A majority of the U.S. House has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, just a week after he encouraged loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results — a speech that was followed by a mob of his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol. The House vote on an article of impeachment for “incitement of insurrection” was still underway Wednesday afternoon.
During debate before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Republicans and Democrats to “search their souls.” Mr. Trump would be the first American President to be impeached twice.
Mr. Trump “must go,” Ms. Pelosi said. “He is a clear and present danger to the nation we all love.”
Actual removal seems unlikely before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Republican leader would not agree to bring the chamber back immediately, all but ensuring a Senate trial could not begin at least until Jan. 19.
Still, Mr. McConnell did not rule out voting to convict Mr. Trump in the event of a trial. In a note to his fellow Republican senators just before the House was to begin voting, he said he is undecided.
“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,” Mr. McConnell wrote.
In the House, the momentum for action has been unstoppable.
The impeachment proceedings came one week after a violent, pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol, sending lawmakers into hiding and revealing the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power. The riot has also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Mr. Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.
While Mr. Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 brought no Republican votes in the House, at least eight House Republicans announced that they would break with the party to join Democrats this time, saying Mr. Trump violated his oath to protect and defend U.S. democracy. Among them was Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House and the daughter of former Vice-President Dick Cheney.
As two Republican lawmakers — Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler — announced on the floor they would vote to impeach, Mr. Trump issued a new statement urging “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind.” But he has repeatedly declined to take any responsibility for last week’s riots.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said for the first time that Mr. Trump does bear responsibility, acknowledging on the House floor before the vote that Mr. Biden is the next President and that radical liberal groups were not responsible for the riots, as some conservatives have falsely claimed.
But Mr. McCarthy said he opposed impeachment, instead favoring a “fact finding commission” and censure.
As for threats of more trouble from intruders, security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol with shocking images of massed National Guard troops, secure perimeters around the complex and metal-detector screenings required for lawmakers entering the House chamber.
“We are debating this historic measure at a crime scene,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
Though Mr. McConnell is declining to hasten an impeachment trial, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press the GOP leader believes Mr. Trump committed impeachable offences and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic President’s hold on the GOP.
Mr. McConnell called major Republican donors last weekend to gauge their thinking about Mr. Trump and was told that Mr. Trump had clearly crossed a line. Mr. McConnell told them he was through with Mr. Trump, said the strategist, who demanded anonymity to describe Mr. McConnell’s conversations.
The New York Times first reported Mr. McConnell’s views on impeachment on Tuesday.
The stunning collapse of Mr. Trump’s final days in office, along with warnings of more violence ahead, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Mr. Biden takes office.
Mr. Trump faces the single charge of “incitement of insurrection”.
The four-page impeachment resolution relies on Mr. Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Mr. Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, in making its case for “high crimes and misdemeanors” as demanded in the Constitution.
Mr. Trump took no responsibility for the riot, suggesting it was the drive to oust him rather than his actions around the bloody riot that was dividing the country.
“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday, his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.
A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. Lawmakers scrambled for safety and hid as rioters took control of the Capitol, delaying by hours the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Mr. Biden’s victory.
The Republican lawmakers who chose to vote yes, including Ms. Cheney, were unswayed by the President’s logic. Their support of impeachment cleaved the Republican leadership, and the party itself.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Ms. Cheney in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Unlike a year ago, Mr. Trump faces impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own re-election as well as the Senate Republican majority.