to fellow Republican senators just before the House began voting, he said he was undecided.
“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” wrote McConnell.
In the house, the momentum for action has been unstoppable.
The impeachment process came a week after a violent pro-Trump mob raped the U.S. Capitol, sending lawmakers underground and exposing the fragility of the national history of peaceful transfers of power. The riot also forced an account among some Republicans, who have supported Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to propagate false attacks on the integrity of the 2020 election.
While Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 brought no Republican votes to the House, at least eight House Republicans have announced they will break away from the party to join the Democrats this time around, claiming Trump had raped his oath to protect and defend American democracy. Among them was Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, third Republican in the House and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
As two Republican lawmakers – Washington Reps Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler – announced at the hearing that they would vote for impeachment, Trump issued a new statement urging “NO violence, NO crime. law and NO vandalism of any kind ”. But he has repeatedly refused to take responsibility for the riots last week.
Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy first said Trump bears responsibility, acknowledging in the House ahead of the vote that Biden is the next president and that radical liberal groups were not responsible for the riots, such as some Conservatives have falsely claimed that.
But McCarthy said he opposed the impeachment, preferring instead a “commission of inquiry” and censorship.
As for threats of more trouble from intruders, security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol with shocking images of massed National Guard troops, secure perimeters around the complex, and metal detection screens required for lawmakers entering the chamber of the House.
“We are debating this historic measure at a crime scene,” said Representative Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
Although McConnell refuses to expedite an impeachment trial, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press that the GOP leader believes Trump has committed unpayable offenses and sees impeachment of Democrats as an opportunity to reduce the grip chaotic and divisive of the president on the GOP.
McConnell called major Republican donors last weekend to gauge their opinion on Trump and was told Trump had clearly crossed a line. McConnell told them he was done with Trump, said the strategist, who requested anonymity to describe McConnell’s conversations.
The New York Times first reported on Tuesday McConnell’s views on impeachment.
The staggering collapse of Trump’s final days in office, along with warnings of more violence to come, leaves the country in a difficult and unfamiliar situation before Biden takes office.
Trump faces the only charge of “incitement to insurgency.”
The four-page impeachment resolution builds on Trump’s own inflammatory rhetoric and the lies he has spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on April’s Day. January 6 attack on the Capitol, to plead in favor of “serious crimes and misdemeanors” as required by the Constitution.
Trump took no responsibility for the riot, suggesting it was the drive to oust him rather than his actions around the bloody riot that divided the country.
“To continue on this path, I think this causes enormous danger to our country and causes enormous anger,” Trump said on Tuesday, his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.
A Capitol police officer died of injuries sustained in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people have died in what authorities have called medical emergencies. Lawmakers scrambled to safety and went into hiding as rioters took control of the Capitol, delaying the Electoral College vote tally which was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory by hours.
Republican lawmakers who chose to vote yes, including Cheney, were not disappointed with the president’s logic. Their support for the impeachment split the Republican leadership and the party itself.
“The President of the United States called this crowd, gathered the crowd and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Unlike a year ago, Trump faces impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own re-election as well as the Republican majority in the Senate.
The president was reportedly livid at the perceived disloyalty of McConnell and Cheney, as calls mounted for her ouster. He was also deeply frustrated that he couldn’t retaliate with his shutter closed. Twitter account, the fear of which has kept most Republicans in line for years, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who were not authorized to speak publicly in private conversations.
The team around Trump has hollowed out, with no plan to fight the impeachment effort. Trump leaned on Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to push Republican senators, while Chief of Staff Mark Meadows called some of his former colleagues to the Hill.
Trump was due to watch much of Wednesday’s debates on television from the White House residence and his private dining room next to the Oval Office.
The House first tried to push Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to intervene, passing a resolution Tuesday night calling on them to invoke the 25th amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.
Pence has made it clear he will not, saying in a letter to Pelosi that it is “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”
It is far from clear that there will be the two-thirds vote in the equally divided Senate necessary to condemn Trump, although at least two Republicans have called on him to “go away as soon as possible.”
The FBI has worryingly warned of possible armed protests by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Capitol Police urged lawmakers to be on alert. Charges of sedition are being considered for the rioters.
Biden said it was important to ensure that “people who have engaged in sedition and threatening life, degrading public property, do serious damage – that they are held accountable.”
Ignoring fears that an impeachment trial would bog down his early days in office, the president-elect encourages senators to split their time between making his priorities confirming his candidates and approving the COVID-19 remedy while also leading the trial.
The impeachment bill is inspired by Trump’s false claims about his electoral defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some appointed by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, said there was no no sign of widespread fraud.
While some have questioned the president’s impeachment so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, Secretary of War William Belknap was indicted by the House on the day he resigned, and the Senate called a trial months later. He was acquitted.
Trump was impeached in 2019 for his relations with Ukraine but acquitted by the Senate in 2020.
Associated Press editors Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor, and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
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