The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday voted in favor of an unprecedented second impeachment of President Donald Trump, with the majority Democrats accusing him of inciting insurrection by encouraging what became a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol. The final vote tally was 232 - 197. Ten Republicans joined Democrats in approving the measure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump a threat to “liberty, self-government and the rule of law.”
But 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 has enough votes on its own to impeach Trump a week before his four-year term ends at noon January 20 and Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated as the country’s new leader.
A small number of Republicans, however, also is expected to join in a vote that will brand Trump, a Republican, with a singular distinction in U.S. history -- the first of the country’s 45 presidents to be impeached twice.
If he is impeached, Trump would be tried by the Senate, likely after his term ends, and a two-thirds vote in the politically divided chamber would be needed to convict him. The outcome there is uncertain, but if it convicts him, the Senate in a second vote requiring only a simple majority could ban him from ever again holding federal office.
The House, with no Republican votes, impeached Trump in late 2019 for trying to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden ahead of the November election. Trump was acquitted in February after a 20-day Senate trial.
Biden won the presidency with a decisive majority in the Electoral College that is determinative in U.S. presidential elections. Congress early last Thursday certified the Electoral College outcome but not before a pro-Trump mob stormed into the Capitol, occupying and ransacking some congressional offices and scuffling with police.
As the House debated the ground rules for the proceeding, Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts said the impeachment 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 Avenue,” the White House address.
'Incitement of insurrection'
At a rally a week ago, Trump urged his supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight” to overturn his election loss.
But with security officials warning of more possible violence surrounding next week’s inauguration ceremony, Trump issued a statement Wednesday imploring his supporters to remain peaceful.
“In light of reports of more demonstrations, 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. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers. Thank You,” the statement said.
Nevertheless, Congressman Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader, said during Wednesday’s floor debate that Trump had “brought shame and disorder to the presidency” and “weaponized hate.”
Congressman Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, opposed Trump’s impeachment a week before leaves office, 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.”
Congressman Jason Smith of Missouri, another Republican, said, “Let’s put people before politics. This is a reckless impeachment.”
Still, several Republicans said they would join the majority Democrats in voting for impeachment.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a member of the Republican Party’s House leadership team, in explaining her support for impeachment Tuesday night, said there “has never been a greater betrayal” by a U.S. president.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, a close Trump ally, said “impeachment at this time would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together.” But the Republican leadership said it would not try to pressure its party members to oppose impeachment if they chose not to.
Trump digs in
On a visit Tuesday to the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump said the push to impeach him again is “causing tremendous anger and division and pain far greater than most people will ever understand, which is very dangerous for the USA, especially at this very tender time.”
He urged “peace and calm” and said now is a “time for law and a time for order.”
Trump, who in a video last week told the mob of his supporters “we love you, you’re very special,” did not answer questions from reporters.
Late Tuesday, Pelosi announced her choice of Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland to lead a group of nine impeachment managers.
“It is their constitutional and patriotic duty to present the case for the President’s impeachment and removal,” Pelosi said in a statement. “They will do so guided by their great love of country, determination to protect our democracy and loyalty to our oath to the Constitution. Our managers will honor their duty to defend democracy for the people with great solemnity, prayerfulness and urgency.”
It is unclear whether House leaders would immediately send the impeachment resolution to the Senate, given that Trump’s term ends in a week.
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.
Biden on impeachment
Biden said it is his “hope and expectation” the Senate could simultaneously hold an impeachment trial and confirm his Cabinet appointments after he takes office, while also approving more aid for the flagging U.S. economy weakened by the soaring coronavirus pandemic.
He said Monday of the rioters, “It is critically important that there’ll be a real serious focus on holding those folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage—that they be held accountable.”
Dozens of rioters already have been arrested and federal authorities are investigating many more, scouring security camera recordings from the Capitol to identify wrongdoers and searching social media videos the rioters posted of themselves in the building.