National Guard troops were stationed throughout Congress on Wednesday as his lower house prepared to make Donald Trump the first U.S. president to be dismissed not once, but twice.
They guarded the perimeter of the US Capitol and patrolled the offices of lawmakers. Inside the seat of the American legislature, where troops were deployed as they had been during the Civil War, some were so exhausted that they lay down to take a nap, in full military dress, masked and with guns by their side.
Their presence embodied a city, a country and a borderline democracy as they attempted to complete the transfer of power between two US administrations.
The normally peaceful transition was marred this time by Mr. Trump’s repeated refusal to accept his electoral defeat to Joe Biden for weeks, and his incitement to murderous attack of January 6 on Congress by a group of supporters seeking to reverse the outcome.
“There are currently more soldiers in Washington DC than in Afghanistan,” said Seth Moulton, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts. “And they’re here to defend us against the Commander-in-Chief – the President of the United States – and his mob.
Dressed in funeral black, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic president of the House of Representatives, on Wednesday launched the impeachment procedure on the floor of the lower house of Congress, barely a week after the attack on the Capitol.
His haste reflected the frightening determination of many Democrats – and even some Republicans – that after the most tumultuous, disruptive, and erratic US Presidency in recent memory, Mr. Trump would not be able to sit in the House. White for another week.
“He has to go,” Pelosi said of the president during the impeachment debate in the House. “He represents a clear and present danger to the nation we all love.”
In the end, 10 House Republicans joined Democrats seeking to impeach Mr. Trump, and the vote wasn’t particularly close.
Among the defectors from the presidential party was Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. “It was a moment of reflection to vote in favor of impeachment today; to walk to the US Capitol, our symbol of democracy, and to remember the violent insurgency we witnessed here just over a week ago, ”he wrote on Twitter. “It was not a vote that I took lightly, but a vote that I took with confidence. I am at peace.
Democratic pressure for a second indictment of Mr. Trump has rapidly escalated in recent days as lawmakers grew increasingly angry with the attack on Capitol Hill and more details emerged on the threat for their own safety.
“Many members of the House were almost assassinated,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York MP, said on Instagram live on Tuesday evening. “I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die.”
To add insult to injury, many Democrats were forced to huddle in closed spaces with unmasked Republicans during the riot. Three Democratic lawmakers have since tested positive for the coronavirus and Ms Pelosi has announced that she will impose fines to force members of Congress to wear masks.
the Republican Party, meanwhile, was consumed by a heart-wrenching psychodrama about the fallout from the President’s conduct which they had encouraged and tolerated for so long.
Liz Cheney, the “rodeo mom” and self-proclaimed “constitutional conservative” who represents Wyoming in the House, led the charge to impeach Mr. Trump. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of the president’s most staunch allies and supporters, responded by saying she should be removed from the party leadership.
Grand Old Party cracks were everywhere. Nancy Mace, South Carolina’s first term Republican congressman, was embroiled in a text message exchange with Marjorie Taylor Greene, another newly elected Georgian lawmaker sympathetic to QAnon.
“I’m disgusted with what you and the other Q conspiracy theorists did in the bedroom last week after all this violence,” Ms Mace wrote, according to Axios. Ms Greene retorted that she should not believe in “fake news”.
Lauren Boebert, Colorado’s first-term Republican and advocate for the president, set off a metal detector as she walked into work this week and protested against the new security measure imposed by Ms Pelosi.
“Metal detectors outside the House would not have ended the violence we saw last week – this is just another political coup from President Pelosi,” said Boebert.
In the Senate, Mr. Trump’s actions have put Mitch McConnell, the unfazed Republican leader of 78, in the most difficult position of his political career. The New York Times reported that McConnell believed the president had committed “uneasy crimes” and was privately satisfied with the business of the House, but the reaction from fellow lawmakers was swift.
Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator, said Republican leaders receiving an early conviction made the problem “worse, not better” and that impeachment was “the last thing the country needed”. Mr McConnell later said he would not move quickly to try Mr Trump in the Senate, but noted he was still undecided on whether to condemn the president.
Concerns about extremist attacks during Mr. Biden’s inauguration next week have grown, forcing officials in Washington DC to discourage travelers to the city, Airbnb at cancel reservations in the capital, and the president-elect abandoned his plan to get to his swearing-in train from Delaware.
Banned by Twitter, his preferred medium, Mr. Trump made two interventions on Wednesday, the first of which was a White House statement calling for “NO violence, NO breaking the law and NO vandalism.”
In a sign of growing alarm among law enforcement officials over the threat of further violence, Mr. Trump continued with an unusual video message in which he urged supporters of “our agenda to think about ways to ‘ease tensions, calm temperatures and help promote peace in our country’.
Mr. Trump’s video made no mention of his impeachment, electoral loss, Mr. Biden, or the power of peaceful transfer. The last time he addressed all of this was Tuesday, while traveling to Alamo, Texas, where he touted his unfinished wall along the US-Mexico border.
“Be careful what you want,” he said, barely veiled threatening those who vote to indict him. “The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the biggest and most vicious witch hunt in our country’s history and is causing tremendous anger, division and pain.
It was, added Mr. Trump, “very dangerous for the United States, especially at this very tender time.”
Following a historic 2020 election, stay on top of the biggest themes driving U.S. politics, business, and markets from Washington, New York and beyond with Rana Foroohar and Edward Luce. register here
“There are, unfortunately, a handful of members of Congress – and Ms. Taylor Green is just one of them – who are morally bankrupt,” Crow (D-Colo.) Told CNN in a report. interview. “They are depraved and they are downright dangerous individuals.