The U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump on Wednesday, declaring he incited insurrection last week when he implored thousands of his supporters to march to the Capitol to try to overturn his reelection loss, prompting a mob demonstration that turned into deadly mayhem.
The 232-197 majority for impeachment, with just a week remaining in Trump’s four-year term, was made up of Democratic Party lawmakers joined by 10 of Trump’s fellow Republicans.
The House vote branded Trump with a singular distinction, making him the first president in the country’s 245-year history to be impeached twice.
He was acquitted by the Senate a year ago in a separate impeachment case and now will face a new trial in the weeks after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated next Wednesday. A two-thirds vote in the politically divided Senate would be needed to convict Trump. If convicted, a simple majority vote could bar him from ever holding federal office again.
Moments after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell once again rejected the possibility of an immediate trial.
"There is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week," the Kentucky Republican said in a statement. "Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office."
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is set to become majority leader when Biden is inaugurated, said a trial could begin this week or next.
"But make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate. There will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors," he said.
Trump released a video late Wednesday in which he made no mention of the impeachment but condemned the assault on the U.S. Capitol and pleaded for calm.
"I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week. Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement," Trump said. "Making America great again has always been about defending the rule of law."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, praised the president’s speech, saying it “helps move the country forward.” Like other Republicans who have opposed impeachment, Graham cited a need for unity as he called for Democrats to abandon the process.
“It’s now time for President-elect Biden to reject post presidential impeachment because of the destructive force it would have on the presidency and nation,” Graham tweeted. “Every president is subject to the laws of the land. However, impeachment is political and will further divide the nation.”
Biden said in a statement late Wednesday that the Capitol attack was “carried out by political extremists and domestic terrorists” incited by Trump, and that “those responsible must be held accountable.”
“Today, the members of the House of Representatives exercised the power granted to them under our Constitution and voted to impeach and hold the president accountable,” Biden said. “It was a bipartisan vote cast by members who followed the Constitution and their conscience. The process continues to the Senate.”
He added that he hopes the Senate will find a way to balance carrying out both the impeachment proceedings and “the other urgent business of this nation,” as the country deals with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said a Senate trial need not take long.
“I will be a juror in Donald Trump's impeachment trial, but I was also a witness to the insurrection,” he tweeted. “We don’t need a weeks-long trial to determine that he committed high treason. We saw Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office and impeachable actions on live television.”
The House impeachment vote came a week to the day after rioters overwhelmed police at the U.S. Capitol during the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote showing that Biden had defeated Trump in the November election.
The throng of Trump supporters stormed into some congressional offices and ransacked them, littered the floors with government documents and scuffled with police. Five people were left dead, with three protesters dying from medical emergencies, another fatally shot by police, and a police officer killed in what authorities are investigating as a homicide.
As Wednesday’s impeachment debate started, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the chamber, called Trump a threat to “liberty, self-government and the rule of law.”
However, a staunch Trump supporter, Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, said impeachment “doesn’t unite the country. This is about politics.” Democrats, he said, “want to cancel the president.”
The thin Democratic majority in the House had enough votes on its own to impeach Trump. Ten Republicans, however, including Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the party’s third-ranking House member, joined in voting for impeachment. In announcing her vote Tuesday night, Cheney said there “has never been a greater betrayal” by a U.S. president.
The House, with no Republican votes, impeached Trump in late 2019 for trying to get Ukraine to dig up negative information on Biden ahead of the November election. He was acquitted in February, though, after a 20-day Senate trial.
As the House debated the ground rules for the impeachment proceeding Wednesday, Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts said the debate was occurring at “an actual crime scene” — the House chamber occupied by some of the rioters before police regained control.
“We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the president of the United States,” McGovern said, adding that “the cause of this violence resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.,” the White House address.
At a rally a week ago, Trump urged his supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight” to overturn his election loss.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Trump had “brought shame and disorder to the presidency” and “weaponized hate.”
Congressman Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, though, opposed Trump’s impeachment, saying, “I can think of nothing that would cause further division more than the path the majority is now taking. Rather than looking ahead to a new administration, the majority is again seeking to settle scores against the old one.”
The impeachment resolution cites Trump’s unfounded accusations that he was cheated out of a second term by voting and vote-counting irregularities, his pressure on election officials in the southern state of Georgia to “find” him more than 11,000 votes to overtake Biden’s margin of victory in the state, and his statements at a rally last Wednesday urging thousands of supporters to march to the Capitol to pressure lawmakers to overturn the election outcome.
Dozens of rioters already have been arrested, and federal authorities are investigating many more, scouring security videos at the Capitol to identify wrongdoers and searching social media videos the rioters posted of themselves in the building.