The White House. Credit: Wikipedia
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, charging him with inciting violent rioters last week who rampaged through the U.S. Capitol, temporarily derailing the tally of presidential votes and leading to at least five deaths.
The 232-197 vote concluded a swift, truncated process in the House, with Democrats arguing that Trump still poses an imminent threat, even as he’s days away from leaving office. Ten Republicans joined every House Democrat in voting to send the impeachment article to the Senate.
The vote sets up an impeachment trial in the Senate, expected to begin shortly before or potentially after President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday.
Democrats said they had to act quickly to impeach Trump. “We don’t have a minute to spare. He’s a clear and present danger to the people,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who was tapped to be the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager during the Senate trial.
While the Senate acquitted Trump in his first set of impeachment charges in February 2020, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly has expressed private support for the new impeachment effort, as he seeks to distance the party from Trump, according to the New York Times and other news outlets.
The impeachment resolution accuses Trump of having “gravely endangered” U.S. security, arguing that his statements refusing to accept the election results and urging supporters to continue contesting the election directly led to the violence at the Capitol.
The rioters who unlawfully took over the Capitol were Trump supporters, many carrying flags with his name, having marched to Capitol Hill from a rally in which Trump directed them to “fight like hell.”
The measure also cites Trump’s phone call directing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state.
Unlike the previous impeachment proceeding against Trump, the new push drew bipartisan support, even as some Republicans, such as Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, who was among the “yes” votes, said they fear attempts on their lives as a result of voting yes.
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, (R-Ohio), said he felt “compelled” to support impeachment, adding that Trump “abandoned his post.”
“I would have preferred a bipartisan, formal censure rather than a drawn-out impeachment process,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in a statement ahead of the vote. “I fear this will now interfere with important legislative business and a new Biden administration. But it is time to say: Enough is enough.”
But other Republicans criticized the process as politically motivated, and rushed, and they claimed that the president was encouraging peaceful protests, not violence.
“Has any one of those individuals who brought violence on this Capitol been brought here to answer whether they did that because of our president?” asked Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.).
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona warned Democrats that if they went forward with impeachment, it would only make Trump’s base stronger because “you have made him a martyr.”
“You don’t seek victory,” Biggs said, “but obliteration of your nemesis.”
Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Lauren Boebert of Colorado sought to blame Democrats for last week’s violence, comparing the insurrection at the Capitol to the nationwide protests against police brutality last summer.
“The left has incited far more political violence,” Gaetz said, prompting boos from Democrats.
Rep. Cori Bush, a freshman Democrat from Missouri, said that if the president was not removed, it would hurt predominantly Black communities like hers.
“The 117th Congress must understand that we have a mandate to legislate in defense of Black lives,” Bush said. “The first step in that process is to root out white supremacy, starting with impeaching the white supremacist in chief.”
Democrats said Trump’s actions — his instructions to supporters, his delay in responding to requests for help, and his failure to take responsibility — are too grave to move on without a response.
“The president not only incited an insurrection against our government but has, in word and deed, led a rebellion,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) “We cannot simply move past this or turn the page. To be able to survive as a functioning democracy, there has to be accountability.”
As the debate unfolded in the House, the surrounding hallways reflected the stark security changes enacted since last week’s mob mayhem.
Several thousand National Guardsmen were camped out in the hallways and the Capitol Rotunda, and lawmakers were directed to walk through metal detectors to get to the House floor, though some Republicans refused to do so.
The break-neck speed of the impeachment vote is not without precedent: In 1868, the House voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson just three days after he fired his war secretary, Edwin Stanton, in defiance of the law.
Trump is the only president to be impeached twice. In December 2019, the House passed two charges of obstructing Congress and abusing his power in relation to his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
During that last proceeding, it was clear that Trump would be acquitted in the Republican-controlled Senate. This time, the vote is a bit murkier.
No Senate Republicans have yet said they would vote to convict Trump, but two — including Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey — have called on him to resign.
Toomey, who is retiring in 2022, has said he believes Trump “committed impeachable offenses,” but so far has stopped short of saying that he would vote to convict Trump if the House does send over articles of impeachment.
The Senate is not scheduled to return to session until Jan. 19, the day before Biden is sworn in, but could do so soon if there’s agreement among Senate leadership. That has not happened yet.
If the Senate votes to convict the president, Trump will be barred from pursuing federal office again.
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