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Trump impeached for second time, after Capitol siege

The House of Representatives is discussing whether to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, a week after a mob of his supporters breached the U.S. Capitol. Credit: AP

WASHINGTON — The House impeached President Donald Trump in a bipartisan vote Wednesday on charges that he incited the insurrection at the Capitol as Congress certified Joe Biden’s election as president, making Trump the first president to be impeached twice.

All Democrats and 10 Republicans approved the single article of impeachment in a 232-to-197 vote following an often-heated two-hour debate a week after the ransacking of Congress and the Capitol by a mob of Trump loyalists that left five dead.

The Senate is not expected to conduct a trial immediately. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who will lead the Democratic majority in a week, said in a statement that "there will be an impeachment trial" and "there will be a vote on convicting the president" and if he's convicted "there will be a vote on barring him from running again."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signed the article of impeachment at the end of the day but did not say when she will send it to the Senate, opening the possibility of a trial after Trump leaves office.

The article of impeachment, titled "Incitement of Insurrection," charges that Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors by falsely claiming he won the election and urging his followers to march to the Capitol with the intent to interfere with the certification of Biden’s election as president.

Democrats sped the impeachment through unprecedented proceedings: a one-day debate and vote without an investigation or hearings a week before Trump leaves office conducted under tight security guarded by riot fencing and National Guard members in camouflage.

Republicans assailed the fast process and accused Democrats of making a political gesture with a second impeachment in a little more than a year. But the GOP caucus was not as unified as it was for the first impeachment.

While many Republicans defended Trump and his fiery speech to the rally last week that Democrats say launched the mob down Pennsylvania Avenue to invade Congress, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) put the onus on Trump.

"The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters," McCarthy said in a floor speech that drew applause from Republicans in the chamber. "He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding."

McCarthy added that Trump should now "accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure that President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term."

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told his caucus in a letter that "while the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate."

Midway through the debate, Trump issued a statement urging peace and no violence in response to concerns about another attack on the inaugural ceremonies on Jan. 20. "That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for," the statement said. "I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers."

Later Wednesday Trump released a video in which he said he "unequivocally" condemned the attack on the Capitol. "Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement," he said.

Democrats pressed their case against Trump in speech after speech, many accusing him of attempting to delay or stop Biden’s presidency.

"We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, armed rebellion, against our common country," Pelosi said. "He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love."

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the House Rules Committee chairman, said, "We are debating this historic measure at an actual crime scene and we wouldn't be here if it weren't for the president of the United States."

He added, "The signal [to his followers] was unmistakable: ‘They should stage a coup — the people’s will be damned.’"

Republicans repeatedly warned that the rushed impeachment, just a week before Biden’s inauguration, would only deepen the partisan divide in the country, and some argued for a censure of the president instead.

"A vote to impeach will further fan the flames of partisan division," said McCarthy. "Most Americans want neither inaction nor retribution. We want a durable, bipartisan justice."

But unlike the unanimity of the Republicans who all voted in December 2019 against the first impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of justice, GOP members differed on Trump’s responsibility and some indicated they would vote to impeach.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) said he would vote for impeachment. After lashing out at Democrats for failing to condemn rioters in Seattle, Newhouse said he took personal blame for not speaking out sooner "before Trump misinformed and inflamed a violent mob."

On the day before the vote, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a top Republican leader, issued a damning statement saying, "There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution."

But many other Republicans denied charges of Trump’s culpability and complained that Democrats operate on a double standard.

In a floor speech, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) complained that Democrats admonished Republicans for actions they had taken themselves, such as calling for physical confrontations.

Zeldin also said Trump did not cause the disruption at the Capitol because it already had begun when he addressed the rally of his backers. "This was preplanned," Zeldin said, claiming that pipe bombs were discovered and the Capitol's perimeter had been breached while Trump was still speaking.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a staunch Trump supporter, blamed "politics" for the impeachment, saying Democrats talked about impeachment "19 minutes" after Trump’s inauguration. "This is about getting the president of the United States."

The Long Island delegation voted along party lines. Democrats Kathleen Rice of Garden City, Tom Suozzi of Glen Cove and Gregory Meeks of St. Albans voted for impeachment. Zeldin and Republican Andrew Garbarino of Sayville voted against it.

Rice, one of the first Democrats to call for Trump’s removal last week, said in a statement: "if we do not hold the President accountable for this act of sedition, it would set a dangerous precedent and pose a lethal threat to the future of democracy in this country."

Suozzi said, "President Trump instigated this and must be held accountable. The President’s duty is to protect our Republic and its people. Yet, he built a mob, filled it with lies, and encouraged it to ‘fight to stop the steal.’"

Meeks, in a speech, said Trump has to be held accountable because "the world is watching."

Garbarino, a freshman lawmaker who broke party ranks last week to vote against objecting to the Electoral College results as demanded by Trump, voted against impeachment on Wednesday, saying he had concerns that the process was "rushed."

"While I fully condemn the domestic terrorists that stormed the Capitol last Wednesday, and I believe the President bears some responsibility, I ultimately cannot and will not vote to impeach," he said in a statement.

With Laura Figueroa Hernandez

What's next

  • The impeachment article goes to the Senate for a trial on whether to convict or acquit the president. The timing of the House vote, less than a week before Biden is to be sworn in, means the Senate trial will happen under a Democratic-controlled Senate.
  • Democrats would get to outline how the trial would work. But it could require the Senate to stop all business for a few days, including confirming Biden's Cabinet. (Some House Democratic leaders have suggested refraining from sending the impeachment article to the Senate until Biden is more settled with his administration.)
  • Biden asked the Senate whether it could split the day in two, confirming his nominees and holding a trial. It's unclear whether the Senate can do that.
  • The consequences for Trump are unclear. A president can probably be convicted after leaving office, but to convict Trump requires support of two-thirds of the Senate, more than the Democratic majority. Democrats would need 17 Senate Republicans to join them, and they do not seem to have that support. Three Republican senators have expressed openness to impeachment or to getting Trump out of office after the Capitol riot — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
  • Barring a president from running for office again would require removal from office, then a majority vote.

The Washington Post

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