House votes to impeach Trump again
WASHINGTON – A majority of the House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to make Donald Trump the first U.S. president ever to be impeached twice, formally charging him in his waning days in power with inciting an insurrection just a week after a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol.
With the vote ongoing, a majority of lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled chamber voted in favor of impeachment over an incident that represented a deadly assault on American democracy.
But it appeared unlikely that the extraordinarily swift impeachment would lead to Trump’s ouster before the Republican president’s four-year term ends and Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20. The Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, rejected Democratic calls to convene the Senate in emergency session to begin an immediate impeachment trial, according to a spokesman.
The House passed a single article of impeachment – a formal charge – accusing Trump of “incitement of insurrection”, focused upon an incendiary speech he delivered to thousands of supporters shortly before the pro-Trump mob rampaged through the Capitol. The mob disrupted the formal certification of Biden’s victory over Trump in the November 3 election, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead, including a police officer.
During his speech, Trump repeated false claims that the election was fraudulent and exhorted supporters to march on the Capitol.
With a large presence of rifle-carrying National Guard troops inside and outside the Capitol, an emotional debate unfolded in the same House chamber where lawmakers had crouched under chairs and donned gas masks on January 6 as rioters clashed with police officers outside the doors.
“The president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said on the House floor before the vote. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
No U.S. president ever has been removed from office through impeachment. Three – Trump in 2019, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 – previously were impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.
The impeachment comes at a time of gaping political divisions in a pandemic-weary United States near the end of a tumultuous presidency in which Trump governed with a right-wing populist message preaching “America First”.
A handful of Republicans backed impeachment, including Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican.
“I am not choosing a side, I’m choosing truth,” Republican Jamie Herrera Beutler said in announcing her support for impeachment, drawing applause from Democrats. “It’s the only way to defeat fear.”
In a break from standard procedure, Republican House leaders refrained from urging their members to vote against impeachment, calling the vote a matter of individual conscience.
Under the U.S. Constitution, impeachment in the House triggers a trial in the Senate. A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove Trump, meaning at least 17 Republicans in the 100-member chamber would have to join the Democrats.
McConnell has said no trial could begin until the Senate was scheduled to be back in regular session on January 19, one day before Biden’s inauguration. The trial would proceed in the Senate even after Trump leaves office. McConnell said in a memo to his fellow Republicans he has not made a final decision on how he will vote on impeachment in the Senate.
The Capitol siege raised concerns about political violence in the United States once considered all but unthinkable. The FBI has warned of armed protests planned for Washington and all 50 U.S. state capitals ahead of Biden’s inauguration.
Trump on Wednesday urged his followers to remain peaceful, saying in a statement, “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.” (Reuters)