Donald Trump is set to be the first president in U.S. history to be impeached for the second time, as the House of Representatives prepares to vote to indict the outgoing president for instigating last week’s violent siege on the US Capitol.
The House, which is controlled by Democrats, is expected to hold a vote Wednesday afternoon on an article of impeachment, accusing the president of “inciting insurgency.”
“The President of the United States has instigated this insurgency, this armed rebellion, against our common country,” said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, at the start of a two-hour debate before Wednesday’s vote. “He must go. He represents a clear and present danger to the nation we all love.
More than 200 members of the Democratic House have already signed the bill, and at least six House Republicans, including Liz Cheney, have said they will also vote to impeach Mr. Trump, just a week before Joe Biden sworn in as the 46th US President.
Ms Cheney’s statement on Tuesday night, in which she said Mr Trump had “summoned the mob” that stormed the Capitol and left at least five dead, sent shock waves by Washington. Ms. Cheney is the third-largest House Republican and the daughter of Dick Cheney, the former vice president.
Senior House Republican Kevin McCarthy said in Wednesday’s debate that Mr. Trump “bore responsibility” for “last week’s attack on Congress by Mafia rioters,” adding: “He should have immediately denounced the[m] when he saw what was going on.
But Mr McCarthy opposed the impeachment, criticizing the “short delay” and warning that the process “would further divide the nation.”
Members of the National Guard were deployed to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday ahead of the impeachment vote and are expected to support police until Mr. Biden’s inauguration.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Trump responded to reports of further protests by urging “that there must be no violence, no breach of the law and NO vandalism of any kind.”
“That’s not what I represent, and that’s not what America represents. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm people down, ”added Mr. Trump.
After Mr. Trump is dismissed, Ms. Pelosi will send the impeachment article to the Senate for trial.
While Ms Pelosi has not said when she will send the article, she named a list of impeachment officials on Tuesday, which would allow her to proceed quickly. The leaders will pursue the case against Mr. Trump in a trial in the upper house. The leader among them is Jamie Raskin, the Democratic congressman from Maryland who also wrote the impeachment article.
Steny Hoyer, Ms Pelosi’s second in command, said Wednesday morning that the article could be sent as early as this week.
“I think we’ll send it out as soon as we have the capacity,” he told MSNBC. “I don’t think we’re going to wait.”
However, a spokesperson for Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, confirmed that he did not intend to reconvene the Senate until January 19, a day before Mr Biden’s inauguration. This would set the stage for an impeachment trial in the early days of the Biden administration.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Mr. McConnell was happy Democrats were pushing to impeach Mr. Trump because he believed it would help the Republican Party purge the president from his ranks. Mr McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao is one of three members of the presidential cabinet to have resigned in recent days due to her handling of the Capitol riots.
Only three presidents, Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Mr. Trump, have been indicted for “serious crimes.” Mr. Trump is the first to be indicted twice and the only one to be impeached so close to the end of his term.
Mr. Trump, who last week was banned Twitter has been relatively calm in recent days, in stark contrast to the barrage of social media comments that marked his four years in the White House. On Tuesday, he told reporters that the impeachment process “caused enormous anger” and posed “a huge danger to our country”.
A Politico / Morning Consult poll released on Wednesday showed Mr. Trump’s approval rating plunged to an all-time low, with just 34% of voters approving the work he was doing.
Mr. Trump’s approval also slipped among Republican voters, according to the poll, though he remained their top pick for the GOP presidential candidate in 2024. Forty-two percent of Republican voters said they were ‘they would vote for Mr. Trump in the next GOP primary, up from 54 percent when asked the same question in November.