When some Democrats pushed for the impeachment of US President Donald Trump in early 2019, it took about five months for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to support the idea.
This time it only took a day.
Pelosi spoke strongly on Thursday in favor of Trump’s withdrawal – either by his own cabinet or by Congress, if necessary – after pro-Trump supporters violently raped and ransacked Capitol Hill.
Wednesday’s riots came after Trump pushed crowds at a rally near the White House.
Pelosi told fellow Democrats on a private conference call on Friday that “we need to act.”
A Congressional effort to impeach Trump is unlikely to remove him from the White House, which he will leave on January 20 when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.
The Republican-led Senate is unlikely to hold a trial and vote on Trump’s conviction in less than two weeks.
Yet action by the House would make Trump the first president in history to be impeached twice. And that could include a ban on public office, ending Trump’s ability to run in 2024.
Here’s a look at how impeachment works and what Congress can do in the short period of time to the end of Trump’s term:
Bases of impeachment
In the normal order, an impeachment inquiry would be opened and the evidence would be sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which would hold hearings, draft articles and send them to the plenary hall.
This is what happened in 2019 when the House impeached Trump for his dealings with the Ukrainian president. It took three months.
This time – with so few days to move and sentiment among Democrats that there is little need to investigate what happened since most members of Congress were on Capitol Hill when the crowd broke in – Pelosi would likely hold a floor vote without a hearing or an action committee.
Once the House votes for impeachment, the papers and evidence are sent to the Senate, where a trial takes place and there are final votes to convict or acquit, as the Senate did in early February of Last year.
What about the 25th Amendment?
Pelosi said on Thursday that the House would not have to begin impeachment if Vice President Mike Pence and other cabinet members dismiss Trump from office under the 25th Amendment.
The amendment allows the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to declare a president unfit for office, and the vice president then becomes acting president.
Despite widespread dissatisfaction with Trump’s actions, there appears to be little chance of a cabinet insurgency, especially after a slew of officials resigned in the wake of the Capitol riots.
A swift impeachment vote
Any member of the House can introduce articles of indictment and trigger a procedural process that allows them to be considered almost immediately.
Approving them only takes a majority. Democrats tightly control the House, 222-211.
Democratic Representatives David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Ted Lieu of California circulated an impeachment article accusing Trump of abuse of power and are expected to present it on Monday – meaning a vote could take place as early as midweek if Pelosi decides. go forward.
They might also consider moving the items in regular order, which could still be done quickly.
‘Abuse of power’
The impeachment article circulated by the Three Democrats accuses Trump of abuse of power and says he “deliberately made statements that encouraged – and presumably resulted – in looming lawless action on Capitol Hill.”
He said the behavior was consistent with Trump’s previous efforts to “subvert and hinder” election results and referred to his recent appeal with Georgia’s Secretary of State, in which he said he wanted to get no more votes after losing the state to Biden.
Trump falsely claimed there was widespread election fraud, and the baseless claims were repeated repeatedly by Republicans in Congress.
As protesters broke into the Capitol, both houses debated Republican challenges to the electoral vote count in Arizona.
“In all of this, President Trump has seriously endangered the security of the United States and its government institutions,” the Democratic Project said.
“He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power and endangered a coordinated branch of government. He thus betrayed his confidence as president, to the obvious prejudice of the people of the United States.
There was no widespread fraud in the election, as confirmed by several election officials and William Barr, who resigned his post as attorney general last month.
Almost all of the legal challenges raised by Trump and his allies were dismissed by the judges.
The timing of the Senate trial is uncertain. The Senate isn’t ready to resume full sessions until January 20, the day of the inauguration, and it’s hard to see the benefit of impeaching Trump while Biden is sworn in.
Two-thirds of the Senate is needed to convict, and that would be unlikely even if the chamber returned to session to hold a trial and vote.
While many Republican senators denigrated Trump’s actions last week, several Republicans have already said they believe impeachment will further divide the country just before Biden’s inauguration.
Still, some Republicans appeared open to impeachment. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who voted for Trump’s acquittal last year, said he would “definitely consider” impeachment.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who also voted for acquittal, told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that she wanted Trump to step down.
Only one Republican voted to condemn Trump last year – Utah Senator Mitt Romney.
What would impeachment mean
Republicans, even those who have criticized Trump, say impeachment would be of no help.
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham said it would do “more harm than good.”
But Democrats say they believe they have to try, anyway.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted Friday that some people might wonder why they would try to remove a president with only a few days left in office.
“The answer: previous,” he said. “It must be clear that no president, neither now nor in the future, can lead an insurgency against the US government.”