House impeaches Trump for unprecedented second time over deadly Capitol attack
A bipartisan majority of the House impeached Donald Trump for an unprecedented second time on Wednesday, dealing a humiliating blow to the outgoing president over his instigation of a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol that killed five people and left American democracy in a state of crisis.
Ten Republicans joined every Democratic member in voting 232-197 for a single article of impeachment charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for telling thousands of die-hard supporters to march on the Capitol last Wednesday and “fight like hell” to stop the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election that was going on inside. A Capitol Police officer and four rioters died in the ensuing chaos, as Trump’s supporters ransacked the historic building in his name.
“The president saw the insurrectionists not as the foes of freedom that they are, but as means to a terrible goal — the goal of his clinging to power,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said as she opened the impeachment debate. “With a plea to all of you, Democrats and Republicans: Is the president’s war on democracy in keeping with the Constitution?”
She added: “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
The vote — which landed just seven days before Trump’s term expires — makes him the first American president to endure the embarrassment of being impeached twice. It was also the most bipartisan impeachment vote in modern history.
Trump was first impeached in 2019 for pressuring Ukraine to produce political dirt on Biden while using U.S. military aid as leverage in a shadowy scheme to influence the 2020 election.
Trump, who has been holed up at the White House for days without access to his personal Twitter handle due to a permanent ban, did not acknowledge his second impeachment in a video released on the official White House account after the vote.
Instead, he pleaded with his supporters to not commit more acts of violence in the final days of his presidency.
“Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement or our great American flag,” Trump said, contrasting a since-deleted Twitter video from last week in which he professed “love” for the rioters as their attack on the Capitol was underway.
The Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Trump in his first impeachment trial last year, but Democrats hope enough GOP members in the upper chamber will see things differently this time around and vote to convict him of high crimes and misdemeanors
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced after the House impeachment vote that he won’t reconvene early for a trial, meaning the high-stakes affair won’t start until after Trump leaves office on Jan. 20.
“There is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week,” McConnell said. “In light of this reality, I believe it will best serve out nation if Congress and the executive branch spend the next seven days completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and orderly transfer of power.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who’s set to take over McConnell’s job next week in light of Democrats reclaiming majority control of the chamber, stressed that Trump will stand trial regardless of timing, as the occasion can allow for a vote to bar him from ever holding public office again, in addition to conviction.
“Make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial,” Schumer said.
Among the 10 Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment were upstate New York Rep. John Katko, Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House.
Newhouse and Herrera Beutler were the only impeachment-backing Republicans to speak on the floor during the debate.
In a stunning admission, Newhouse said Republicans like himself are complicit in Trump’s insurrection because they didn’t disavow him sooner, even as he pushed false claims about voter fraud and pressured officials in several states to overturn the Nov. 3 election in his favor, culminating in last week’s riot.
“Others, including myself, are responsible for not speaking out sooner before the president misinformed and inflamed a violent mob who tore down the American flag and brutally beat Capitol Police officers,” Newhouse said. “There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Pelosi’s top deputy, followed Newhouse’s lead by taking withering aim at Republicans who have continued to shield Trump despite his riot-inciting speech last week at a raucous rally in front of the White House.
“His desire for autocracy and his glorification of violence have not been tempered but rationalized by those who sought to profit financially and politically from their proximity to power,” Hoyer said.
Many of the 197 Republicans who voted against impeachment — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — still condemned the president for sparking the assault on the Capitol, signaling that the GOP is trying to wash away the stain of Trumpism.
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” McCarthy said, proposing that Trump be formally censured by Congress instead of impeached.
Reminders of the chaos Trump caused were still present at the Capitol during the impeachment.
The usually bustling hallways gaped empty, save for thousands of fatigue-clad National Guard troops with assault rifles standing guard.
Steel barriers were being erected inside and outside the building, with political and military leaders wary of more far-right attacks being planned before Biden’s inauguration, which finally became a certainty after Congress certified his victory one last time in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Lost in the depressing crisis on Capitol Hill is the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 383,000 Americans on Trump’s watch.
Democrats did not buy Trump’s belated post-impeachment call for cooler heads to prevail.
Many of them drew thinly-veiled parallels between Trump and Adolf Hitler, accusing the impeached president of peddling “the big lie” for months by falsely insisting that Biden’s election was facilitated by fraud.
“The constitutional crimes by an out of control president inspired by his hatred and the big lie that he told cannot be ignored,” said New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the No. 5 Democrat in the House. “Donald Trump is a living, breathing impeachment offense.”
With Trump’s tumultuous presidency on the brink of ending, Democrats also breathed a sigh of relief for what’s to come.
“Joe Biden is the appropriate person at the right time,” New York Rep. Gregory Meeks told reporters outside the House chamber. “He has the stature to bring us back together with the people who love America, and to make sure that there’s justice for those who don’t.”